Maximum Chicken: a 20 minute chicken curry from Mumbai

I am more of an instinctive cook. I have made the odd dish using recipes. But recipes bore me after a point. I find it to be too much of a drag to go through the details and then cook a dish. I prefer conceptualising what I want to make and then go by my instincts or folow some basic directions. my attempts have turned out well in most cases even if I say so. I also look for short cuts while cooking and I don't always find them in recipe books.

Yesterday I felt like trying out something new in chicken curries and I turned to ingredients such as coconut milk, whole mustard seeds, curry leaves and East Indian Masala, a recipe unique to the East Indian Community of Mumbai (you can see the recipe in the Link).

These ingredients are quite different from those used in my native Bengali cooking.

I have named this dish after Suketu Mehta's book on Mumbai, 'Maximum City' since I used a lot of local ingredients. Somehow Slumdog Chicken was beginning to sound a bit too much like Old Mac Donald's farm to work as a name. I didn't have any recipe in mind but I must say that I was influenced by memories of recent episodes of Floyd's India and Hairy Bikers which were based in South India.

So here goes the recipe of this fairly easy to cook and tasty dish.


  • 1 tea spoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 chopped onion/ shallot
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 6 chicken drum sticks, slashed with a knife for the masala to go in
  • 3 tea spoons of curry leaves
  • 2 tea spoons of East Indian Masala: you get this in Catholic meat shops in places like Bandra at Mumbai. Try a mix of a tea spoon of red chilly powder and a tea spoon of garam masala powder if you can't get hold of the East Indian Masala
  • 2, 3 red/ green chillies
  • 1 tea spoon sugar
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • 1/2 a fresh lime
  • 1 tea spoon cooking oil
  • 200 ml of coconut milk (I use Dabur's Home Made tetra packs)
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • a non stick sauce pan


  • Phase 1: 5 minutes
  • Heat a tea spoon of oil in the pan
  • Put in the mustard seeds and wait till the oil splatters in about thirty seconds
  • Add the chilly and lightly fry them
  • Add the onions and fry them till they become translucent
  • Then add the curry leaves and tomato and stir till the onions become soft

  • Phase 2: 5 minutes
  • Add the chicken pieces
  • And the East Indian Masala
  • And the salt
  • And squeeze the lime on top and stir it till the chicken skin begins to crinkle

  • Phase 3: ten minutes
  • Add the coconut milk
  • And the water
  • And the sugar
  • Let it come to a boil (first time chefs note that the liquid will turn creamish and begin to froth in a couple of minutes)
  • Reduce the flame to simmer, cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for about ten minutes

You will know the dish is done if you can poke the chicken easily with a fork. The end gravy will be dark brown in colour. There will be a film of oil on the top which is the natural oil of the chicken. We used only one tea spoon of oil, remember?

I would recommend having this with hot, steamed rice