Bhuna Chicken

This is a really simple dish to make – great for the cook trying to get into Indian cooking who also wants a little spice to their food.  You can add far more flavours than I have here (star anise, fennel and green cardamom all go well) but the basic base is made up of only three spices: ground cumin, ground coriander, and ground turmeric.  The rest is up to you.  Bhuna technically means ‘roast’ in Hindi, but this isn’t really a ‘roast’ dish in the Western sense – it is typically a little drier than many other curries people are used to, but that doesn’t meant the chicken should be dry, too – keeping that moist is key to maintaining the flavour and texture balance in the dish.  So, let’s get going.



2 medium sized chicken breasts, cubed into bite sized pieces (approx 2cms in size)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, segmented (or a handful of small ones, like mine)
2 cms of ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric (if, like us, you like the flavour, otherwise bring it down to 1/2 teaspoon)
Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish
Fresh chilies (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
Good quality salt for seasoning (to taste)


Start by cubing your chicken and seasoning well…


Heat 2 tablespoons of oil to a high temperature in a heavy frying pan or skillet – add your chicken cubes and get that browning going


That browning is part of the Maillard reaction – it’s basically the sugars and amino acids breaking down to give browned meat it’s beautiful flavour – keep the chicken moving – keep frying for about 5-8 mins until the pieces are browned.  You DON’T need to make sure the chicken is cooked through at this point.


Remove your chicken and any of the cooking juices and set aside in a CLEAN bowl (don’t be tempted to put it back into the same bowl you used before without cleaning it first – raw chicken and cooked chicken don’t mix – even if we’re going to recook the chicken later, it’s better to be safe than sorry!)


Chop your onions – you can mince them, if you want, but I like my Bhuna to have a bit more bite to it, so I’ve left the pieces reasonably large.


Add another 2 tablespoons or so of oil to the same pan as before, but turn the heat down to a medium/low heat – sweat off the onions, garlic and ginger until the onion soften


When your onions have softened (note, not burnt – if they’re burning, turn the heat down – this is the slow part of the dish) add your ground spices.  If your pan is too hot at this point your spices will burn and the whole dish will be overly bitter. Not cool (literally…).


Stir the spices and onion mix together and fry slowly for a further 5 minutes.  To help the flavours combine you can add a dash of water to the dish.  Not too much or you’ll end up with a thin gravy.


While your onion mix is softening, chop your tomatoes and get ready to prepare your chilies


If you’ve not used fresh chilies before, you’re in for some fun (remember, you don’t need to use any, if you don’t want – perhaps add 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika with the other ground spices to give a mild hit, if you don’t want to use fresh chilies).  If you want to use latex gloves, do so – I don’t (because I’m a madman).  Ok, so, start by beheading your chili to remove the stalk


Now, slice your chili down the spine with the tip of a sharp knife (actually, all your knives should be sharp – if they’re not, sharpen them)


If you’re after the flavour, but not the heat from the chili, then scrape off the chili pith (the white bit) and the seeds. Discard these, like I have


Finish by slicing the chili halves finely.  If you’ve got this far and you haven’t worn gloves, make sure your wash your hands THOROUGHLY – you only need to pick your nose, go to the toilet or scratch your eye after handling chilies to know why these babies pack a real punch.  Wash under your nails, too.


Add your tomatoes and chilies to the pan and give your onion mix a quick stir to combine


And add back your browned chicken and any of the juices that have escaped from the chicken (that’s all flavour! Don’t waste it)


Give the whole lot a stir and cover.  Continue to cook over a medium heat for approximately 5-8 more minutes until your chicken is cooked through and tender (remember, not undercooked – you’ll kill people – or overcooked – it’ll be chewy).  Take a look after about 5 minutes – the chicken may have released some more juices, in which case cook the remainder of your time uncovered.


Finish by topping your Bhuna with the fresh coriander and serve with fluffy basmati rice or naan bread with a side of raita.  Enjoy!


I’m trying to be good and cook and post more often.  Do you have a favourite dish I haven’t done yet? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do!