Til Chicken or Chicken in Sesame Seeds

This is a typical Assamese dish, and yet I had never known it to be. I think I take my food too much for granted – never stopped and wondered where it might have originated, who were the people consuming it, its history, geography, etc etc. I am more interested in its taste and its ingredients and whether I shall be able to replicate that in my own kitchen. Such a glutton that I am!

I ‘accidently’ made this til chicken (til = sesame seeds). Or, you could say it was part of an experiment that I had carried out in my home in Guwahati, a long time back. I was a late entrant to cooking and the appreciation that came my way during the first few ventures spurred me on to try newer dishes. Those were the pre-internet days. So, I would go out into our kitchen garden and reflect on the veggies there. Then I would take a stool, get up on it and open the overhead kitchen shelves to see what spices we had at home. Some permutation and combination with the veggies/meat/fish and the spices and there – a new dish was born.

Now, I love chutneys of all kinds. But I have a particular weakness for til chutney. By til, I mean the black ones, which are more widely available/used in Assam. It has an amazing earthy, woody flavor that is all the more enhanced by the generous drizzling of mustard oil. We use mustard oil like the rest of the world use their olive oil, you see. A dash of mustard oil over our salads, a spoonful of it in boiled masoor dal (lentils), some mixed with our mashed potato, and we are happy. It aids in bringing alive the senses with its tremendous kick!

Okay, so it happened that one day we had chicken at home and I was on one of my experimenting moods. A little pottering around in the shelves yielded a packet of sesame seeds and I immediately decided to make my favourite chutney. I made the chutney and was about to add the mandatory mustard oil when I was struck by a bright idea – why not add this chutney to the chicken? I love til and I love chicken, nothing can go wrong there! Little did I know that this had been realized by my ancestors ages before I had that eureka moment. 

The dish did well and since then it has been quite a regular feature on our table. So, here it is, my recipe for til chicken. Please let me know if you are aware of alternate ways to make this dish.

Til Chicken or Chicken in Sesame Seeds


500 gm chicken, cut into medium sized pieces

3 tablespoons black til (sesame seeds), roasted lightly
2 onions, ground to a paste
2 green chillies 
1 teaspoon garlic paste – divided into halves
1 teaspoon ginger paste – divided into halves
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Refined oil for cooking (I used mustard oil)
Salt to taste


Grind together the roasted sesame seeds, ½ teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste and the green chillies along with a pinch of salt. Add a little water to make it a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Next, heat some oil in a pan and sauté the ground onions and the remaining ginger-garlic paste till they are browned. Add the cumin powder and mix well. 

Now, tip in the chicken pieces, stir and cover the pan to cook. When the chicken is nearly done and dry, take off the lid and spoon in the sesame seeds paste. Cook for around 2-3 minutes.

Pour in a cup of water and check for salt. Let the gravy bubble up and turn thick. You are done!

Serve this beautiful dish with plain steamed rice and savour the smoky, discerning flavor of the sesame seeds. Let your taste buds experience a whole new cuisine! Are you game?


  1. I have never tired Til Chicken..But your post made me think that I should try it

    1. If you love tilor chutney, you will like this one, I think! Nowadays I hear most Assamese restaurants in Guwahati have introduced til chicken in their menu.

  2. Sangeeta your last 2-3 posts have led me to a whole new world of cooking...first curry leaves n now til!! Too good dear :) lv it!!


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