• Yield: Serves 4

Cilantro Chicken (Dhania Chicken)


This is a favorite among the Ismaili Muslims of Kenya, and with good reason. It has an exquisite flavor and may well be one of the best chicken dishes I have ever eaten. Serve it with Indian breads, with whole-wheat pita bread, or with any rice dish.


You may use a whole chicken, cut into serving pieces, or else use just four chicken legs, as I do. All the chicken pieces must be skinned.


  • One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

  • 5 good-sized cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspons lemon juice

  • 4 chicken legs, skinned and separated into drumsticks and thighs

  • 1 medium tomato (about 5 ounces), chopped

  • 3 lightly packed cups cilantro leaves and small stems

  • 2 to 3 fresh hot green chilies, coarsely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste

  • 3 tablespoons olive or corn oil

  • 1 cup plain yogurt, lightly beaten with a fork


1. Put the ginger, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the lemon juice into a blender. Add about 2 tablespoons of water and blend, pushing down with a rubber spatula if necessary, until smooth. Place the chicken pieces in a stainless steel or non-metallic bowl. Pour the ginger mixture over the top and rub it in. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or for up to 24 hours.

2. Without bothering to clean out the blender, put into it the tomato, cilantro, chilies, tomato paste, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth.

3. Pour the oil into a large, nonstick, lidded pan and set over high heat. When very hot, put in the chicken pieces, together with the marinade. Fry, stirring, until the chicken pieces are light brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the tomato mixture from the blender. Continue to cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick and clings to the chicken and the oil separates from it, another 10 minutes.

5. Add the yogurt. Stir and cook until the yogurt disappears and leaves a thick sauce edged with oil, 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Cover, reduce the heat as low as possible, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. If you think that he pan is drying out too much, stir in a tablespoon or two of water.

Adapted from From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail. © 2003 by Madhur Jaffrey. Published by Clarkson Potter.

Madhur Jaffrey is a cook, author and award-winning actress. Specializing in Indian food, she has written more than 15 books, most recently At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Financial Times, The New Yorker, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Vogue, Smithsonian and House Beautiful, among other publications. She has appeared in more than 20 films, including Merchant Ivory’s "Heat and Dust." She was awarded an honorary CBE for “her services to drama and promotion of appreciation for Indian food and culture.”