Nepali Tarkari Chicken Is A Taste Of Homestyle Thakali Cuisine

In the region of the Thak-Khola valley in Nepal live a group of people known as the Thakalis. This region, which is the transition point between the Himalayan and lowland areas was central to an ancient trade route through the treacherous Himalayan terrain. As such Thakali cuisine was built mainly around trade and the people of this area often opened restaurants and inns on the trade route to provide for hungry travellers and trekkers.

Thakali cuisine like so much of the food in the Himalayan regions is structured around what can be foraged, reared or grown locally. It’s also quite a meat-heavy cuisine that relied a lot on yaks and cows, but all animals were often used in traditional dishes. The most famous food of the region is the Thakali Thali which is comprised of a selection of dishes including dal, rice, a vegetable, meat, buckwheat chips, a potato dish seasoned with mustard leaves and a big dollop of ghee. 

While it might be difficult to replicate an authentic Thakali Thali at home, this Nepali Chicken    Tarkari is quite easy to make. It’s a combination of the classic tarkari which is usually vegetarian and adds chicken to turn it into a complete meal, almost like a curry. 


  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 dried red chillies seeded and minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves coarsely chopped



  • Marinate the chicken in a mixture of turmeric pepper and salt for at least 30 minutes in the fridge to make it more flavourful.
  • Dry roast the mustard seeds over a medium heat until they begin to pop and get fragrant.
  • Put them aside and then dry roast the fenugreek seeds in the same pan. 
  • Combine the two in a mortar and pestle, and grind them into a coarse powder. 
  • In a large saucepan, add some oil and fry the garlic, ginger, ground mustard and fenugreek seeds along with some cumin, chillies and bay leaves.
  • Then add the onion and saute until translucent.
  • Add the marinated chicken and stir fry until slightly browned. 
  • Add the chicken stock and the tomatoes, bring the whole mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with coriander and serve hot with white rice.