MURGH LABABDAR (CHICKEN IN TOMATO & CREAM GRAVY)

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Murgh Lababdar is a Mughal recipe of tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken pieces in a rich tomato and cream gravy.

Murgh Lababdar is a signature Mughal dish that is rich and decadent. The literal meaning of the word 'Lababdar' when associated with food means unbridled indulgence, something so good that you are bound to surrender. True to its name, the Murgh Lababdar is one such delicious Mughal dish that will leave you craving for more. Traditionally, it is made by simmering chargrilled chicken pieces in a rich tomato and cream gravy flavored with aromatic spices.

ABOUT THE RECIPE

Chicken Lababdar is the humble cousin of Butter Chicken except that it is not buttery and comparatively easier to make. As is common with Mughal dishes, often there are multiple versions of cooking one particular dish. Let's just say this is my version, it may not be the most authentic, but it is lip-smackingly delicious.

The dish is a rich blend of aromatic spices but it tastes sweet and creamy just like Butter chicken. So, if you don't prefer hot, this might turn out to be your favorite Mughal dish. The chicken pieces come out tender and succulent and the gravy is silky, smooth, and luscious.  

This dish is great for entertaining guests and kids love it too because of the beautiful balance of sweet and spicy. 
 
Do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, I bet most of us has almost all of them in our pantries already. If you do not make Indian food regularly, you can easily get the spices at any Indian or Asian grocery store or online stores like Amazon.
 
Let us quickly take a look at what we need to make this mouth-watering recipe.

INGREDIENTS

Here is the list of items we need to make Murgh Lababdar:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken - Preferably thighs because the thigh meat is tender and not chewy. It results in a very smooth and creamy final dish. You may also use bone-in pieces in which case the cooking time will be higher.
  • Ripe Tomatoes - Tomatoes are central to the dish because they form the most part of the gravy. I like to use ripe Roma tomatoes, you may use other varieties that you prefer. You can also use canned tomatoes if you find that convenient but I am not a big fan of the canned tomatoes because they contain preservatives.
  • Onion - You may use any variety of onion red, yellow, or white.
  • Ginger Paste
  • Garlic Paste
  • Red Bell Pepper (optional)
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Spices - You will need typical Indian spices like Coriander,  Cumin, Turmeric, Chili Powder, Garam Masala and Kasuri Methi.
  • Dairy items - The luscious gravy obviously calls for dairy. We will need whole milk, plain yogurt and full cream. Substitute full cream and whole milk with low fat versions for lower calories. If you want to avoid dairy you can use coconut milk and coconut milk cream instead.
  • Egg
  • Cornflour
  • Oil
  • Seasonings - Salt, Sugar and Pepper

HOW TO MAKE IT

Here is the step by step recipe for making Murgh Lababdar

Marinate Chicken - In a bowl marinate the chicken with black pepper powder, salt, cornflour, and egg. Make sure that the chicken pieces are well coated. 

Chop the veggies - Chop onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and red bell pepper.

Fry  -  Fry the marinated chicken pieces until golden and keep aside. Also fry the red bell pepper pieces

Prepare the gravy - Prepare the saucy gravy with onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, yogurt and all the spices. Add the fresh cream and keep cooking till the oil separates. Your gravy is now ready.

Cook the chicken - Dunk in the chicken pieces and let the gravy simmer. When it starts to dry out, add the milk and simmer until done.

Seasoning - Season with salt, sugar, garam masala powder and kasuri methi.

Garnish -Drizzle with cream and chopped cilantro.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the difference between the Butter Chicken and Chicken Lababdar?

Butter chicken, as the name suggests uses a lot of butter. In the case of Butter chicken, pre-marinated chicken is first grilled and then cooked in a special spice blend comprising of tomatoes, cashew nuts, almonds, and other aromatic spices. On the other hand, Lababdar is a milder version with little or no butter. It is not mandatory to grill the chicken in the Lababdar recipe.

Does Lababdar taste sweet?

Traditionally, Lababdar is a sweet-tasting dish because it has cream, sugar, tomatoes, and cashew nut paste too. This recipe of Murgh Lababdar does not have any hot spices per se, so yes it does taste sweet due to the abundant use of cream and ripe tomatoes. If you like it hot, add red chili powder along with other spices.

Can I make Murgh Lababdar ahead of time?

Yes, you can make it ahead of time especially if you are expecting guests at home and you don't want to be cooking at the last minute. Make sure to cool down the curry completely before refrigerating and store for up to 2 days. In fact, most Indian chicken recipes taste the best the day after. What you might want to do to make it taste like freshly made is sprinkle some garam masala before reheating and drizzle some fresh cream before serving. Garnish as usual.

Can I use bone-in chicken pieces to make Murgh Lababdar?

Yes, you can use bone-in pieces too. Just remember that the bone-in pieces will take longer to tenderize so you have to be prepared to spend more time cooking.

Can I avoid using milk in the gravy?

Yes, you can avoid the milk if you prefer. Add warm water instead to achieve the desired consistency of the gravy. However, it is the milk that makes the gravy smooth and luscious, so skipping the milk will not lead to the same outcome.

How can I make the Murgh Lababdar recipe dish dairy-free?

To make this recipe dairy-free, substitute milk with full-fat coconut milk and fresh cream with full-fat coconut cream.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

The Murgh Lababdar is a creamy, rich, and decadent dish that goes equally well with Indian flatbread and rice. 

Serve it with butter naan, kulcha, or bazlama. You can also serve it with plain basmati rice, jeera rice, or saffron rice.
 
Here are my favorites:

STORING SUGGESTIONS 

Murgh Lababdar can be frozen for later consumption. Make sure to cool down the curry completely before freezing. Transfer into an airtight container and freeze it for up to 1 month. Take out from the freezer at least an hour before you are ready to serve. Thaw at room temperature and then reheat in a microwave or stove when you are ready. Please be reminded that it is normal for the flavors of the curry to die down when kept frozen for a long time. To spice it up, add some garam masala and a dollop of butter while heating. Before serving, drizzle some fresh cream.

CHICKEN LABABDAR
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MURGH LABABDAR

Yield: 6
Author: The GradChef
Prep time: 10 MCook time: 30 MTotal time: 40 M
A Mughal recipe of tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken pieces in a rich tomato and cream gravy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb chicken, boneless small pieces
  • 3-4 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro for garnishing (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Oil for frying chicken

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl marinate the chicken with black pepper powder, salt, cornflour, and egg. Make sure that the chicken pieces are well coated. Keep aside.
  2. Heat oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces till golden. Remove with a slotted spatula and drain excess oil on a paper towel.
  3. Heat oil in another pan, lightly toss the bell peppers (if using) and keep them aside.
  4. In the same pan add more oil if required and saute the chopped onion till it turns translucent.
  5. Add the garlic paste followed by the chopped tomatoes and ginger paste. Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes turn mushy. Now add 2 tbsp of beaten yogurt.
  6. Add all the spices except the garam masala and fresh cream. Continue cooking until the oil separates.
  7. Dunk in the chicken pieces, add salt, and sugar and give everything a good mix. Let it cook for a few minutes. When it starts to look a bit dry, add the milk and let it simmer till chicken is tender.
  8. Add the bell peppers and dried fenugreek leaves and cook for another few minutes.
  9. Adjust seasonings if required and finish off with the garam masala.
  10. Drizzle some more cream and garnish with chopped cilantro (optional).

Notes:

  • To increase the level of heat in the recipe, you may add more chili powder or crushed peppercorns or slit green chilies.
  • The bell peppers add a nice little crunch to the smooth gravy, skip it if you do not want that crunch.
  • Make sure not to overcook the bell pepper else the beautiful natural color is lost.
  • You can also add fried cashew nut to make this richer.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! It is delicious indeed! Do try it and let me know how you liked it.

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