Chicken Samber

Samber Recipe

This dish is often overlooked on BIR menus, but deserves rightful recognition. The samber curry is loaded with lentils, augmented by lemon juice, and amplified with chilli powder. Often it’s a simple affair in restaurants and takeaways being like a dhansak curry but without extra chiili, lemon juice, and no pineapple or added sweetness.

My recipe for samber is a bit more elaborate but still quick to prepare and cook, provided you have base gravy and dhal to hand. The use of mustard & fenugreek seeds, dried chilli, and the tamarind give this delightful curry a twist. You can add whatever protein you like as a main ingredient – I used chicken for the above photo but prawns, lamb, or chickpeas are good alternatives.

See my delicious Pre-Cooked Dhal or Simple Dhal recipes for how to prepare the key ingredient. You’ll have leftover dhal after making this samber recipe which can be stored in the fridge or freezer, and used in more curries, or just on it’s own for a snack.

Feeds 1-2 people.


  • 3-4 TBSP (45ml) Oil
  • ¾ tsp Black Mustard Seeds (optional)
  • ¼ tsp Fenugreek Seeds (optional)
  • 1 Dried Red Chilli (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
  • 1½ tsp Mix Powder
  • 2-3 tsp Regular or Kashmiri Chilli Powder (or to your taste)
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Kasuri Methi
  • 330ml+ Base Gravy


  • 3-4 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 1 TBSP Coriander Stalks, finely chopped
  • Pre-Cooked Chicken, Tikka, Lamb, Vegetables, etc.
  • 6-9 TBSP (90-120 ml) Pre-Cooked Dhal (see either my Dhal or Simple Dhal recipes)
  • 1½ TBSP Tamarind Sauce or ½ tsp Tamarind Concentrate
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice (bottled will suffice)
  • 2 Tomato Segments
  • 1 TBSP fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
  • Lemon Wedge for garnish.


  1. Heat a frying pan to medium high heat and add the oil.
  2. Allow to heat up and add the seeds and dried chilli (if using).
  3. Add the ginger/garlic paste. Remove from heat immediately if it shows signs of burning.
  4. Stir continuously until the paste has browned a bit, then add the mix powder, salt, and kasuri methi. Quickly follow it with a splash of base gravy (e.g. 30ml) to help to cook the spices without burning them.
  5. Fry for 20-30 seconds, stirring continually, then add the tomato paste and the coriander stalks.
  6. Stir then allow to cook for a short while until you see the oil float to the surface, and small, dry craters start appearing around the edges of the pan.
  7. Add the pre-cooked chicken, tikka, lamb, vegetables, etc. About 175-200g per portion is generous.
  8. Then add 75ml of base gravy and stir and scrape everything together. Leave to fry for a while until, once again, the oil floats to the surface and small dry craters form around the edges of the pan.


  1. Add a second 75ml of base gravy, stir and scrape together, and again leave to cook as in the previous stage.
  2. Then add 150ml of base gravy, along with the pre-cooked dhal, lemon juice, and tamarind sauce. Stir and scrape once when first added.
  3. Leave to cook on high heat for 4-5 minutes with minimal interference. Allow the sauce to stick and caramelise on the sides and surface of the pan. Stir and scrape the curry together only to prevent burning. The curry will end up quite thick because of the dhal. To adjust the consistency, you can add extra base gravy nearer the end of cooking.
  4. Add a couple of fresh tomato segments and a bit of extra fresh coriander a minute or two before the anticipated end of cooking.
  5. Taste, and add extra salt, lemon juice, and/or tamarind if desired.
  6. For extra richness and shine add 2 tsp of butter ghee right at the end.
  7. Serve with sprinkled coriander leaves and a lemon wedge.


  • The amount of added salt (¼ tsp) used in the dish is slightly less than other curries because of the additional salt content in the pre-cooked dhal. Adjust to taste.
  • All spoon measurements are level (1 tsp = 5ml, 1 TBSP = 15ml).
  • Please visit the Misty Ricardo’s Curry Kitchen YouTube Channel for lots of Indian recipes:
Watch the Video

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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