I remember fondly Chicken Pathia from my years growing up in the UK. Being a Brit, we are fond of the old curry house, where all manner of tasty dishes are served - some not seen anywhere else in the World. Chicken Pathia is one of those British India dishes that has its roots in India, but has also gradually morphed over generations into the dish I love today. It's so delicious and definitely serves its place as one of my 10 Best Chicken Curry Recipes.
An evolution of flavour from Persia to India to the UK curry house.
Its true beginnings lie with the ancient Persians who migrated into India, bringing with them cooking techniques and ingredients that would shape and transform Indian cuisine. One such dish was a sweet and sour stew that, when combined with Indian spices, created an early version of Pathia.
It was the Parsi (Persian) community of India that would keep this dish alive, and when they in turn migrated to the UK, brought with them. The curry houses of British Indian chefs continue to serve a version of this dish - I've never seen it on any Indian menu outside of the UK, but I often cook my version at home as a trip down memory lane.
A beer fuelled curry take-away (take-out) - a British rite of passage.
In my early 20s, a night out was not complete without a trip to the Indian takeaway afterwards. I'd stumble in, alongside 5,000 other drunk people and something HOT and spicy to fill my belly. A Lamb Madras Curry, a fiery Chicken Vindaloo (if I was feeling particularly sadistic) or my favourite - Chicken Pathia!
Pathia is a spicy, sweet and sour concoction. Like the Vindaloo, it has a sour note, not from vinegar but Tamarind and Limes. These days, to make my life simpler, I use only limes and I have to say - the results are fantastic. Quite unlike any other Indian curry you're likely to sample. As I grew to understand Persian cuisine, I also tried this curry using dried limes (you can buy them from some Middle Eastern stores) and the flavour was dynamite. Don't worry though, fresh limes are great too!
The curry is hot by design, which was a craving after a night of beers, but the sweetness from the jaggery sugar and the sour, citrus hit of the lime cut through that spice to awaken a whole new flavour profile. It's a truly wonderful curry and my pathia recipe evolved over the decades into one of my most favourite to cook at home. It brings back fond memories of the blurry nights of my youth, and the empty cartons strewn around the living room floor like a Hansel & Gretel curry trail as I groggily surfaced the next morning. Memories! Or lack thereof.
How to make my Chicken Pathia
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 black cardamom pods (or green, bruised)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 2 onions (large, thinly sliced)
- 1 tbsp garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 tsp chilli powder (hot variety)
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2.2 lb chicken thighs (boneless, skinless - cut into bitesize pieces)
- 4 roma tomatoes (fresh - chopped)
- 2 limes
- 1 stem fresh curry leaves
- Heat the oill in a large pan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves and fry for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the onion and fry gently for 7-8 mimuted until well browned and soft.
- Add the garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes before adding the chilli powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin and salt. Stir this briefly (around 30 seconds) then add the chicken.
- Stir the chicken well and let this fry for 4-5 minutes. Now add all the tomatoes and stir well. Cut one of the limes in half and squeeze in the juice. Stir the chicken until the tomato forms a thick puree (around 5 minutes). Pour in 1½ cups water and stir well.
- Cut the remaining lime into wedges and add them to the sauce. Bring to a simmmer then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered for 35 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will reduce, but if it becomes too dry add a little more and ensure the heat's not too high.
- After 35 minutes, remove the curry leaves from the stem and stir them into the sauce, discarding the stem. Cook for 1-2 more minutes and then that's it! You're done.
- Now, it's up to you - you can fish out all the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and limes if you like. I mostly do, to avoid biting into something other than chicken but it's up to you.
- Serve with lots of fluffy basmati rice or Indian breads.
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