Parsi salli chicken

Parsi salli chicken

I Love India
Martin Poole

Parsis came to India from Persia hundreds of years ago, fleeing persecution, but a legend says that the Indian ruler didn’t want to let them in, saying, “We are full.” The Parsi asked the ruler to bring a bowl and fill it up to the brim with milk. He then added a spoon of sugar. The cup did not overflow. “We will be like the sugar,” he said. “We will only add sweetness to your country.” And indeed they did, and are now a very respected part of the community. Parsi food is not only influenced by its Persian roots but also by the British and the Indians. This is one of their better-known dishes. I visited a well-known Parsi restaurant in Mumbai a few years ago. The owner has a giant portrait of The Queen. When he found out we were from England, he spent a good amount of time chatting with us. He recommended this chicken dish topped with salli: crispy fried potato straws.


Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
5g finely grated root ginger, (peeled weight)
5 large garlic cloves, finely grated
3 large vine tomatoes, blended until smooth
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
2 teaspoons see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin
6-8 medium-small skinless bone-in chicken thighs, (1.25-1.3kg in total)
handful coriander
large handful see method for ingredients, or as much as you like


  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Then increase the heat and cook, stirring often, until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook gently for 1 minute, or until the garlic smells cooked.
  2. Pour in the blended tomatoes, then add the seasoning and all the ground spices. Cook down until the masala releases oil, about 15–20 minutes. Taste – it should be harmonious.
  3. Tip the chicken into the masala along with a good splash of water. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat and cook for 25–30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Give the pot occasional stirs as it cooks and check that there is enough water in the pan. At this stage you can make the Crispy Potato Salli.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning and consistency of the sauce, which should have a light, creamy consistency. If it is too watery, cook over a high heat until thickened to your liking, or add some water from a boiling kettle to loosen a little. Stir in the coriander, sprinkle with Crispy Potato Salli and serve.
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