Durban Chicken Curry Recipe

Chicken Curry is one of Durban’s prime epicurean delights. This effortless creation is composed of chicken pieces simmered in a broth of spice and all things nice. Unlike milder East Indian chicken dishes- the Durban Chicken Curry does not contain fruit, sugar or cream. Not for the faint hearted- it is pungent yet pleasing to the senses. Do take heed - this palatal joy may be followed by a runny nose and watery eyes - a sensorial spate often signifying a distinguished Durban Chicken Curry! - such was Amma’s chicken curry.

Durban Chicken Curry...Like Amma Used to Make It

When it came to preparing chicken curry – nothing annoyed Amma more than large pieces of chicken! She often complained that chicken should always be neatly cut into small portions and not what she described ‘ as chunks’. Amma’s method for cutting a chicken for Chicken curry was simple – each person in the family had their favorite part – the wings for my father, the breast, and thighs for my sisters and I and Amma loved the back or the wings shared with my sister when my father was not present. The drumsticks and wings were often sliced into two parts and the breast and back into 6 pieces each. This calculated division of the chicken always ensured each person received their favorite part of the chicken and a little extra. Other 'Amma-isms' included removing every visible trace of plumage off the chicken -she usually seared each piece on a hot stove to achieve this prior to cooking the curry.

Amma’s Chicken curry often included peas, double beans or gathra beans. The rich gravy was formed by her thinly sliced onions and tomatoes, complimented by ground ginger and garlic. No meat curry of Amma was ever complete without curry leaves and dhania (coriander).

Chicken Curry FAQ


1. What Do I Need to Make Chicken Curry?
  • A basic chicken curry aka 'end of the month chicken curry' - can essentially be made with oil, onions, chilli powder/ masala and chicken -without the frills yet it tastes just as good. A more 'decadent' version includes tomatoes, garamasala, ginger and garlic, curry leaves and coriander.

  2. How to Make Thick Gravy in Chicken Curry?
  • When making Chicken Curry it is essential to create a rich gravy. A perfect gravy consistency is achieved by using finely sliced onions, tomatoes and a combination of masala's or chilli powder combined with garamasala. For this reason the tomatoes should be peeled,de-seeded then grated. Reason for this is that these components contain a large amount of water vs. the fruit which contributes to making perfect gravy.
3. How to Make Chicken Curry Red?
  • The striking deep orange -reddish color of the perfect Durban Chicken curry depends on the type of spices used. Do exercise caution when buying spices-always read the labels. I prefer not to buy spices with added colorants e.g those which list the international  numbering system for food additives  in their ingredients. One  natural means of achieving this sought after color is to add 1 tablespoon of tomato concentrate. (Mix with the grated tomatoes).
4. What to do if I don't have Garamasla?
  • This recipe uses ready made garamasala- as a substitute use 4 cardamom pods crushed with 1 teaspoon coriander seeds. Add a quarter teaspoon fennel seeds and a quarter teaspoon cumin seeds. Grind to form a fine powder. 

Durban Chicken Curry Recipe
Recipe by Georgia
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4-6 people;

  • 12 chicken pieces
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 medium sized onions sliced fine
  • 1 teaspoon garamasala
  • 1 tablespoon Chicken curry masala or chilli powder of  choice
  • 2 ripe tomatoes (to be peeled, de-seeded then grated)
  • desired limit salt (I used 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger and garlic
  • curry leaves (optional)
  • bunch fresh coriander
  • 500ml water
  • half cup peas
  • 4 medium potatoes quartered
  • 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate (if you want to achieve the deep orange color without added colorants)
Cooking Directions
    1. Prepare the chicken and vegetables. Wash and peel the vegetables. Place the tomatoes in boiled water this will help remove the skin off the tomatoes. Once the skin is off – remove the seeds then grate to form tomato puree. See instructions for this in my Chutney Recipe. Slice the onions fine. Peel and cut the potatoes into quarters then soak in water until needed.

    2. This recipe requires just 2 tablespoons oil- no more! Additional oil is released by first browning the chicken. Heat a non stick or heavy based pan on high heat. Add half a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Fry the chicken pieces for a minute or two until slightly brown. Turn down the heat. Remove the chicken pieces from stove.

    3. Add the onions into the pan. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly brown. Add the ginger and garlic and curry leaves. Add all powered spices. Braise for 2-3 minutes on low heat.

    4. Add 100 ml water. Stir. Cover and allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes.

     5. Add the tomato puree. Stir. Add 100 ml water. Add the chicken pieces. Stir.

     6. Add potatoes and peas. Add salt . Add remaining water. Stir. Cover then allow to cook for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

    7. Remove from stove. Serve with rice and carrot salad.

    Chicken Curry -the perfect dish for a gloomy Spring lunch

    How To Cook Chicken Curry Step by Step Video

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