Chicken Chaap – A Gorgeous recipe

Chicken Chaap cool


In India, one evening, my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) ordered dinner from a nearby restaurant that specialized in Biryani and an aromatically brilliant dish known as Chicken Chaap. It was so delicious that I have not been able to get it out of my mind since. What astounded me more was the fact that in spite of being a quintessential Bengali all my life, I had never actually come across this dish. Oh! What a miss it would have been!!!

It’s not surprising though, that I missed tasting something so popular and easily found food on streets of Kolkata.

Flavors in Bengali cuisine are vast and the variety of food prepared and served is mind-boggling. With so much variety, it is quite natural to miss out on many such exquisitely prepared dishes.  In a normal Bengali house hold, meals are served in multi-course tradition, much like the French or English tradition of serving food service à la russe, where the food is served in courses rather than being served all at once.


The rich gravy


Even today, most traditional Bengali women take great satisfaction in cooking a dish with exquisite precision. When I say ‘precision’, I mean it. One cut of vegetable cannot be replaced by another in a certain dish. If, say, a vegetable is sliced instead of diced, the preparation will undergo a complete name change, along with the spices that go into it. You will also receive a frown and a dressing down that will compel you to get the cut right next time.

They also make it a matter of pride to serve it with extravagant finesse.  There is a distinct convention to be followed when serving each dish. There is an intricate methodical pairing that goes with every dish, and it is served in a meticulous sequence. For example, the first to be served will be a ‘teto’ – something sour, like bitter gourd. ‘Dal’ is always paired with a ‘bhaja’ (fried vegetables). A mixed vegetable like ‘chochodi’ or ‘ghonto’ will always be served before fish. Meat will always be served after fish. All these will of course be served on a bed of rice. “Papad’ or lentil chips, and a sweet chutney are served towards the end, signifying end of the savory meal.  But that’s not it, yet. Now it’s time for dessert.

Each meal can consist of 12 – 14 different foods, and the spread consists of  rice, fish, meat, vegetables, fries, chutney, confectionaries and deserts. ( I was treated to this kind of feast for at least 20 days out of my 28 day stay, sometimes twice a day. Burrrrp!!!!).


yumm chicken chaap


Thankfully, meals that are served in one go have found enough favors over the centuries, and into today’s modern Bengali cuisine. The street food in Kolkata is possibly one of the best  in the world.  It’s just not confined to street shops. Kolkata also houses some of the finest restaurants you can visit. Chops, Cutlets, Biryanis, Rolls, Tandoor, Fried foods, Luchi, Kachori, Samosa, Pakoda, Steamed Momos, Fried dumplings, Phuchka, Sandwich, Rumali Rotis or Naan, Chicken wings, Chowmein, Manchurian – you name it and they have it. And then of course, sweets – the famous Bengali sweets.  Kid you not, every second shop there is a food shop of some kind. As my son exclaimed during one such trip on the roads of Kolkata, “So many food stores, I am hungry!” But that’s a story for another day.

Back to the scintillating Chicken Chaap. The Nawabs of Bengal brought in the celebrated Awadhi cuisine to Bengal way back in early 18th century. When they moved their capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad, the cuisine developed a life of its own. One such dish that was obviously influenced was ‘Chicken Chaap‘. “Chaap’ is a cut of chicken. Basically, in English, it is whole legs – drumsticks still attached to thighs. This rich, full-bodied aromatic gravy of chicken serves as a perfect foil to the light Chicken Biryani that is served with it.

I haven’t figured out the Biryani yet. But falling back on the memory of what I ate that night, I tried recreating the Chicken as best as I could remember. It was outstanding, if I may say so myself. This time I served it with Naan. But as I said, pairing are an integral part of Bengali cuisine. So I plan to make the Biryani next and serve it with this exquisitely aromatic wonder of a dish.

4.8 from 5 reviews
Chicken Chaap - A Gorgeous recipe
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4-6
Whole legs cooked in aromatic flavors on low heat.
  • 4 whole legs of chicken
  • 3 large onions ground to a paste with a little water ( should make about 3 cups)
  • 3 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tomatoes grated
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds ground to a paste
  • 1 cup hung yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 2 Thai green chillis
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp Kewra essence ( found in Indian stores)
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp Ghee
For seasoning: 1 tsp Caraway seeds, 1 Bay Leaf, 4 cloves, 4-5 pods cardamoms
  1. Marinade the chicken in half of ginger-garlic paste and salt for at least an hour or more.
  2. In a pan large enough to hold the chicken pieces, heat oil.
  3. Season with caraway seeds, Bay Leaf, cloves and cardamom.
  4. Fry the onion paste. The oil should float on top.
  5. Stir and fry for 15 minutes. As the water dries out, it will splatter, so cover with a screen.
  6. Once the onion turns golden, add the remaining ginger garlic paste.
  7. Put in red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt.
  8. Now ad grated tomatoes.
  9. As the gravy thickens, and oil leaves sides, lower the flame, and add in poppy-seed paste.
  10. Then spoon in hung yogurt.
  11. Fry the gravy till oil is leaving sides.
  12. Once the gravy looks thick, add garam masala powder (save ½ tsp for later) and stir well.
  13. Add one glass of water and lower the flame.
  14. Simultaneously, while the gravy is cooking, in a Dutch oven, heat Ghee.
  15. Fry the chicken pieces one by one, till they are light golden in color.
  16. Add the golden chicken 'chaap' pieces to the gravy.
  17. Bring it to a boil.
  18. Lower the flame, add ¼ cup milk. Cover, and cook for an hour.
  19. The chicken needs to stew in its juices, cooking slowly to achieve the flavors.
  20. Check for tenderness.
  21. Finally, add remaining garam masala, rose water and kewda essence.
  22. Serve hot with Biryani, Naan, rotis/Chappatis or Rice.





33 comments for “Chicken Chaap – A Gorgeous recipe

  1. January 8, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    It looks very interesting. Is the meat soft inside?
    Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today recently posted..Brioche!My Profile

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:57 PM

      Yes, it’s very tender, and thoroughly cooked. Because it has been cooked for a while in juices, it also takes in the flavor of the spices.
      Minnie recently posted..Chicken Chaap – A Gorgeous recipeMy Profile

  2. January 8, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Thanks so much for the insight into Indian meals. I’d weigh a ton because I’d have to eat everything.

    This Chicken chaap looks terrific.
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted..NoosaMy Profile

    • January 8, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      It did turn out awesome. Actually, it’s only in Bengal where this multi-course tradition is followed. Rest everywhere in India, it is served all at once.

  3. January 8, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    wow! how did you figure out the recipe? yes, chicken chaap is a famous dish in India. and Calcutta is heaven for foodies!

    • January 8, 2013 at 10:27 PM

      I just went at it, lol!! I kind of figured what it would take to make a gravy like that, and experimented my way to it. However, I am sure it’s a hit and a miss, and it possibly is not as authentic as it should be. However, this one did come out tasting very close to what I had, so I did something right there.

  4. January 9, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    It’s so interesting to read about your India! I am mostly familiar with Hyderabad so learning about the Bengali dinner ritual was fascinating. I know the Hyderabadi nawabs were particular too, but these days my family just puts all the food on the table and we go at it! Granted its a lot of food! I just came back from Houston and it was a treat because my aunt happened to be visiting which meant great food.

    The chicken looks amazing, but then again chicken with masala is fabulous and it seems like you did a great job recreating it. I am going to try it out.

    Nazneen xx
    Nazneen | Coffee and Crumpets recently posted..Lemon Loaf CakeMy Profile

    • January 10, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      In my house, food was hardly ever served in this fashion, though my Ma did cook a few courses and still does. However, we grow up following the sequence by default, I never really thought of them as ‘course’ meal. Stepping back, sometimes you see things from a different perspective, and that at times can be an eye-opener.

      The chicken came out fab, really. Hope you like it as much as everyone in my house did. Go easy on the essence though, make sure you are comfortable with it, as it is very strong. (I should possibly add this as a footnote my post as well).

  5. CCU
    January 9, 2013 at 4:43 AM

    This chicken looks so tender and perfect!

    Choc Chip Uru
    CCU recently posted..Guest Post: Strawberry Lychee SorbetMy Profile

    • January 10, 2013 at 12:04 AM

      Thanks Uru 🙂 Wish you could taste it too! Maybe someday, we might convert you yet ;p

  6. January 9, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    I had never heard of this dish before either but I felt somewhat relieved when you mentioned you hadn’t either Minnie! 😛 This looks so full of flavour, the sauce cooked down and the chicken tender! 😀
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted..Masquerade Coconut & Raspberry Fudge (Raw, Vegan, Low Sugar)My Profile

    • January 10, 2013 at 12:05 AM

      Lol, you are funny Lorraine ( I loved your parrot rote number, hehehe!)

  7. January 9, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    wow, i would absolutely love to be at that kind of a meal!
    kale recently posted..a spoonful of oceanMy Profile

    • January 10, 2013 at 12:06 AM

      If you are ever visiting Boston, let me know, I will treat to some 🙂

  8. January 10, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    I’d love to eat this chicken – it looks so tender and delicious. That’s a great insight into this type of cuisine xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted..Truncated and Lectionary and…Avocado, Mango & Walnut SaladMy Profile

    • January 10, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      Thanks Charlie 🙂

  9. January 11, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    This chicken sound so wonderfully flavorful! I’m goin to have to learn more about Indian cuisine.
    Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits recently posted..Split Pea Soup with Barley and CarrotsMy Profile

    • January 11, 2013 at 7:23 PM

      Hi Mireya, happy New Year!!!!

  10. January 14, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Hi Minnie,

    The chicken chaap seems so delicious..!!

    Its good to see some girls who are really fond of chicken dishes.. 🙂

    Have fun! 🙂
    Dhruv Bhagat recently posted..Fibroids Miracle Program – Eliminate Uterine Fibroids NaturallyMy Profile

  11. August 14, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Hi Minnie,

    Thanks for stopping by. This recipe looks so good, I have to try it.
    rinku recently posted..Wednesday Chicken Curry – Boodhbarer MoorgiMy Profile

  12. Sangeeta
    December 27, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Looks Awesome!!! just one question…u have milk in the ingredients but not in the procedure..where did u add that?

    • December 29, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      Excellent point Sangeetha! Sorry about that, I rectified it. The milk is added right after the chicken is, and them simmered for an hour for the favors to seep into the chicken. Thanks so much for pointing it out.

  13. Aritra De
    January 11, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    the recipe is very good..really enjoyed the meal.

    • January 14, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      Thank you so much, I am glad you enjoyed it so!

  14. Chayanika
    November 17, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    Dear Minnie
    I would like to thank you for such a delicious and wonderful recipe. Had it for the first time at my brother’s place on bhai doooj, sis-in-law had cooked and it was so ‘finger-licking good’ 😉 so couldn’t resist asking for the recipe and was directed to your blog. I cooked it last night for dinner and it was SUPERB!!! …and you know what was hubby’s reaction???i was putting my kid off to sleep and my cell beeped, hubby had messaged – “had a restaurant style chicken chaap at home”!! thank you. YOUR recipe rocks.

  15. kajoli debnath
    December 16, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  16. April 5, 2016 at 9:46 PM

    Nice recipe !
    See version of chicken chaap

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