July 5, 2013

Chettinad Chicken Curry

Chettinad is a region in southern Tamil Nadu- India and among other things, is known for it's deliciously spicy and scrumptious culinary delicacies. The first time I had a Chettinad style dish was when I visited the city of Coimbatore with my family as a teen. My uncle, who was a die-hard foodie, took us to this famous restaurant known for its Chettinad style preparations and I can still remember the unique yet amazing taste of the chicken curry we had that night. Some of you might think it rather odd for me to remember such intricate details about what I ate ages ago - well I guess my brain just stores away those memorable experiences and tastes someplace, and it still remains as a muse that inspires me at times. Talking about long-term memory though,  if you ask me a basic theorem in Math or a simple equation from high-school physics that I had to learn in school,you will find me as lost as a puppy ;) LOL! The human brain processes and stores only things of deep interest I guess - at least in my case it seems to be so ;)

Whole Spices

The second time I had the opportunity to taste this wonderful dish was about 10 years ago, when I visited Chennai for my Visa interview at the U.S Consulate and my friend introduced me to 'Ponnuswamy', another popular restaurant known for their non-vegetarian Chettiand dishes. Again a couple of years since then, I was working in Bangalore and the Ponnuswamy restaurant chain opened up a branch near my house. Lucky, right? You bet, and I made sure that I had enough meals there to never ever forget the taste of Chettinad cuisine.

This particular dish is supposed to be characteristically hot and spicy with the primary source of heat coming from the peppercorns and red chilies used in it but you can definitely tone it down to suit your taste. The spices are first dry roasted and then cooked with the chicken, to give it its bold yet delicious flavors.

Roasted Spices

Serves 8
5 lbs (2.25Kg) - Chicken (1 whole chicken)
3.5 Tablespoon - Ginger-garlic paste
3/4 Tsp - Turmeric powder

Dry Roast
2.5 Tablespoon - Whole peppercorns
6 -Whole dried red chilies
1.5 Tablespoon - Coriander seeds
1/2 Tsp - Fennel seeds
3/4 Tsp - Cumin seeds
1 - Bay leaf
2 Tsp - Poppy seeds
6 - Cardamom
6 - Cloves
2 inch - Cinnamon stick
2 - Star anise
2 sprig - Curry leaves
1/2 Cup - Coconut, grated

3 Cups - Red Onion, chopped
3 - Tomato
2 Sprig - Curry leaves
Coconut Oil
Salt per taste

  • Marinate the chicken with fresh ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder and salt.
  • Set it aside in the refrigerator for atleast 1 hour
  • Meanwhile, take a heavy bottom pan and add all the ingredients under 'Dry Roast' and keep stirring for 5-8 minutes.
  • Take the spices off the heat and let it cool
  • Once cooled transfer it to a blender, add water to it and grind it into a fine paste.
  • Heat some coconut oil in a large saute pan and add onions and curry leaves and season with salt
  • Saute until the onions are golden brown.
  • Mix in chopped tomatoes and saute until the tomatoes are soft and mushy
  • Stir in the marinated chicken and cover and cook for 20 minutes stirring in between to make sure that chicken is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Open the lid and add the ground spice mixture
  • Add water and adjust the salt and cook until you the gravy reaches the desired consistency
Notes and Tips
  • Use fresh Ginger Garlic paste
  • Let the chicken marinate at least for an hour
  • This dish is very hot and spicy. (That is how it is meant to be). But you can adjust the peppercorns and red chilies in the recipe to tone down the heat to suit your taste
  • Serve warm with Rice, Roti, Appam or Dosa


  1. I love chettinad dishes. spicy and so so blissful. your clicks are a joy to see. beautiful work.

  2. A fabulous curry! It looks ever so mouthwatering. I'm sure I'd love this dish.



  3. like each of ur clicks shema :) excellent work..

  4. Wow wow...love the color, flavors, vrything...

  5. I'm mesmerized by the photos and styling!! Love chettinad spices :)

  6. The pictures and the food is stunning. I want to dip my rice into the gravy now..
    Good work Shema, I am following your blog now..

  7. Your pictures are amazing and this recipe looks delicious! Have a wonderful week!

  8. Wow, the pics say it all. Love how spicy and delicious it looks.

  9. super like all the pics, but fab are forst 2..omg that bark is just too pretty and youve got the lighting spot on.
    I love any sort of chicken curry so yes, like a million other recipes, this has been bookmarked.
    PS: I soooo want to have this with ghee rice..yummmm

  10. Wow the pics look amazing and I am sure that chicken curry would be absolutely delicious

  11. Stunning pics they are ! They tell the tale of the curry strongly :) Me too a great fan of chettinadu dishes & if it's something with chicken, then it's a family favorite..

  12. Just gorgeous and my tongue is tingling at the heat already!

  13. I LOVE chettinad chicken curry. The curry leaves does the magic to me and I can a whole plate of rice with just that!

  14. This looks fantastic, this is one of my favorite curries to eat. Beautiful!

  15. Colour of the curry is just amazing... mouthwatering here...
    Thanks for sharing such valuable post... :-)

  16. Chettinad chicken is the famous dish in Tamil Nadu, this recipe is looking so delicious and mouth-watering and i am definitely gonna try this recipe. thanks for the recipe.

  17. I once cooked this dish in India. It was fantastic and especially the poppy seeds enhances the flavour. But sadly these seeds are banned in USA and I could not add them in the dish here.

  18. really yummy and delicoious ,I tried this receipe yesterday,I was looking for a different taste in chicken curry,Really thanksful for sharing the receipe

  19. really yummy and delicoious ,I tried this receipe yesterday,I was looking for a different taste in chicken curry,Really thanksful for sharing the receipe

  20. Endorsing this Chettinad chicken curry!! The roasted spices contributed the unique flavor.

  21. Lovely ! and i am soon gonna try this style curry. Chettinad curry are so delicious to taste, once my friend had brought.

  22. I tried this recipe today..it was yummy..thank u😊

  23. Tried this receipe for last night dinner it came out beautifully thanks shema for the detailed receipe.Looking forward for many more receipes from you.


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