The Tawa Masala Cuisine

When it comes to delectable Indian cuisine, I believe there are a variety of sub-cuisines, and among them, the most popular is the “tawa masala cuisine,” which originated in the vibrant streets of India! Tawa masala dishes, such as chicken/paneer/vegetable tawa masala from the streets of North India or dishes like pav bhaji and tawa pulao born in the streets of Mumbai, have gained immense popularity worldwide for their irresistible flavors. This cuisine is known for its complex flavors, smoky aromas, and lip-smacking deliciousness that results from its unique cooking technique on a large, circular, flat or slightly concave iron griddle known as a “tawa/tava/thava” in most Indian languages.

Tawa – The Quintessential Indian Kitchen Tool 

Tawas are the quintessential Indian kitchen tools primarily used in households to grill all kinds of flatbreads (rotis, chapatis, parathas, etc.), pancakes (uttapams, chillas, etc.), crepes (dosas, dhirde or ghavan), or for pan-frying patties (aloo tikkis). They are also used for stir-frying, similar to woks in Asian cuisines. These stir-fries essentially make up the tawa masala dishes, with succulent pieces of chicken, fish, paneer, boiled eggs, whole mushrooms, or mixed vegetables tossed in a spicy onion-tomato masala sauce on the griddle over high heat. This style of cooking creates a unique combination of flavors and textures, making any tawa masala dish a delightful experience for your palate.

While I have a tawa in my kitchen, it is quite small. It’s great for making flatbreads and pancakes etc. but not for making tawa masala dishes. I do have a cast iron skillet that works extremely well for the purpose. 

Chicken Tawa Masala

Chicken Tawa Masala – A Family Favorite

Among all the possible tawa masala permutations and combinations, Chicken Tawa Masala happens more often than any other in my kitchen simply because my family loves chicken and prefers it over vegetables or other proteins. This quick and easy dish, flavored with a few basic spices and aromatics, coats tender pieces of chicken thighs. It comes together within minutes and is a great one-pan weeknight wonder! The chicken doesn’t need to be marinated; it gets cooked in the luscious masala sauce, creating a harmonious combination of flavors. Its robust taste and vibrant appearance make it a perfect choice for special occasions, in addition to being a delightful treat for any day of the week.

Tawa Masala Recipe Variations

Don’t eat chicken? That’s totally fine! My recipe is versatile and allows you to substitute the key ingredient, the thinly sliced chicken thigh meat, with paneer, lamb, beef, fish, shrimp, whole mushrooms, or a medley of veggies like mushrooms, cauliflower, potatoes, peas, and carrots too. So fire up your tawa and embark on a culinary adventure with this flavorful, spicy Indian-style stir-fry. Get ready to indulge in the heavenly blend of spices and experience the true essence of Indian cuisine! I have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

Chicken Tawa Masala
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Chicken Tawa Masala


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: Serves 2-3 1x

Description

A quick and easy recipe with step-by-step instructions for Indian-style Chicken Stir Fry in a Spicy Onion Tomato Sauce.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tbsp neutral cooking oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • salt, as needed
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (see Notes)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch long slices (see Variations)
  • thinly sliced jalapeños, for garnish (see Notes)
  • 45 sprigs of cilantro/coriander leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and when it starts shimmering, add in  cumin seeds and the asafetida.
  • When the seeds sizzle and the asafetida starts frothing, add in the onion slices. 
  • Sprinkle some salt to help the onion soften and sauté till the onion turns light brown.
  • Add in the ginger-garlic paste and stir to combine.
  • After stirring for a couple of mins, add in all the spices and sauté for 30 seconds so that the spices bloom.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and the tomato slices and continue sautéing for 4-5 mins till the oil separates out.
  • Add in the water and stir to combine.
  • Stir in sliced chicken thighs and season with salt.
  • Cook uncovered till the chicken is fully cooked and most of the moisture is absorbed, about 5-7 mins. Turn the heat off.
  • Mix in thinly sliced jalapeños (seeds removed if you prefer less heat).
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with side of rotis or naan.

Keywords: Weeknight Cooking, North Indian Recipes

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and when it starts shimmering, add in cumin seeds and the asafetida.

Step: 2

When the seeds sizzle and the asafetida starts frothing, add in the onion slices. Sprinkle some salt to help the onion soften and sauté till the onion turns light brown.

Step: 3

Add in the ginger-garlic paste and stir to combine.

Step: 4

After stirring for a couple of minutes, add in all the spices and sauté for 30 seconds so that the spices bloom.

Step: 5

Stir in the tomato paste and the tomato slices and continue sautéing for 4-5 mins till the oil separates out.

Step: 6

Add in the water and stir to combine.

Step: 7

Stir in sliced chicken thighs and season with salt.

Step: 8

Combine well and cook till the chicken is fully cooked and most of the moisture is absorbed. Turn the heat off.

Step: 9

Mix in thinly sliced jalapeños (seeds removed if you prefer less heat) or also sliced green peppers if you prefer to keep it mild. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with side of rotis or naan.

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Use Fresh Ginger & Garlic

If you don’t have ginger-garlic paste, you can use finely grated 2 garlic cloves and a ½-inch piece fresh ginger

Skip the Heat

Skip the jalapenos or substitute with green peppers for a milder version.

Recipe Variations

You can substitute the same quantity of chicken thighs with any other protein of your choice like chicken breast, lamb, tender cuts of beef like sirloin, skirt, flank or hanger steak, pork

Make it vegetarian by substituting chicken with paneer.

Make it vegan by substituting chicken with tofu, mushrooms or mixed vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, beans, peas and carrots.

In addition to the protein and vegetable options above, you can stir in leftover basmati rice to make the Tawa Pulao.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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