Monica's Super Simple Chicken Curry

Adapted from The Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide (Adams Media 2004). This dish always tastes better the next day, after the flavors have a chance to really meld. Serve over hot rice or with naans. You will note the use of the whole spices (most of them are ingredients in the garam masala mix) to flavor the oil. This is a very classic Indian way of spicing a dish by layers.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 black cardamom pod

2 green cardamoms pods, bruised

2 whole cloves

1-inch cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon pure red chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala (store-bought or homemade), plus more to sprinkle

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon ground coriander

Table salt

2 pounds skinless chicken pieces, white or dark meat

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Sliced mild onion, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. When the spices begin to sizzle, add the onion, ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is well browned, 5 to 7 minutes

Stir in the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are almost dry and the oil begins to separate from the sides of the mixture, about 8 minutes.

Add the chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another minute.

Add the chicken and cook until brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup water, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if the sauce is drying up or if you want a thinner gravy. Add the cilantro and cook for another minute.

Serve hot, sprinkled with garam masala. Garnish with sliced onions, if desired. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit