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50 Great Curries of India
by Camellia Panjabi

Safed Murgh Korma (Agra)
A mild aromatic korma, this is basically a Muslim court dish, a blend of Moghlai and Nawabi cuisine. The Moghul Emperor Shahjehan, builder of the Taj Mahal monument, used to have all-white banquets on full-moon nights at the Agra Fort. The terrace of the fort was bedecked with white carpets and cushions and white flowers, the guests dressed in white, and all the dishes served were white in color. The white korma was later perfected at the tables of the gourmet Nawabs of Oudh in Lucknow. The Royal House of Jaipur, connected by marriage to the Moghuls, also served all-white banquets on the night of Sharad Poornima, the September full moon, as late as the 1960s.
     Originally this dish was made with almonds only, but modern cooks prefer a combination of cashews and almonds. The traditional Lucknowi recipe also includes 1oz chaar magaz or "four .seeds," a mix of various melon, squash, and pumpkin seeds available in India from speciality grocers, and a teaspoon of powdered rose petals, but these are omitted here.
Serves 4


    • 1½ teaspoons poppy seeds
    • 5 oz plain yogurt
    • 1/3 cup ghee or clarified butter
    • 2 oz blanched almonds
    • 2 oz unsalted cashew nuts
    • 1 cinnamon leaf or bay leaf
    • 2 onions, chopped
    • 3 green chiles, chopped
    • 4 green cardamoms
    • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
    • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
    • 1 whole green chile
    • 1 clove
    • 2¼ lb boneless chicken breasts, skinned
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon mace powder
    • salt


1. Soak the poppy seeds in 1/2 cup of water for 1 hour. Then drain the water and grind into a fine paste.

2. Hang the yogurt in a cheesecloth for 1 hour to drain the whey. Then put the hung yogurt into a bowl and whisk.

3. Heat the ghee or clarified butter in a large pot, reserving 1 tablespoon. Then add the almonds, cashews, and cinnamon or bay leaf and fry for about 7-8 minutes over medium heat. Add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes or until lightly colored. Add the chopped green chiles, cardamoms, and ground poppy seeds and fry for about 3-4 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon or bay leaf, and leave to cool. Put the mixture into a blender and puree to a smooth paste without any grains.

4. Add the reserved tablespoon of ghee or clarified butter to the pot, then add the garlic, ginger, whole green chile, and clove. After 1 minute, add the chicken pieces. The chicken will gradually release its juices until the meat is almost dry. Then add the yogurt and stir continuously to prevent it from curdling.

5. Add the ground spice mixture with the nutmeg and mace powders and salt to taste. Stir well and add 1½ cups of hot water. Taste the mixture. If you find it bland, you can add additional whole green chiles. Cook over a low heat until the chicken is tender.


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