Recipe: Easy Punjabi Chicken Curry and Mixed Vegetable Dhal


I love spicy food. And when I say spicy, I don’t just mean chilli heat that burns your tongue off. I mean food that is really rich in spices, with flavours that have tantalising layers and aromatic depths.

So, admittedly, it’s quite tragic that I fell in love with Japan where flavours are clean, simple and precise – with an emphasis on minimalism to bring out the essence of the original ingredient.

This has its place, but sometimes I just want a really tasty curry. Even better if it’s one I can make in under an hour…

My curry adventure began on the weekend when I discovered fresh chilli peppers in Japan FOR THE FIRT TIME EVER. I was strolling through the quaint area of Yanaka Ginza, with its traditional sweet shops, fantastic ceremony and many shrines. And decorative vending machines… It has a completely different feel to the rest of Tokyo. I highly recommend checking out the main street, which is full of cat statues and merchandise! And delicious food (for another blog post!)

There happened to be a festival on the weekend. And by sheer change, I found a whole bunch of fresh chillies. For the first time ever. FOR ONLY 100 YEN! Imagine my elation…

Me, proposing with chillies. Traditional wedding rings WHATEVER.

So then I needed a recipe, but I was short on time because I had decided to cycle to Yokohama and back (a round trip of over 58km / 36 miles.

With some Googling, I came across The Curry Guy and his Easy Chicken Punjabi recipe. The recipe list and instructions seemed to simple to be delicious. But I was desperate. And I was also wrong.

Well, I did make a few adjustments – and maybe it wasn’t really a Punjabi curry afterwards – but it was a triumph. Check out more of The Curry Guy‘s website as it’s packed full of wonderful sounding recipes. Can’t wait to try some more!

I then hit up my mum for adaptation of Kris Dhillon’s tarka dhal recipe from The New Curry Secret. It is so quick, cheap and delicious! Also, vegetarians, rejoice! This is your time. Non-vegetarians, also rejoice. Because veg never tasted so sexy. Recipes below. Enjoy 😉

Easy Punjabi Chicken Curry – Adapted from The Curry Guy
Serves 4 / Cook time: 45 minutes

This was in my lunchbox today!

Ingredients (my adaptation in italics)

  • 12 chicken thighs – skinned and on the bone
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 3 onions – finely chopped (I used two as reduced the amount of chicken)
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (more or less to taste) (four fresh red chillies)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 4 tennis ball sized tomatoes – finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic and ginger paste (or as finely chopped as you can manage!)
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • chicken stock 

Instructions (my adaptation in italics)

  1. In a large saucepan that has a lid, heat the oil over medium high heat. When hot, pour in the chopped onions. Stir continuously so that the onions become soft and translucent.
  2. In a separate pan, seal the chicken pieces and put to one side. 
  3. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste, chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, and coriander followed by the chopped tomatoes and allow to sizzle over medium heat for about five minutes. Add about a teaspoon of salt. This will help the onion release moisture into the sauce.
  4. The onions and tomatoes will begin to break down, turning into a thick sauce. This is a sauce you can use for any restaurant style curry. You may want to leave the chilli powder out though if you’re making mild curries.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and tomato paste.
  6. Stir it all up nicely and pour in just enough water (or chicken stock) to cover the chicken.
  7. Cover the curry and let it simmer for about ten minutes. The sauce will become nice and thick and will stick to the chicken pieces as they cook.
  8. Remove the lid and stir adding a drop more water (chicken stock) if you prefer a thinner sauce or turn up the heat if it is too runny.
  9. You’ll know when the curry is ready when the oil comes to the top. Simply skim it off. (Or if this doesn’t happen, eat it and have no regrets)
  10. Stir in one tablespoon of the garam masala and taste. Add more if needed

Tarka Dhal – Adapted from Kris Dhillon’s New Curry Secret
Serves 4 / Cooking time 20 minutes

Another lunchbox treat!


  • 4 heaped tbsp lentils (or 1 can pre-cooked)
  • 425ml  veg stock (or water, or chicken stock <– I use chicken stock)
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 ripe tomato,  chopped
  • 1 green chilli,  chopped (I use red and often 2!)
  • salt
  • half tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander.

NB:  I use 10g fresh ginger  and the original recipe excludes cumin and coriander.


  1. Rinse lentils several times.
  2. Throw into a pan with everything except salt, garam masala and fresh coriander (if using).
  3. Bring to boil and simmer 10 mins uncovered.
  4. Simmer for 20 mins covered – stirring occasionally.  Add more liquid if too thick.
  5. Add salt to taste,  garam masala and coriander.


  • If you want to put in cauliflower or peppers etc , add after the first 10 minutes of simmering when covered.  If peas or spinach,  add 3 mins or so before end. If potatoes, add at the beginning of the simmering when covered.
  • I used tinned lentils (which you can buy from Kaldi Coffee Farm if you’re living in Tokyo and struggling to find them).

And I just realised I blogged this before – see my earlier version here!

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