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I am trying to prepare a rich, creamy malai chicken curry but it's turning out to be a disaster as the marinade curdles when I put in into the pan.

Here are the steps: I marinated the bite-sized cut chicken breast pieces with 1/2 cup yoghurt, 1/2 cup fresh cream along with salt and ginger-garlic paste. The marination time is about 24 hours inside the refrigerator.

When I am ready to cook, I take out the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and add it to heated oil in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. When I lift the lid after 10 minutes, its an unappetizing sight of curdled cream and whey floating on top instead of a creamy texture.

Where am I going wrong?

Thanks in advance,

Suddha Ray

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The cream and yoghurt will separate and curdle if you bring it up to a boil. If you cook the dish longer at a lower heat, you should be able to avoid this. Slow cooking will tend to make the chicken more tender as well.

You need to keep the temperature of the yogurt below 190F (88C) to avoid having the milk proteins (mostly casein) react with acidic ingredients in the recipe and curdle. The acid comes from the yogurt itself and the ginger-garlic paste (most commercial, prepared ginger-garlic pastes have citric acid or similar as a stabilizer). You need to cook the chicken (and marinade because of its contact with the chicken) thoroughly, until it gets to up to at least 165F for food safety, but you do not want the sauce to get to 190F or boil.

If you've made kadhi before (a curry from yoghurt thickened with chickpea flour), it is the same concept -- it will separate and curdle if you let it boil.

Likewise, if you're making paneer from milk you want to get it close to boiling so that it WILL form the protein bonds when you add acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar.

  • Thanks for the insights. I will try to keep the temps low or let the oil cool down a bit before pouring in the marinated chicken along with the marinade. I was also reading (in another post of SA) that adding a little cornstarch in the marinade may help prevent curdling. Can't wait to try out the new improvisations. – Suddha Aug 6 '15 at 17:54
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    Oh, one more thing -- you can add the chicken to the pan first (stripping as much marinade off as possible) and cook the chicken a little bit first. Thin the marinade with water (and add some cornstarch if you want) which will cool the pan when it is added. This way it won't be as hot when it hits the pan, but you could still cook the chicken faster. – NadjaCS Aug 6 '15 at 18:07

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