Aromatic Bangladeshi chicken pilau

Why so delicious, chicken pilau?

I hate eating the same meal for dinner more than once every few weeks. Seriously, why would someone subject themselves to the almost physical pain of eating the same meal over and over, when there are innumerable other masterpieces waiting to be created and devoured?

There are exceptions to my disdain for repetition, and chicken pilau is one of them. When I had the entire house to myself and Harry (the dog) for a few days, I ate it five times. Dinner. A second dinner after the first. The following day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This Bangladeshi chicken pilau is perfumed by an array of aromatic spices including cinnamon and nutmeg, with just enough cayenne pepper to deliver a small bite at the end *.  It manages to walk the perfect line between wet and dry with tiny, juicy pieces of tomato among the rice, which almost has a chew to it at times. The raita, pictured in the main photo, is an essential addition, complementing the flavour and texture of the pilau with cool, smooth, and minty elements.

This recipe belongs in the bible of every rice lover, spice lover, and food lover in general. It was made based on Rick Stein’s version in ‘Far Eastern Odyssey’ (a brilliant cookbook, by the way), but I chopped (literally, ha ha) and changed, removed and replaced ingredients to suit my own taste. And, ah, the lack of ingredients at my house. So while I will definitely make Rick’s proper version one day, for the time being, this is a more than satisfactory substitute. So. Satisfying.

*those sensitive to chilli should probably reduce the amount.

Scroll to the bottom for the recipe

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  • The recipe also calls for ghee instead of oil, which some people may not be familiar with, so click here for an excellent explanation of what it is and recipe on how to make it. If that’s too much hassle, the ghee can be replaced with normal cooking oil, but be aware that it will probably turn out better with the ghee!
  • Raita serves as a perfect addition to the meal, this one was made using unsweetened yoghurt, grated cucumber, shredded mint, and salt to taste. Recipe to come

Aromatic Bangladeshi Chicken Pilau

IngredientsBangladeshi Chicken Pilau, Finished

450g (160z) skinned, boneless chicken, cut into small pieces (about 2cm)
3 tablespoons ghee (or 2 tablespoons cooking oil)
1 bay leaf
5 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium sized onions, sliced thinly into half-moons
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2.5cm (1 inch) cube of fresh ginger, finely grated or crushed
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds
½ teaspoon each of freshly ground black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper (¼ or less of the cayenne if you aren’t good with spicy food)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
300g (10 oz) chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 cup of water
1 cup of basmati rice


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. In a large pot (which has a lid) over a medium heat, melt the ghee (or heat the oil). When melted, throw in the cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf, stirring around for about 10 seconds, then add the garlic and ginger.
  3. Cook for about a minute, stirring, then add the onion, cooking for another 15minutes until the onion is golden.
  4. At this stage, add the cumin, nutmeg, coriander, pepper, salt and cayenne, stirring around for a minute (you may need to add more oil after adding the spices if it is too dry).
  5. Throw the chicken into the pot and cook for 5 minutes until coloured
  6. Add turmeric powder, tomatoes, and water, bringing to a boil. Then stir in rice, bringing back to a boil again.
  7. Ensure that all the rice is covered with liquid and that there are none sticking to the sides of the dish, then cover with the lid and place in the heated oven for 20 minutes.
  8. When it is done, leave to cool slightly for a few minutes, then fluff it with a fork and serve hot, with raita in a bowl on the side, or spooned on top.

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