Chicken Chettinad Curry is the peppery, hot and delicious chicken curry from the land of Chettiyars, the trading community of India. The Chettinad Chicken has a unique flavor profile, it is bursting with flavors of stout goontur chiles, black pearl-like whole peppercorns and plenty of red onion. Roasting, grinding, sautéing are the basic rituals of making an Indian chicken curry, still, each curry has a distinctive toothsome taste to it.
The process of making Chicken Chettinad is also no different but it is the appetizing combination of flavors, which leaves a long-lasting impression on the palate. Chettinad Cuisine has its own set of cooking tricks and tales and an untold saga of key ingredients for the novice cook like me. One day while on a mission to find some cooking tips online on the said cuisine, an online bookselling portal guided me to the page of ‘the Bangala Table – flavors and recipes from Chettinad.’ The cover page was fascinating enough to immediately add it to the shopping cart and few day later it was on my bookshelf sharing space with our cookbooks.
With eager thoughts while turning pages of the newly acquired cookbook I landed upon the recipe of Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala. The inception of the recipes says, “ This is really the flag bearer of the Chettinad food. If there is one dish that people around India and the World know of Chettinad Cuisine, Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala is it!” The next moment roasting and grinding of masala begins, toned down the spice level of the curry by reducing the number of goontur red chilies to almost half, rest naively followed the recipe and very soon the air in the house was filled with the aroma of the simmering Chettinad masala.
Though I do have a fair understanding of Chettinad flavors but nothing prepared me for the feast of the senses that awaited on the dining table. Served Chicken Chettinad Pepper Masala along with Tomato and Garlic Rasam, Coin Paratha and Steamed Rice, it was the kind of lunch menu which evoked the memories of formative years in Chennai.
- 500 gram chicken cut into curry size pieces
- one 2 inch piece of cinnamon
- 2 green cardamom pods crushed
- 2 large-size onion fine chopped
- 2 large size tomato pureed
- salt to taste
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 3 - 4 curry leaves
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 dried red chilies esp goondu milagai variety
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
- To prepare Chettinad Chicken, first clean, wash and pat dry the chicken pieces with a kitchen towel. Keep aside covered in a bowl.
- Dry roast fennel seeds, black pepper, cumin, red chilies, coriander seeds till fragrant and slightly darkened. Grind them in a mixer to a smooth paste using little water.
- Add turmeric and ginger - garlic paste to the freshly grind spice mix. Stir to combine and set aside in a bowl.
- Heat oil in a large kadhai (Buy it here) over medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom pods, curry leaves and saute for few seconds till fragrant. Add the chopped onion and saute over low heat till onion is light brown in color.
- Next add the tomato puree and fry the masala for 10 minutes or so over low heat. The indication of masala being ready is oil starts separating from it.
- Now add the fresh spice paste to the kadhai and stir to combine. Continue to saute the masala scraping the bottom of the kadhai, till the masala takes deep brown color and nicely roasted.
- At this stage add the chicken pieces, salt and stir coat the chicken pieces with the spice mixture. Add 1 - 2 cups of warm water, stir to combine and bring to a boil on high heat. Turn the heat to low and cook the chicken chettinad curry covered for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally in between.
- Once chicken is cooked, remove the lid and let the chicken simmer over medium heat to thicken the gravy and for sauce to coat the chicken pieces.
- Turn off the heat. Serve Chicken Chettinad Curry with steamed rice, Tomato and Garlic Rasam (see recipe here) or lachha paratha.