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Recipe for White Chicken Korma Curry

Tony is a curry addict. Ask him what he wants—the answer will always be a curry. He has travelled to India many times in search of recipes.

Fragrant and bursting with exotic flavours.

Fragrant and bursting with exotic flavours.

A Very Special Exotic Meal

This is a slightly more complicated curry or korma, but it is well worth the effort, especially if you are trying to impress friends and visitors. Some of the ingredients may be a little more difficult to get hold of unless you have Asian shops or an excellent deli nearby.

History of White Kormas

The Moghul Emperor Shahjehan, the builder of the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra, India, used to have all-white banquets on full-moon nights at his Agra Fort in India. The terrace of the fort would be decorated with white carpets and cushions and white flowers, the guests dressed in white, and all the dishes served were white in colour.

The white korma was later perfected at the tables of the gourmet Nawabs of Oudh in Lucknow. They also had all-white banquets on the night of Sharad Poornima, the September full moon, as late as the 1960s. Originally this dish was made with almonds only, but modern cooks prefer a combination of cashews and almonds.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour

2 hours 30 min

3 hours 30 min

serves four people


  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 1 clove
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 11/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 5oz (150g) full-fat yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup ghee or clarified butter
  • 2oz (50g) blanched almonds
  • 8 chicken thighs on the bone.
  • 2oz (50g) unsalted cashew nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 2 cinnamon leaves or bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon mace powder
  • Two or three onions, chopped
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tin of coconut milk

How to Make White Chicken Curry

  1. Soak the poppy seeds in ½ cup water for 1 hour. Then drain off the water and grind into a fine paste with a pestle and mortar.
  2. Hang the yoghurt in a cheese cloth for 1 hour to drain off the whey. Then put yoghurt into a bowl and whisk.
  3. Add the chicken to the yogurt and coconut milk, and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Whenever you use chicken, it really does tenderise it if you marinate it in yogurt; either full- or half-fat will do the job.
  5. Heat most of the ghee or clarified butter in a cooking pot, add the almonds, cashews and cinnamon or bay leaf, and fry for about 7–8 minutes over moderate heat.
  6. Add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes or until lightly coloured. Add the chilli, cardamoms and ground poppy seeds and fry for about 3–4 minutes. Add 1 cup water and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon or bay leaf and leave to cool. Put the mixture into a blender and purée to a smooth paste.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter to the cooking pot, then add the garlic, ginger, and clove.
  9. After 1 minute, remove the chicken from the yogurt and add, fry until firm. The remaining yogurt can be added; stir it in to stop it from curdling.
  10. Add the ground spice mixture with the nutmeg and mace powders and salt to taste.
  11. Stir well and add 1½ cups hot water. Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes until the chicken is tender.
Leave the chicken in the coconut milk and yogurt for at least 30 minutes.

Leave the chicken in the coconut milk and yogurt for at least 30 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Serve on a bed of white basmati rice. When I last served this, I added white rose petals dipped in white chocolate to the plates.
  2. You can serve it with chapatis if you prefer.
  3. Sprinkle flaked almonds and cashew nuts just before you serve.

Cucumber Yogurt Raita

A very nice side dish for all curries is cucumber raita. Usually, this raita ends up looking quite green, which we don't want with this dish. So just squeeze in the juice of the cucumber and add a little sugar.

Or you can make it like this:

  • Chop half a cucumber and squeeze out as much juice as you can
  • Mix together sugar about 1 teaspoon and fresh mint leaves, or bottled if you prefer
  • One coffee mug of yogurt, Greek style, is okay, and mix it with the other ingredients
  • Finely chop some tomatoes and mix them all together for a delicious addition to your meal

A Useful Tip

If curry is too hot for you or afterward your mouth tingles a bit too much, don't drink water; it will make it worse. The best thing to drink is yogurt or even milk; they will cool it down and bring relief.

The more spicy food you eat, the more you become accustomed to and enjoy the sensation.

Drink Suggestions for This Dish

What to drink with a meal such as this is difficult because it is so highly aromatic.
I like a wine made from the Gewurztraminer grape, either from the Alsace or new world if you can find it.

As an aperitif, you could try a Ginger wine or cream sherry; I know they are not in fashion these days, but I like 'em.

It needs a slightly sweeter wine than you might normally drink with a meal. May I suggest something from the Muscat range of wines?

A very strong latte with a Turkish delight would be the perfect end. At one time, I might have suggested a nice cigar, too, cough, hic.

White cheese cake a perfect pudding.

White cheese cake a perfect pudding.

© 2011 Tony Mead