Chicken stew mughlai style

We North Indians are obsessed with creamy gravies and making them low fat is a challenge . Many people like a good fat layer on top of the dish as it definitely makes the spicing more aromatic . All the aromatic oils of the spices are soluble in cooking fat and the aroma of the finished dish depends a lot on how the spices are cooked and seeped into the cooking medium . The meats also take up the flavors well when cooked with some fat .

At the same time , cooking with lesser amounts of fat is not such a big deal . Using just enough fat to let the spices bloom in the gravy and the meat get evenly cooked and seeped into the spicy notes is the idea . The heat level needs to be kept in control as the meats need more time to cooked in a low fat medium , without getting stuck to the base of the pan...Slow cooking with some liquid drowning the meat is a great idea , best suited for low fat cooking, especially meats.

The mughlai stew is called 'Ishtoo' and this is not a revelation for anybody who likes it.. whenever you want a nutty creamy gravy with an intense chicken flavor you can have this ishtoo . This ishtoo i made with the remaining boney pieces of the chicken after making a grilled tikka . The boney pieces have more intense flavor and they come out well if cooked for a soup or for a stew...

This chicken stew is an exact replica of a mutton stew i recreated after having it at a famous purani dilli (old city of Delhi) eatery , with boney pieces of chicken this was the best thing to have with some fresh whole wheat chapatis ..

(for 2 servings)
chicken pieces on bone 250 -300 gm
 red chilly powder 1tsp or a bit more
cumin seeds 1 tsp
whole coriander seeds 1 tsp
fennel seeds 1 tsp
whole peppercorns 15 nos.
green cardamom seeds and skin separated 2 nos.
black cardamom a few seeds only ( about 1/4 of a whole pod)
a small cinnamon stick
half a star anise ( optional, i am just obsessed by it)
cloves 4 nos.
a small sliver of mace
salt to taste
ghee 1 tsp
fresh cream 1 tbsp ( i used home made malai)
 to be minced in the food processor or mixie..
2 big onions (1.5 cup minced)
an inch piece of ginger chopped
7-8 small cloves of Indian garlic
to be made into a fine paste
1.5 tbsp of melon seeds ( magaz in urdu and kharbuze ka beej in hindi)
100 gm of thick curds


There are a lot of ingredients but the cooking is really simple.

Place everything into a pan except the paste of melon seeds and curds. Add a cup of water and cook the chicken on low flame till cooked.It takes about 25-35 minutes according to the size of the chicken pieces.

Add the white paste made with melon seeds and curds , mix well and let it come to a soft boil. Cover the pan and take off heat. Let the pan stand for 5 minutes before serving.

There will be some oil floating on top , but not overwhelming . The whole recipe is quite low on fats and equally tasty ..

You might like to discard some of the whole spices as they are not a welcome bite...I like the whole coriander seeds and some whole peppercorns coming under my teeth once in a while...this one is a rustic dish where you pick out the whole spices if you don't like them and use your hands to eat it...

With hot chapatis , roomali rotis or fluffy naan , this stew needs some bread be mopped clean.

The aromas will linger for a longer time...a milder version is called chiken safeda in my household .

Which one would you like?


  1. Dear sangeeta
    That is some recipe indeed. You will make me eat chicken I am sure. Cant wait to make this one,,,. May be I will try later with mutton,,,,,but as you know, I first try the recipe as it is without any modification ..
    I can get the taste by reading only forget about the feeling when I eat..
    have a nice day.
    PS... I dont think Mughals ate chicken or stew of any kind ....forget who cares about the Mughals.. we must eat this dish....

  2. Dear sangeeta
    I dont have melon seeds, but I have de-husked Pumpkin seeds, can I use that? ..the chicken pieces are crying in kitchen to be cooked by a great cook , thats me of course ha ha ( Great cook , thats what the chicken pieces think , not my wife :-(

  3. Dear Ushnish ..thanks for a quick comment first of all. I guess you were going to make some nice chicken dish :)

    The mutton recipe is there on the Banaras blog , link i have given here too. It is really very aromatic and rich dish without much additional fat.

    Regarding Mughals not eating stewed meats , i think the old toothless nawabs were treated with the galauti kabab and the stews all the time :)

    Do not use pumpkin seeds for this dish , i think the flavors will become entirely different. Use poppy seeds and a little cashew to make the white paste instead.

  4. yummy yummy yummy yummy yummy .. I have taken a few printouts of recipeeees :)


  5. Let me know how did you like it Bikram...

  6. this looks great will make it for hubby love how healthy all your recipes are

  7. In kerala, we have a similar preparation with the same name; the only difference being we use coconut milk instead of the cream/milk. This looks interesting...

  8. @ Nitha... the kerala version is very different from this . The spicing includes curry patta and other things n coconut milk gives that stew a very different taste . I have posted that earlier on my other blog.
    This one is completely different.

  9. Hi Sangeeta, How r u?? I am here after a long time..
    Very creamy and tempting chicken stew!liked ur version..Looks ready for my appam:D

  10. @ Kothiavunu ..i am good thank you.
    I have never tried this stew with appams and i think it is better off with roti or naan.

  11. This looks like such a comforting meal. Amazing good.

  12. I had amazing chicken stew at old Delhi yesterday and was searching for a recipe. This one seems quite close, can we make dis without melon seeds?

    1. You can substitute the melon seeds paste with half poppy seeds and half cashew paste Neha. Please let me know when you try :-)

  13. I had amazing chicken stew at a famous place at purani Dilli, and have been searching for a recipe. This one seems quite close, but can we make dis without melon seeds


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