Awadhi Murgh Qorma


In ‘Memories of Awadhi Qorma’ by Rana Safvi, featured in the Forgotten Foods anthology, she lets us in on the nitty-gritties of making qorma. “While cooking, special care must be given to ensuring that the onions are fried just right, as the base of the qorma comes from the paste of fried onions. If it is too brown, the curry will taste bitter and have a dark colour; if it is not fried well and left a little raw, the colour of the qorma will be pale.”


For Rana, the technique for attaining the delightfully christened ‘khushrang qorma’ (the bright reddish-brown hue) lies in how the onions are fried and the masala is sautéed. “I learnt these tricks as a young girl around the wood fire chulha in my grandparents’ kitchen, while my grandmother would describe the cooking process,” she writes.


Give her family recipe a try.

Chicken, cleaned, cut into curry pieces 1 whole
Salt 1 teaspoon
Lemon juice from 1 whole lemon
Ginger-garlic paste 1 teaspoon
Onions, finely sliced 1, large
Oil 3 tablespoons
Cloves 3
Black peppercorns 1/4 teaspoon
Green cardamoms 2
Bay leaves 2
Ginger paste 1 tablespoon
Garlic paste 1 tablespoon
Red chilli powder to taste
Coriander powder, lightly roasted 1 tablespoon
Curd 2 tablespoons
Garam masala powder, freshly ground 1/2 teaspoon
Water 240 ml or 1 cup
Salt to taste
Fresh cream, beaten well 1/4 cup
Saffron strands, soaked in warm milk 3-4 strands in one tablespoon of milk
Kewra water, mixed in water 2 drops in 1 tablespoon of water

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and coat the cleaned and curry cut pieces of chicken well. Leave this to marinate for at least 2 hours.


Heat oil in a pan, add the cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, and bay leaves. Toss in the onions and fry until golden brown. This takes about 4–5 minutes on low heat. 


Remove the onions and spices from the oil, making sure the oil is drained back into the pot and set aside. Remove the bay leaves. The rest should be ground to a fine paste.


Reheat the oil in the pan. Shake off excess water from the chicken before adding the pieces to the oil and fry lightly.


Add the ginger and garlic pastes, and the chilli and coriander powders to the pan. Sauté, adding dashes of curd at intervals to prevent the mixture from sticking or burning. This process will take at least 10 minutes.


When the oil separates from the masala, add the garam masala, salt, paste of fried onions, and bay leaves. Stir for a minute. Add the water and cook until the meat is tender. Keep the flame low and the pot covered with a lid.


Strain the cream if you are using fresh cream made at home, so that it is smooth in consistency. Add cream and saffron and let it simmer for two minutes.


Add 2 drops of kewra water (mixed in 1 tbsp of water) before serving.


When serving, do not garnish the dish with coriander leaves. That garnish is reserved only for qaliya.

The cover photo is a meat qorma for representation purposes, as provided by the author.


This recipe was published in ‘Forgotten Foods: Memories and Recipes From Muslim South Asia’ by Picador India (2023). Read Rana Safvi’s essay ‘Memories of Awadhi Qorma’ here

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