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Mayakovskaya Masala – Making Chicken Tikka Masala in the Russian Capital

By May 13, 2015January 7th, 2023Cuisine


I have the spring cleaning itch lately, and I’m in the midst of tackling my pantry.

Indian food in Moscow

My sister organized a Facebook group earlier this year to go through the clutter busting exercise ”30 Bags in 30 days.” Have you heard about this? You get a box of heavy-duty garbage bags and go through the rooms in your house and fill one bag with items to either donate, recycle, or throw away. It’s curiously addictive, but tackling my pantry might require its own dedicated ”30 Bags” exercise. It’s definitely in the Augean Stables league.

Having a separate place to store foodstuffs, kitchen equipment, and yes, wine, makes me the object of envy amongst my expat friends, but it can be a double-edged sword. Stuff piles up when you are a food blogger and with the current food situation being what it is, I tend to seize any opportunity to stockpile non-perishables. And then there are all of the spices and condiments I’ve inherited from the legion of friends who have left Moscow in the wake of recent events.

As I sifted through everything, a powerful urge for Indian food overcame me. Maybe it was the jar of Sainsbury’s mint chutney one British friend had hand carried over from London, or the package of poppadoms rapidly approaching their sale by date. The urge intensified as I went through my spices, a lot of which had gone stale.

Feeling very guilty, I binned the stale spices, then marshaled all of the jars, scrubbed them out, and ran them through the dishwasher until they were clean, sparkling, and just begging to be refilled with reasonable amounts.  Is anything more satisfying than this?

If there is something more satisfying, it’s shopping for spices.

Finding Indian Spices for Chicken Tikka Masala

I like to get mine at the farmers’ markets where they are laid out in rows and sold by the spoonful by Central Asian traders. But if you have a specific craving for Indian food, the best place to shop is at one of the branches of Indian Spices. These shops are located near large shopping centers and are staffed by very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful staff, many of whom speak English. They are a great place to shop for pulses, beans, Ayurvedic products, and Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Mexican specialty foods.

At the Mozhaisky Val branch of Indian Spices, I was able to get authentic quality garam masala and some coconut milk, which pointed the way towards one of my favorite Indian dishes: Chicken Tikka Masala. Since I’ve been on something of a slow cooker binge of late, I decided to play around the ”low and slow” principle and use bone-in chicken thighs, which don’t dry out as much as the breasts.

The result is a keeper — a perfect ”handsfree” dish that allows plenty of free time to finish clutter busting. Even the Augean Stables.


Mayakovskaya Masala – Chicken Tikka Masala


700 grams (1-1/2 pounds) of bone-in chicken thighs

500 ml (2 cups) of plain yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk

1 tsp of cinnamon

30 ml (2 Tbl) of olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, mashed

30 ml (2 Tbl) of paprika

1 small pinch of white peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle

1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced

45 ml (3 Tbl) of garam masala*  (recipe follows if you need to make it from scratch).

800 ml (3 cups) of tomatoes, tinned or fresh (if fresh, skinned and de-seeded and roughly chopped

1 tin of coconut milk

30 ml (2 Tbl) of tomato paste

Salt and pepper

1 knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced

100 ml (1/2-cup) heavy cream

1 bunch of fresh cilantro and mint, chopped as garnish

2 limes, quartered for garnish

 Garam Masala

1 Tbl of cumin seeds

1-1/2 tsp of coriander seeds

1-1/2 tsp of ground cardamom

1-1/2 teaspoons of peppercorns

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1/2-tsp of cloves

1/2-tsp of ground nutmeg

Combine the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and peppercorns in a skillet and toast for 1-2 minutes, taking care that they don’t burn. Crush them together in with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder then add the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and grind until everything is combined. Store in a clean jar with a tight lid for up to 2 months.


1.  Whisk 1 tablespoon of the paprika, and 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, the white peppercorns, cinnamon, and a generous pinch of salt into the yogurt.
2.  Use a small sharp knife to make shallow indents into the skin of the chicken thighs. Toss the chicken with the spiced yogurt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or, ideally, overnight.
3.   Preheat the oven 200℉ or 95℃.
4.   Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and allow them to come to room temperature. Blot them dry with paper towel. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or the heat-proof ceramic of a slow cooker, then sear the chicken thighs on each side for 2 minutes, then remove to a plate. Sauté the garlic and onions in the remaining oil until they are translucent. Reduce heat and add the tomato paste, tossing so that the paste coats the onion and garlic.
5.   Add the garam masala and paprika and cook briefly, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine the spice into the mixture.
6.   Layer the thighs on top of the onions. Then add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 5 hours or in a slow cooker on low for 6 hours.
7.    When the chicken is done, taste and adjust seasoning with salt, then add the cream just before serving. Serve on top of rice and garnish with cilantro and mint, and a squeeze of lime.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.

 Still Peckish?

Try some other “low and slow” recipes, while you are here!

Silk Road Pulled Pork

Ragu Bolognese

Joe Kelly’s Irish Stew

Full Up?

Stick around and enjoy some non-culinary stories and tales from life in the world’s largest country. Like these:

Test Your Knowledge of Russian History and Geography

Play the Hand You’re Smelt

The Domestic Goddess of the Green Line



Hi Readers!

Are you an Indian food fan?  Love Chicken Tikka Masala or Rogan Josh? Which Indian restaurants in Moscow or your city get your thumbs up?  I’d love to know more, so please weigh in by hitting the comment button below.

If you have a favorite recipe you are struggling with in Moscow, let me know!  I’ll help you source the ingredients and tweak the recipe to Moscow’s realities.




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