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Nov 5, 2012 08:11 AM

How can I make a chicken korma that's "dark red"?


I've been on a search for the perfect chicken korma recipe for years. I used to buy it from a hole-in-the-wall called the Oriental Indian Restaurant in Toronto, and then they closed years ago. I don't think theirs was a typical korma, as the thickness seemed to come from the ground cashews, there was a layer of oil on top so it needed a good stir, and it was not creamy at all.

I tried this recipe:

The end product was delicious (tho I omitted the coriander as I'm not a big fan, and didn't have any cardamom), but it did NOT look like this at all.

My chicken korma looked more like a regular beige curry. Any idea how to achieve the colour/consistency in the photo here? I'd be willing to try a different recipe altogether! I find the dark red in this dish to be much more appetizing than the regular beige curries...

Thanks! :)

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  1. Here's a pic of how MY korma turned out... there's a few small red chillis in the wok as well AND I added a tbsp of paprika, but still not the rich red colour as in the original recipe :(

    5 Replies
    1. re: Fizzzzzy

      oops, forgot to attach the photo!

      1. re: Fizzzzzy

        Adding ground kashmiri chiles (which are not particularly hot) will give you the color you seek. I've never seen korma that was dark red, though.

        1. re: biondanonima

          kashmiri... thanks! There's a lot of indian grocery stores around, so hopefully I can find it. I know what you mean about the korma. Any other restaurant I've been to has had it more the typical curry colour. I was thinking for a while that the place I went to just named the dish incorrectly lol

          1. re: Fizzzzzy

            Paprika is a fine substitute Real Kashmiri Chilies are hard to find.
            It also looks like you did not brown your onions enough they should be a Red Brown/ Mahogany hue.
            +1 on Ninrn's Advice to not leave out the Coriander or Cardamom.

            1. re: chefj

              Thanks chefj... I'll definitely keep my eye on the onions next time!

      2. There are lots of different kinds of korma --white, red, green, navratan-- but the one usually served in restaurants here is white -- the beige-y colored kind made with nuts. Red korma is called Marchwangan Korma. In addition to the Kashmiri chilis Biondanonima mentions, it sometimes has tomatoes in it, too. If you do an Internet search under Marchwangan Korma, you'll probably find a recipe that's close to what that restaurant served. Here's one that looks good to me: (It's also sometimes spelled Mirchwangan, and korma is alternately spelled kurma, qorma and khorma, so if you don't find what you're looking for under one spelling, you might want to search other combinations.)

        PS: I wouldn't leave the coriander or cardamom out, even if they're not your favorite flavors. I guarantee that place in Toronto had both those spices in their korma, whichever one it was. Everything will meld to make a new flavor, and it just won't be the same without those ingredients.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ninrn

          ninrn, I think you have a masters degree in kormas lol :) Thanks for all that info. I'm going to look for the kashmiri powder, and I'll take your advice and add the coriander and cardamom the next time I make it, if it's called for in the recipe. I wonder why my korma didn't turn out like the one in the photo that was with the recipe? Wrong photo perhaps? Thanks again!

          1. re: Fizzzzzy

            And a PhD in lentils, Fizzzzzy ... Sorry if that answer was a bit too detailed. I once had a dream of writing an encyclopedia of Indian food, so I'm afraid my head is way too full of curry-related information.

            The picture with the recipe looks like the right one, but like the cook used a different garam masala. Some garam masalas have quite a bit of mace in them, and that gives them a red color. Coriander gets very dark when slowly toasted, too, so leaving that out probably made your dish lighter as well. Still, it looks deeelicious.

            1. re: ninrn

              LOL... I really appreciate the details! Your info was very helpful! Now that I know it's marchwangan korma, it will make it easier to decide on a recipe and to explain to guests why my korma is red (hopefully) :)

              I think you should still write the encyclopedia of Indian Food... I know I'd buy it! :)

        2. The qorma in your picture looks like white I would call white qorma, which doesn't have red-fried onions. Just a guess on what has happened: I know your shibani recipe doesn't say "cook onions till brown" but going by the looks of the qorma, she has cooked the onions quite past "soft stage" and on into golden-turning-brown stage, then cooking all the spices and onions down until everything is brown and pasted. I would add in the spices when the onions are going golden brown around the edges. Then once you have added everything, she says 10 minutes of stirring, but it may take few minutes more or less. If you see any spices sticking to the bottom of your pot, sprinkle--don't pour---water into the pot. This will prevent any burning during this important process. You should see the oil rise to the top of this to indicate that the process is done (color will be dark), then add in your marinated chicken and braise it in the oily spice paste.

          Your "Oriental Indian" place could have been using any recipe, as there are so many ways to make qorma, so you probably wouldn't be able to replicate that place's qorma simply by recipe hunting, unless you had specifics about how it was made. But typically the dark color you in qorma comes from the way the onions at the base of the recipe are cooked until sort of past golden and into red-brown color.

          2 Replies
          1. re: luckyfatima

            Thanks luckyfatima! I never thought of sprinkling water into the pot... I normally would have added oil. I agree it's going to be hard to find the exact recipe that the restaurant served, but at least now I'm on the right track with the right type of korma. :) I'll definitely keep my eye on the onions. I didnt realize how important they were.

            1. re: Fizzzzzy

              With all due respect to Luckyfatima whose tip on the onions is great, while browning your onions and spices more, or even using red onions, might make your korma darker, the korma in that picture is way too red to be from that alone (and given the way the rest of the picture looks it doesn't seem like just a color balance issue with the photo). It's got to be mace in the garam masala (or the cook stuck in some tomato paste that he or she's not mentioning in the recipe).