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Jan 16, 2012 05:51 PM

Shan Masala Tips

I'm not sure if there are any other users of Shan Masala powders out there- I tend to add in a tablespoon here and there for flavor to Pakistani/Indian dishes along with some other spices. I've found that if you follow the back of the box, you'll usually end up with a mess.

Will you share what your favorite Shan masala spice box is and any helpful tips? One of mine is the Chicken Tikka Masala but I only add about 1/2 the packet, along with yogurt, ginger/garlic paste, and some lemon juice in the chicken marinade. I followed the directions on the box one time and it was really salty.

Tonight, I've got Chicken Karahi on the stove so we'll see how that one turns out (I am starting to cook Pakistani/Indian dishes more myself - usually my mom spoils me rotten with Pakistani food but I've got to learn someday!).

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  1. I think you have already realized the key to success with Shan Uncle. Never use the amount suggested on the back of the box (it typically says 1/2 to whole packet). Use 1-2 spoons, table or tea depending on the recipe, plus some of your own masala. Some of the 'back of the box' recipes work quite well if you just reduce the amount of Shan Masala you add in.

    I like Shan Uncle's Sindhi biryani, to which I add ground coriander, aamchoor, a pinch of garam masala, and more aloo bukhaaray. Many people swear by their biryani masalas and Sindhi, Bombay and Malay biriani by Shan are very widely used and loved. They have good chappli kabab masala. I have my own chappli kabab recipe but I still end up using Shan because it comes out well. Their qorma masala is also very good for qorma (back of the box recipe words quite well on this one and I finish off with ground elaichi and a drop of keora jal) and I also use it in my kofta recipe for the gravy. I use the Shan Curry Powder or Chicken Curry Powder in regular chicken ka saalan (chicken curry) plus some other home masalas. Their haleem masala is great and I use that plus my own garam masala and garnish with Shan Chaat masala. I used to love their Lahori fish fry but somehow recently it has become inedible due to salt. It was always a little bit salty so I added a couple of table spoons of chickpea flour (besan) to it and just used it. But the past couple of boxes I have purchased, there was not much I could do to remedy the excessive salt.

    Mostly I cook a lot of Pakistani food with nothing more than garam masala, turmeric powder, red chile powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder. This plus whole garam masalas and a box of qasoori methi is really all one needs to make simple home style dishes. But Shan is there as an option, too. Especially for recipes that would traditionally call for a pinch each of a very large amount of spices, Shan saves time and effort.

    14 Replies
    1. re: luckyfatima

      Fatima Apa, do you have any tips for using the Shan chapli kabab masala? Coincidentally I am making some for the first time this very weekend.

      1. re: tavegyl

        On the Shan Chappli Kabab back of the box there is a little section called 'Balti Kabab' and it gives optional additions. The recommended additions lead to a a recipe similar to the way I was taught to make chappli kabab by a person from the region where chappli kababs originally come from.

        Instead of regular onions, I use green onions. I also add in cilantro, a spoon or so of chickpea flour, chopped tomatoes, and ginger, a little bit of crushed or powdered dried pomegranate seed, plus the recommended garlic, green chiles, a bit of ghee, and egg that it says on the back of the box for the regular recipe. I usually press a slice of tomato into the patty and make it large and irregularly shaped like the kind you get at the bazaar. I shallow fry these, not deep fry. The addition of besan gives these a great texture when they fry up.

        Here is my non-Shan recipe so you can compare and see the difference. Shan's has more masalas in it and also uses wheat flour, not besan.

        1 lbs ground chicken, mutton, or beef
        3 tbs chickpea flour (aka besan)
        1 tsp cumin powder
        1 tsp coriander powder
        1 tsp red chile flakes
        1 tsp whole coriander pods (roast in dry pan to toast for one moment)
        1 tbs dried pomegranate seeds, coarsely crushed
        2 finely chopped spring onions
        1 tsp garlic paste
        1 tsp ginger paste
        1 chopped tomato (try to keep out the wet pulp of the tomato, if the mince meat mixture gets too wet, just add a tad more ground chickpea flour)
        1-2 chopped green chiles
        1 cup cilantro finely chopped
        1 tsp ghee or butter (as an alternative to the hunk of dumbey ki charbi !fat of the long earred lamb's tail! that would be in your real Peshawari kabab mixture!!!)
        salt to taste.
        Mix all of these ingredients together. Allow the mixture to sit for about 30 minutes to bind. Shape into patties and shallow fry in a tiny drop of oil. For a party you could press a slice of tomato into each patty and give it a flatter, more irregular shape like an authentic chappli kabab.

        1. re: luckyfatima

          Wow, this sounds wonderful. I just shopped at my favorite Indian store yesterday, so I have most of these ingredients on hand. Thanks for posting!

          1. re: luckyfatima

            I followed your instructions exactly this weekend, omitting the anardana (which I didn't have) and using about 1/2 a box of Shan masala for 500g of fatty minced beef, and adding a little extra red chili powder and ginger. Incredible. Took me right back home. Next time I'll definitely add the pomegranate seeds. Thank you!

            1. re: tavegyl

              I'll add - unsurprisingly, the Shan masala did verge on the too-salty, so next time I might reduce the masala further, and add more ground cumin and coriander myself.

              1. re: tavegyl

                You realize that the common profit-making manna from heaven is SALT, as taught to us poor desis by our ustads in the Western food processing sector, who learned these secrets many decades ago!!

                In the early 60s,anything "foreign" was mysterious and treasured in India, which suffered from a self-imposed Iron Curtain in consumer goods. Once, some relatives brought some Knorr chicken bouillon cubes as a small present. You have to understand the context, the dullness, the absence of packaging,of any novelty at all, to visualize the excitement a simple soup cube could incite within a budding 4 year old foodie! Imagine also the horror of that same child, utterly unschooled inthe ways of the West,biting down on this mysterious "chicken bouillon" and almost throwing up! It reminded him of a story told by an Afghan moneylender,then a common sight in Calcutta, and a figure of local myth and fascination. Well,this particular Kabuliwala, as these folks were called, regardless of their provenance,had once been taken as a child to visit Kabul. His dad had purchased some lovely colorful sweets that had lingered in his memory, but the exact details had turned hazy.

                As a young man, he set off to seek his fortune and all roads lay through Kabul! His first task was to find those sweets.He was yet a callow young man, and those were still innocent times! He saw what hethought were those very things and bought some and eagerly chowed down. To his horror, they were bitter,horrible! He ran to thenearest public fountain towash out his mouth and found his mouth foaming and bubbling!He had purchased a cake of lye soap, not knowing better. Being a doughty mountain man, he sat next to the tap, and grimly began to eat the rest of the remaining cake, drawing a crowd of jeering Kabulis, who enjoyed this hick and his discomfiture.What are you doing, Agha, they mocked, Agha, being the honorific for a reputable merchant! Theman kept his peace, muttering under his breath, I am eating my ruppis, i.e rupees! I guess the good man had not considered the possibility of a thorough bath!!! You can wonder why the ISAF had such difficult time and why John Kerry should read this true story!!

            2. re: luckyfatima

              I made your chappli recipe today with ground chicken and loved it! Thanks for posting! :D

                1. re: luckyfatima

                  I just realized this is a perfect recipe to use up my chicken breasts this week. Do you grind it fine, or do you prefer it roughly chopped? In my experience, when I hand grind the breast in my food processor, it's hard to get a consistency that holds together well.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    I'm not so sure. I usually get a fattier ground chicken for this, like thigh. I am afraid that if you chopped in the food processor it might be more of a shred or even worse, a paste, than a grind, and then the meat would tighten up and be too hard when cooked. I have only ever chopped ground meat more in the food processor, not made ground from whole. Maybe there is a CH thread on that. Be sure to add a nice amount of fat into your kababs, either way.

                    I think the shredded, low fat texture actually works best for shami kabab, though. I just use the Shan recipe and Shan masala for that, too, plus some extra of my own home ground garam masala and fresh green masalas. If mentioning shami has made you think of trying that, beware of the salt in the Shan Shami, it's one of the saltier ones from Shan, but you just need a couple of table spoons for your kababs. Luckily with shami you cook all of the ingredients before you shape and fry the patties so you can adjust the seasonings without even having to do a tester patty.

          2. re: luckyfatima

            Thank you so much for this- it's so helpful. Do you have tips for the biryani mix? How do you cook that? I'd like to try it Sunday night.

            1. re: xena1441


              I have this very infrequently updated and extremely amateurish food blog here and on it I made a post about doctoring up Shan Sindhi biriani to make it my own Sindhi biryani recipe. We aren't suppose to post links to our own stuff on CH but since the post shows all these steps and includes pictures, it would be best for you to see the link. Basically, I just follow the instructions on the back of the box but add in some flavor oomphing additions. I have used a Sindhi sipri (the cooking pot) for my biryani just for fun but you can do it in any big pot or bake it in the oven. Good luck with your biryani!

              1. re: luckyfatima

                Wow- your blog is exactly what I have been searching for. i absolutely love this. You have a new follower! I'll let you know as I make the recipes.

            2. re: luckyfatima

              Completely agree with luckyfatima's last paragraph. The spices you listed, in their whole and ground forms, are all that's needed to cook most traditional Pakistani dishes.

              Personally I avoid most Shan curry mixes due to the insane amount of salt and red chili powder in them plus the 50 or spices each has, which is unnecessary and makes everything taste basically the same.

            3. I like the Malay biryani, Bombay biryani, Kofta Curry, Chicken Curry and Shammi Kebab masalas. I do like the recipes on the back of the boxes, but I definitely use less ghee (no one needs 1/2-1 cup of ghee in a chicken curry!) and I use less masala as the Shan masalas tend to be spicy. I use 1/3 box or so. For the kebabs, I usually use ground turkey and then add chopped onion and chopped cilantro and green chillis to the masala instead of following the recipe on the box. I broil them in the broiler as they tend to fall apart on the grill when turning.

              3 Replies
              1. re: boogiebaby

                Does one need to add gram binder to the kebabs to get them to stay together better on the grill? I've had the same problem.

                For my part, I'm a fan of the haleem, chaat masala and biryani. The chop masala is not very good, imo, and I've had some achari gosht masala in the cupboard waiting to be used up since the summer, so we'll see how that one fares. I also vaguely remember using the nihari masala and liking it, but it's been a very long time since I made nihari.

                1. re: JungMann

                  Good call - yes, the nihari - but you do have to doctor is up a bit, and re-introduce fresh components like ginger, garlic, imo.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    I have added an egg as a binder before- worked really well for me. It worked on the grill just fine.

                2. Same as LuckyFatima already wrote. I generally use about half of what the Shan box suggests.

                  I really like the Chicken Handi, and I think the Hyderbad Biryani. I love one of their potato dish masalas, I forget the name, but it's one I've never really heard of before, I'll post when I remember. I've posted about it on here before - a search will find it, I'm sure. Their chana masala is also a mild favorite of mine - it has a buttery kind of thing going on - not hot or really spiced - it's mild and buttery.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gordeaux

                    Aloo Bhaji masala
                    It's decent stuff - heavily flavored with black pepper.

                  2. I have absolute, total respect for Fatimaji, but here I shall digress a tiny bit and add my 2cents, respectfully, if I may. Somehow, Shan, especially its Biryani masalas, does not quite do it for me. Perhaps it is because I am a terminal curmudgeon! BUT, I am a sorta-fan of NATIONAL brand biryani masalas, and also the Laziza brand, both out of Pakistan. You do need to add your own kewra & saffron, and doctor it up. I find they have too much hot red pepper powder in biriyani, but the Pakistan palate is for "chatpata" in most foods [not the Baloch or the Northwest, all of them!] so that is understandable!

                    You can actually use the biryani masalas in your chicken and meat curries rather nicely! Even just for potato & tofu curries, if you are so minded. You can buy the 6-pack for 89 cents per box from some Indian stores like Apna Bazaar in NJ, and probably others as well that specialize solely in National and Laziza brands. Choose Everest for pav bhaji, and Mangal for dhansak, Parampara for nothing.

                    1. My simple rule is that I love them all, but if salt is the first ingredient, the mix doesn't love me.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Joebob

                        I did want to try NATIONAL spices, but MSG and Amorphous Silicon Dioxide kind of makes me hesitate.

                        1. re: spicyfood2


                          I respect your concerns. However, as a biochemist I am bemused byt he number of people who make a beeline for Braggs Aminios which is NOTHING BUT MSG at a vastly extortionate pricing. I am NOT suggesting people consume MSG, and not at the quantities used in some Southeast Asian communities [tablespoons!].

                          But please, try to become rational and informed at what the GLUTAMATE part of MSG means, what GLUTAMINE AND GLUTAMATE mean.We have become so science-phobic that it is not even funny!

                          What does silicon dioxide mean? Sand! Glass is also silicon dixide. It makes things FLOW, that would clump together. Everything has meaning and function when used with sense and proportion. Things become dangerous, as with the use of dyes in food, that have no real place or reason. That is an important problem and concern in MANY PAKISTANI food products AND RECIPES. The non-relevant use of food color, and the EXCESSIVE USE of FOOD COLOR.

                          Peshawari style of chicken tandoori has NO colors added and should be emulated.

                          Other than saffron, no yellow or red colors should be used. People should reserve their concerns for the areas where there are SERIOUS issues.

                          The amounts of MSG in NAtional brand masala mixes is small. If you notice, I suggest using NATIONAL BRAND AS A ADDITION TO YOUR OWN COOKING, as a bit of pep. The amount of ethanol and ethaldehyde most people inflict on their livers would worry me far more than the trivial quantitites of MSG. How many times a MONTH are you cooking with National Brand? I am an Indian, and I cook with this stuff, say, once a year? I never consume alcohol other than mirin in Japanese long-simmered dishes, which might be a couple of ml a month, if that. I don't consume feedlot beef or any beef, pork etc, So I am quite happy with the levels of toxins I am adding to my system.

                          The issue here is how much total assault your body can withstand. I should happily eat silicon dioxide by the handsful rather than any food cooked in restaurants, deli meats, salads prepared in supermarkets, mixed drinks, and so much else that is treasured in modern gourmet diets. That is just me. There is no interpersonal comparison of utility.

                          I should happily feed my family National and Laziza brand masala mixes in moderation. I am an Indian and find certain Pakistani products of very high quality and would purchase these in preference to the Indian counterparts. Shaan is a very well-marketed brand, very professional, clean, crisp, accessible, and deserves kudos on all fronts. Sadly, I have never been able to cotton on to their flavor profiles; it is just my taste not matching theirs.

                          In this context, there is a Pakistani online grocery,, which has excellent prices and service, plus products, including Spanish saffron by the ounce and bulk shelled pistachios. As you know by my very acerbic nature, I am never a shill!

                          I would be very wary of ANY products originating from Bangladesh, including frozen fin fish and palm gur, although it pains me greatly to say this. Contamination levels are beyond shocking and even good products are tainted by the worry caused by those who export contaminated stuff. We have no means to distinguish lots, do we?