BIR Chicken Rezala Authentic Bengali Tweaks

It’s refreshing to be different and my new medium-hot curry recipe is just that. Although my rezala recipe is in the BIR (British Indian Restaurant) style, it captures the key flavours of the traditional Bengali Rezala.

This BIR rezala differs from the simpler versions served in mainstream restaurants: the creamy texture comes from the cashew nuts and yoghurt in the pre-prepared paste, which is pungent from the white pepper and poppy seeds. Further ‘bite’ is provided by black pepper alongside other whole garam masala spices.

Caramelised sliced onion gives some body and flavour, while special finishing touches of saffron and kewra/rose water give a beautiful aromatic taste.

I had the pleasure of having a traditional style chicken rezala cooked for me by Papli Dey, a Bengali friend. It was absolutely delicious and inspired me to create this BIR recipe. Her homestyle version uses bone-in chicken pieces (of course!), and has the caramelised onions added at the end. The flavour that comes with bone-in chicken is remarkable , so I suggest you pre-cook some thighs and drumsticks to use in this recipe.

Please do visit Papli’s Facebook Page ‘Chillies n spice and all things rice’ where you will find many authentic and truly delicious Bengali recipes. 

The recipe will serve 1-2 people depending on appetite.

This is a completely new recipe not featured in either of my books, Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volumes 1 & 2.


  • 3 TBSP (45ml) Oil
  • 3 Black Peppercorns
  • 5-10cm Cassia Bark, ½ tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 2 Cloves, 3 Green Cardamom, split open
  • 75g Onion, cut into thin semi-circular slices
  • 2 tsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp Mix Powder, ½ tsp Garam Masala
  • ½ tsp Salt, ¾-1 tsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Chilli Powder (optional)
  • 50-200g Pre-cooked or Raw Chicken (see Notes)
  • 240ml+ Base Gravy, heated up
  • The Rezala Paste (see below)
  • Small pinch of Saffron (optional)
  • 1 tsp Kewra or Rose Water (optional)
  • A few roasted Cashew Nuts for garnishing
Rezala Paste

Blend these ingredients until smooth:
  15 Unsalted Cashew Nuts,  ½ tsp Poppy Seeds
•  ¼-½ tsp White Pepper,  75ml Natural Yoghurt
•  1-2 fresh Green Chillies (optional)

Chicken Rezala Curry
Watch the Video


  1. Prepare the Rezala paste (see above) and set aside.
  2. Add the oil to a frying pan on medium high heat.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the black peppercorns, cassia bark, green cardamom, cloves, and the cumin seeds. Fry for 45 seconds to infuse the oil.
  4. Add the onion slices. Fry for 3-5 minutes until nice and dark brown on the edges, then add the ginger/garlic paste. Fry until it is just starting to brown and the sizzling sound reduces, whilst stirring diligently. Don’t let it stick to the pan and burn.
  5. Now add the mix powder, salt, sugar, garam masala, and the optional chilli powder.
  6. Fry for 20-30 seconds, stirring very frequently. If the mixture dries out and sticks to the pan, add a little base gravy (30ml) to avoid burning the spices and give them enough time to cook properly.
  7. Turn up the heat to high, and mix in the pre-cooked chicken. You can use raw chicken at this stage if you prefer, in which case ensure it’s fully cooked before serving.


  1. Next add 75ml of base gravy. Mix and let cook for 30-45 seconds with no further stirring.
  2. Then add a second 75ml of base gravy, stir into the sauce, and leave on high heat with no further stirring until the sauce is reduced a little, and small, dry craters form around the edges.
  3. Stir in the Rezala paste and another 75ml of base gravy.
  4. Leave to cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir and scrape once or twice  during that time to mix the caramelised sauce back in, but do this only to prevent the sauce from sticking too much and burning. It’s important to let the sauce adhere to the bottom and sides of the pan, which produces a great flavour.
  5. Add some extra base gravy near the end of cooking if it appears to be thickening up too much.
  6. Taste and adjust for salt.
  7. For that extra special touch, top with a splash of kewra/rose water and an optional small pinch of saffron soaked in a little milk.
  8. Serve, garnished with a few toasted cashew nuts.


  • All spoon measurements are level, i.e. 1 tsp=5 ml, 1 TBSP=15ml.
  • You can use any type of protein in this curry. Give serious consideration to using pre-cooked bone-in chicken for the extra flavour.

Books by Richard Sayce

Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volume 1
Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volume 2 Front Cover
Curry Compendium Cookbook
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