This dish is a work of art . . . I call it dum ka murgh!!

February 1st, 2012

how can you not smile when you are about to eat dum ka murgh?

Well folks, we’re onto another of our garam masalas! I hope you’ve enjoyed making some (or all, or none!) of these masalas. This week, as I said in my vegan blog last week, is my poultry masala. Well, as so much of my food is woven into my life here’s another little tale.

In 1995, my friend David Horton, an Englishman who lived in Australia, worked in a bank, loved Indian food (well, he is an Englishman!!) started a restaurant in a place called Noosa in Queensland (he was more passionate about food than money).

One day he called me and said, “I am staartin’ (sic) a restaurant, Ajoy, and I want you to do a cooking class on Indian food for me. You and Meera will fly down to Noosa stay with me and show the Aussies how to make a good khorma.”

According to David, the best khorma was made in London and the Aussies had to see and taste it, and I was going to make it in his restaurant as he felt that I was someone who could make it like they did back home (home in this case being the UK not India)!!

Done. We were both ready to go.

Now, not many of you know this but Meera is a damn good cook and a qualified chef from Bangalore. She is the ‘kitchen cabinet’ and the ‘Boss’ of nilgiris!

All of us, yes, including yours truly, work for the Boss but that’s another story for another time!!

But before all this happened Meera said to me in Noosa in 1995, “Ajoy, this is your chance to show the world that Indian food is no ‘curry in a hurry’. Do something that will make you and your ustaads proud. Go ahead and show them that the best khorma comes from Hyderabad!!”

So, what follows is my favorite chicken dish that uses a technique, the French call it confit, we Indians call it dum, a word derived from the Persian word ‘dum baksh‘  meaning ‘to give breath to’ or cooked in its own juices without the addition of any water.

Interestingly, this dish also has some Persian influences as you might notice. It uses ground sesame seeds, a.k.a. tahini, as a binding agent to hold the yoghurt together, preventing it from splitting.

The original recipe uses ground peanuts which are grown around that region but I use ground cashew nuts for the simple reason that cashew nuts are more acceptable than peanuts, a.k.a groundnuts, and many people who cannot tolerate peanuts can eat the cashew nut which, as we all know, isn’t a ‘nut’ as such.

garam masala for poultry

Step 1

ingredients – from top, clockwise: salt, oil, 1 kg chicken on the bone cut into small pieces, lemon juice, chopped mint, finely sliced white onions. in the tray, clockwise: garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste, sesame paste, ground cashews, turmeric, poultry garam masala, 2½ cups yoghurt

Step 2

place garam masala in spice grinder: add cinnamon sticks first (break sticks in half, if necessary)

Step 3

grind spices until they resemble coarse sand

Step 4

Add ½ cup polyunsaturated vegetable oil to shallow frying pan

Step 5

your onions should be sliced evenly lengthways (i.e. from top to bottom, as you would cut an apple)

(See how to slice onions perfectly here.)
Step 6

place onions in mixing bowl

Step 7

add ½ teaspoon salt (adding salt to the onions at this stage makes them caramelise better)

Step 8

mix salt with onions

Step 9

when oil is hot, add onions to frying pan

Step 10

fold onions into the oil so that they are thoroughly coated, reduce heat to medium

Step 11

fold onions regularly

Step 12

leave the onions to cook, they will turn golden slowly [about 3–5 minutes

Step 13

the onions start turning golden, keep an eye on them and keep folding so they don’t burn! [about 7–11 minutes

Step 14

the onions are now caramelising, this happens very quickly

Step 15

the onions are now perfectly caramelised and the oil starts to separate

Step 16

gather caramelised onions away from the oil with a spoon

Step 17

holding caramelised onions with spoon, drain oil

Step 18

set aside caramelised onions

To watch my short video on caramelising onions, click here

Step 19

Add 1 tablespoon garlic paste to mixing bowl

Step 20

Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste to mixing bowl

Step 21

Add 1½ tablespoons green chilli paste to mixing bowl

Step 22

fold mixture

Step 23

Add 1 tablespoon sesame paste (tahini)

Step 24

fold mixture

Step 25

add 1½ tablespoons ground cashews and fold

Step 26

add 1 teaspoon turmeric and fold

Step 27

add 2 tablespoons poultry garam masala and fold

Step 28

fold so that it looks like this!

Step 29

add 1½ tablespoons salt

Step 30

add yoghurt (full-fat yoghurt, please, just the way the cow made it!)

Step 31

fold the yoghurt to form a marinade

Step 32

keep folding until mixture is smooth

Step 33

add caramelised onions

Step 34

fold the onions to look like this!

Step 35

add the chicken pieces to the marinade or ‘masala’!

Step 36

lightly massage the marinade onto the chicken

Step 37

….keep marinating until your chicken looks like this!

Step 38

transfer chicken to cold saucepan making sure chicken mixture will only take up a third of the saucepan’s depth. The remaining ⅔ of the saucepan is needed to circulate steam

Step 39

Select a shallow frying pan that is large enough for the chicken saucepan to sit in it and place on stove. Heat empty frying pan on high heat

Step 40

To determine when frying pan is hot enough, drop some tepid water into frying pan – the water should immediately bead and scatter

Step 41

Place chicken saucepan onto hot frying pan (n.b. the frying pan should have no oil, or water, in it)

Step 42

Place mixing bowl on saucepan like a ‘lid’. Keep the heat to medium!

Step 43

Add ½ cup water to mixing bowl ‘lid’. As the frying pan under chicken saucepan transfers heat to the chicken, the heat will also be transferred to the mixing bowl so the water in the mixing bowl will heat up (this is important to create ‘indirect’ heat for the chicken to cook)

Step 44

The water in the bottom of the mixing bowl

Step 45

The water in the mixing bowl will turn to steam and disappear, in about 50 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes, at least!! Remember, this is no “curry in a hurry”!!

Step 46

When the water from the mixing bowl has completely evaporated, your chicken will be perfectly cooked – remove bowl and voilà!

Step 47

Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ½ cup chopped mint

Step 48

Place a banana leaf on a plate (if you want!) and serve the chicken on top

Step 49

dum ka murgh

Remember, cooking chicken, or any other poultry, this way has a number of  benefits:

1. The meat is abso-bloody-lutely tender and juicy.

2. As there is no water in the dish, it is loaded with flavor.

3. The dish tastes better the next day (we have heard that one before, haven’t we?), because it is cooked well, and slowly, in its own juices (we did not know that before, or did we?!!).

For a one page summary of this recipe, click dum ka murgh recipe.

That is all for this week, happy cooking!!

See you next week and please do keep your comments coming in. I  enjoy reading them and I absorb them all. If I haven’t replied, it’s because I am still mulling over your comment and, who knows?, your suggestion/comment might become a blog one week!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!


  1. Ajoy Joshi

    It should work very well!
    However try to get some tender cuts of meat like the ‘shoulder’ which takes less time to cook but has enough flavour. Though the best cut is the leg, takes a long time to cook but the results are amazing!!

  2. docashim

    Thanks for creating and sharing this absolutely amazing recipe.
    I must confess I have taken shortcuts (for example substituting shop bought friend onion), but each time it’s marvellous!
    Next, I am keen to experiment with lamb cooked using the same recipe, I expect it will need twice as long to cook, but otherwise i think it should work. Any words of advice, Guruji?

  3. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Zita,
    Thanks for your email and good to hear that you have tried this recipe 3 times !!
    If the sauce is looking ‘split’ try adding 1 1/2 tablespoon of ground nuts(almonds or cashews or peanuts or even melon seeds) along with the tahini and proceed. This should stop the. ‘Curdling’.
    Happy cooking !!
    Kind regards

  4. zitalorna

    Hello again from Los Angeles. As I told you the last time, I am busily cooking my way through your recipes. I have made this dum ka murgh on three occasions now. However, although I follow each step exactly, I have run into a problem each time. Although the dish tastes incredible, and the chicken is fall-apart tender, the yoghurt seems to separate and the sauce has a slightly “curdled” appearance – even with the tahini, and use of a labne yoghurt. Please may I ask for your advice?

  5. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Shiba,
    A big Salaam from Sydney!!
    Great to hear about your cooking adventures and believe me’nothing succeeds like success’ as the saying goes…keep going and you will enjoy the journey!!
    I am very lucky as my passion is my profession and ‘insha allah’ will keep me going for some time.
    Would love to have the pictures of your dishes anytime, please send them to me on [email protected] or send them through my web site
    just remember there is no such thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to food. It is always ‘better’ than before.
    Happy Cooking and “Khuda Hafiz” as we say in Hyderabad!!

  6. Shiba Anjum

    Dear Ajoyji,
    First I want to congratulate you on the success that you are seeing after years of hard work.
    Mashallah your recipe photographs are very inviting and they tempt you and convince you that you can also cook like Ajoyji.
    You are the best Guru and true person to your skill that Allah has given you because when you share your skill with others and it makes their lives easier and happy, Allah makes you happy and life easier on you too. Inshallah! Also this act of sharing brings lots and lots of Barakat…
    I came to this website after reading about your kashmiri recipe on Ansh’s blog.
    I saw this Dum ka murgh recipe and I knew I had to try it.
    I made this dish and it is a ‘ Real Treat’. And yes the chicken is best the next day or even better the day after.
    Only mistake I made was , I did not use thick consistency yogurt( some whey in the container carried over to the mixing bowl). Probably that made the gravy a little watery I let it cook on the same heat,haing removed the lid.
    Otherwise it is the best thick gravy chicken I have ever made.
    Your blog is very inspiring. I like to experiment with foods and cannot eat the same dish again and again. So I keep searching for authentic recipes.
    Alhumdulilaah! I will not search anything new for a long time now…thanks to your long list of different recipes and I am going to try each one of them, Already I have incorporated the method of Daal bhagaar(tadka) into my everyday dals and my children just love the Dals more !
    I have clicked a couple of snaps of the final look of the dish and I want to show them to you. I searched the website for your email but couldn’t locate it.
    If you will please let me.. I will send you the picts.
    Thank you….and I am sure more thank yous will follow.
    I did not learn to cook before marriage and My Hubby dearest is a Meat lover.
    So I had to learn cooking. The step – by – step photos are fabulous tools to explain what goes on in each step.
    Next on my menu is Hyderabadi Kache gosht ki biryani…I have not been able to do the correct method of Dum before. Your blog shows it all is very possible.
    Will post you on that recipe too..when I have tried and relished it ! Ofcourse!
    Allah hafiz

  7. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Ravi,
    Follow the process and you will not go wrong.
    Don’t have a favourite Chicken dish but would like to have ‘methi murgh'( Hyderabadi Style) as a part of my ‘last supper’ with a glass(or 2) of good old Aussie Shiraz!!
    Happy cooking!!

  8. Ravi Kumar

    Thanks Ajoy, will keep this in mind next time. I am sure it will turn out great 🙂 .
    Will check the sourness of the yoghurt before using it next time, better checking it before than regretting later. Can you give in gram or ml of how much yoghurt you add for 1 kg of chicken ?
    For ‘kadhai’ chicken the ‘dum’ way, i have to make sauce the regular way(oil, spices, onion, ginger,garlic, tomato), till oil separates. Then cool it down and use this as marinate for the chicken. Keep the marinated chicken for 15 minutes and then cook the dum way for about 50 minutes. The kadhai masala along with lemon juice and coriander to be added in the end. Hope that’s correct 🙂 .
    Will try both dish and post here the results :). btw whats your favorite chicken gravy dish ? 🙂
    Thanks for your great recipes.

  9. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Ravi,
    Great to hear from you.
    Firstly there is no such thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to cooking, it’s just a little ‘over’ or ‘under’!The bitterness has possibly come due to overcooking of onions. This can easily happen to anyone. Cooking onions is about bringing out the sugar aka caramelisation. However depending upon the kind of onions it may take its time. Again once the sugar starts to come out, you generally smell it before you see the color of the onion change. This means, when the onions start to look golden it is time to get ready with the next step, either slow down the stirring or reduce the heat or else you will overcook them due to what we call ‘carry over’ cooking. Again a good way is to cook on moderate heat as this is slow and helps in even cooking of the onions.
    Again the yoghurt must be fresh, meaning not disturbed. Adding fresh yoghurt to the marinade also helps in reducing the acidity of the dish.
    To cook ‘kadhai’ chicken the ‘dum’ way is just about making the sauce till the ‘Rogan’ appears ,stop cooking. Cool the sauce, marinate the chicken and follow the same technique as for ‘DKM’.
    Happy cooking!!

  10. Ravi Kumar

    Hi Ajoy,
    Have enjoyed your Kadhai Murg many times..absolutely delicious :)..
    tried dum ka murgh for the first time ..although the chicken was very tendor but bcoz of gravy the taste wasn’t very good, It tasted very sour and a bit bitter. Can you tell me what did i do wrong ?
    I found that chicken cooked by this technique is better than those in kadhai murg or other recipes, so wanted to ask how can we combine the 2 dishes so that we get gravy of kadhai murg and tenderness of dum ka murgh ?

  11. Ajoy Joshi

    Absolutely go for it !!
    Happy cooking!!!

  12. Deeba Rajpal (@vindee)

    You are inspirational and I am SO glad [thanks to Anshs post} that i found you. Next on my list is the biryani but I have to get a good cut of mutton for that. Had a question… may I blog my amended version of your recipe with credits, linkbacks to this post? I understand perfectly well if you wouldn’t want me to, so do let me know.

  13. Ajoy Joshi

    You are a champion!!

  14. Deeba Rajpal (@vindee)

    …eeks…a tsp of oil that should read {not just a tsp}. Sorry!

  15. Deeba Rajpal (@vindee)

    My aunt in the UK who is a fabulous cook adds a tsp of besan and a tsp to the yogurt to make sure it doesn’t split.

  16. Deeba Rajpal (@vindee)

    I’m back after having made this wonderful dum ka murg with a great deal of muhbbat but not too much fursat … and it turned out finger licking good. I have always been wary of chicken curries sans ‘bhunoing’ for reasons of ‘birdy’ smells etc … but this was a revelation. Next time around will definitely use full fat curd {like cows are meant to be}. Loved it. Thank you!!

  17. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Neelima,
    Good to know that the recipe worked!
    I generally tell students that Indian food is about learning and following the ‘process’ as it is hard to tell the quantities!
    I may take more chillis than you, but if one knows ‘how and when’ they are added you will get to your destination!!
    Are you based in India?
    Happy cooking!!

  18. Neelima

    Hi Ajoy,
    I tried this and came out a winner, Hope to try a few more dishes from you

  19. Chitralekha Martin

    Hi Ajoy……..I think you forgot to mention what one has to do with the caramelized onions in the “one-page-recipe” for this dish :
    (because it is not mentioned in the marinating-stage….though you have shown a picture of it in this blog!)
    Also: Thanks for all the beautiful pictures and tips! Makes the daily drudge of cooking so much more interesting!
    Best wishes,

  20. Anonymous

    Thankyou Ajoy, yet another fabulous culinary adventure, this blog should win an award! I was raised on French food and I have been cooking Indian food for about 30 years. This dish was just so exciting to make because it was like a fusion of the two in terms of the cooking method. It was utterly bl..dy delicious and put to perfect use the mace i had just brought back from Penang! Thank you again and again. Josephine

  21. Ajoy Joshi

    Hi Prema,
    Sure you can, but remember you must add a binding agent otherwise the yoghurt will split. Try adding some fresly grated coconut that has been ground to a paste!
    Nothing like trying!
    Happy cooking!!

  22. prema

    Thank you Ajoy. You are a joy. Im making this tomorrow. Only wonder if i can do without Tahini paste. Thanks.

  23. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Neeta,
    Sure, you can do this dish in a slow cooker, though I have never tried it. I am sure it will work.
    Remember ‘dum’ cooking is about cooking in its own juices. As long as the process is followed I see no reason why it will not work!
    Happy cooking!

  24. neeta

    hello sir, this looks great, can i put the chicken in my slow cooker instead? would it do justice?

  25. FTS

    Oh Yes it is given sorry .:)

  26. FTS

    Ajoyji NAmashkar
    Sir you dint mantioned the amount of spices ,ingredients in recipes.i would appriciate the amount of ingredients mantioned if given with recipes.(OR HAVE I MISSED IF WRITTEN)??????
    Kindly reply.

  27. » Dum Ka Murgh and a Special Blogger » SpiceRoots

    […] as if this was not enough, I weaved my way through to  the recipe for Dum Ka murgh.  And as If I was already not a “BIG FAN” I became a big fan all over […]

  28. Anonymous

    Very well picturised recipe.

  29. Ajoy Joshi

    Hi Ansh,
    thanks for your kind words. Indian food is extremely simple yet complex in a lot of ways and that is what makes it difficult to try out at home. But with enthusiastic cooks like you I am sure others would get a lot of encouragement and they would go on to cook more ‘ethnic’ Indian dishes at home!
    We are just the messengers and are trying to pass on the right message to the rest of the world that Indian food is no …….!!
    You may log on to my website and are more than welcome to use my recipes. You may also send me an email through the website, if you wish. In the meantime, happy cooking!!!

  30. ansh

    Even though I have lived in Hyderabad for 8 years, made this dish more times than I can remember, (coaxed the recipe from a couple of Ustaads) I loved this best when I made it with your recipe. I can’t tell you how many times I kicked myself (mentally) for not thinking about using Tahini. But the only thing that settled me down was the thought that you are an incredible chef and teacher and I am so glad I found your blog.
    I am not an expert – just a home cook – but It really drives me crazy when I hear Indians using the word curry and not to mention very well known chefs and cook book authors, When garam masala means xyz brand
    I did not see a contact info on the blog so I am going ahead and asking it here – I want to do a blog post about this recipe, a couple of other recipes ( dosa in particular) and this blog – to share it with my small number of friends who read my blog.
    I can send you the details in an email – so please let me know how I can contact.

  31. Ajoy Joshi


  32. mustardseed

    Oh my!! What a beautiful dish! I have never tasted chicken with sesame seeds. Looks divine! Happy to have found ur blog!

  33. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Neha and Sagar,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Hope you get a chance to try this dish and maybe the stuffed eggplant as well.
    And maybe we can do another reception for you guys at Nilgiris!!!
    Happy cooking,

  34. Ajoy Joshi

    Hi Bec,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Both John and I love bringing them out. Hope you get a chance to cook them and more importantly eat the ‘creations’.
    Happy cooking!

  35. Sagar

    Ajoy this looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it at home ourselves!
    Sagar and Neha

  36. Bec

    Your posts are amazing. Don’t stop what your doing. Love the photos and all the instruction. Very inspiring.

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