This Chettinad chicken curry recipe is from one of the most aromatic and spiciest cuisines of India – Chettinad! Chettinad cuisine, from the Chettinad region of the South Indian state Tamil Nadu, is known for its distinctly aromatic and spicy style.
Let me be honest here. This curry is not for the faint-hearted! I am not saying that this curry is too hot, but it is definitely a celebration of spices that we have to balance well!
Chettinad cuisine is distinctly aromatic, spicy, and fiery. It has a lot of flavours going on, so finding the perfect blend of spices is the key.
The base that adds character to most of the signature Chettinad curries is made up of freshly ground (and sometimes fried) spices, tomatoes, chillies, ginger, garlic, tamarind and coconut.
Don’t worry, make Chettinad chicken curry
If you had shied away from cooking Chettinad chicken worrying it’s a complicated dish, this “take-it-easy version simplifies it for you! My wife loves it so much that it has become a popular item on our Sunday lunch menu.
Cooking this Chettinad chicken curry involves three steps. The first step involves dry-frying the spices and grinding to a paste. The second step involves cooking the marinated chicken with onion, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. And the third and final step involves simmering the chicken adding the ground paste we made earlier.
If you liked my Chettinad chicken curry recipe, I recommend you check out the following recipes as well.
- Chicken Chinthamani – This culinary gem from the Tamil cuisine is a popular bar snack from Chennai
- Kori Sukka – Mellow tanginess of tamarind, subtle sweetness of coconut, unmistakable flavours of fried spices, and warm notes of dried chillies, this dish brings together all the great flavours of the Konkan coast
- Chicken Perattu – This dry chicken curry preparation from Kerala involves slow-cooking chicken pieces in a dry red chilli paste base
Chettinad Chicken Curry
- 500 grams chicken
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 3 medium onions
- 1 inch ginger
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 sprig curry leaves
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon oil
For Chettinad Spice Mix
- 1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 4 dry red chilies
- 4 cardamom
- 1 teaspoon whole black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 star anise
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 4 cloves
- 1/4 cup grated coconut
- tamarind 1/4 the size of a lime and soaked in water
- 2 sprigs coriander leaves (cilantro)
- Keep the whole spices ready.
- Ingredients like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, can significantly alter the flavour balance of the dish.
- Take special care not to add more that the stipulated quantities in this recipe.
- Wash the chicken pieces, and cut to small/medium sized pieces.
- Thinly slice the onions. Finely chop tomatoes, ginger, and garlic.
- Add turmeric, salt, lime juice to the chicken and mix well. Keep aside to marinate for 15 minutes.
- Dry roast the spices in a pan, without the red chillies, on medium flame.
- Once they start to turn brown, add chillies, and fry for 30 seconds while stirring frequently. The spices should turn golden brown.
- Now add the grated coconut, stir well and fry till the mixture is evenly golden brown.
- Keep the pan aside to cool.
- In a pressure cooker, heat some oil and fry onions till they turn tender.
- Add ginger, garlic and curry leaves. Fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken pieces and mix well.
- Add chopped tomatoes, stir well, close the lid, and cook on a high flame on pressure cooker mode.
- Cook until you get the first whistle. Switch off and set aside to cool.
- Transfer the fried spices (it shouldn't be hot) to a mixer jar.
- Blitz the fried spices in a mixer to fine powder (do not add water).
- Once you have an evenly ground mixture, add 1/4 cup water and blend well.
- Add the tamarind water and little more water (up to 1/4 cup) and blend until you get a smooth, paste-like consistency.
- Now open the pressure cooker (Don't force open. Wait until the pressure is fully released), and transfer the contents to a pan.
- Add the ground spice paste and mix well.
- Simmer on a low flame for 10-15 minutes.
- Add more water if required and reduce a little.
- Check for salt.
- Finely chop cilantro (coriander leaves) and garnish.
- Serve hot with rice.
- To balance the heat, I used 3 Kashmiri dry red chilies, and just one red hot chilly. If you like your Chicken Chettinad fiery, feel free to replace Kashmiri chilies with hotter variants.
- I haven't used kalpasi (stone flower), one of the ingredients common in traditional Chettinad chicken recipes, in my recipe. If you can get hold of it, add 2-3 in step 7 along with ginger and garlic.