Monday, 30 August 2010

Malabar Chicken Curry

This is the most basic and the most widely prepared chicken curry in north Malabar area. The proportion and the consistency would differ from homes and the taste may differ slightly as well. The curry goes well with almost all dishes prepared back home and is mainly served with Ghee Rice, neypathal, Kalathappam , ari pathiri, puttu (steamed rice cakes) and chappathis. It also pairs very well with poori’s, Appams, Ottil Pollichathu, Alisa, Thenga Pathal, Marichedutha Appam, muttassurkki, parotta, nool puttu (string hopper) etc etc. Most of the dishes mentioned are made of rice and some with wheat which are all staple dishes made everyday back home.

Malabar Chicken Curry is very easy to prepare and there is no grinding or any other complicated steps involved. The only time consuming part would be sautéing onions -which is very crucial to the recipe as it forms the basis of the curry and decides the flavour as well. If the onions are not sautéed well, you can end up in a sweat curry and sometimes onions strings floating all over which can be very unpleasant. This curry would be quite spicy, but as I mentioned in notes, you can substitute red chilli powder with paprika powder to bring down the heat without effecting the consistency and flavour of the curry. Using a hot chilli powder is not recommended for this recipe. If using hot chilli powder, reduce the chilli powder considerably, but that would effect the consistency. No matter what, this curry is full of flavour and it pairs with so many dishes, some of which I mentioned above.

Malabar Chicken Curry - A North Kerala (Kannur) Style Spicy Chicken Curry
Serves 6-8

1 kilo Chicken on bone, cut into medium size pieces
3 ½ medium size onion finley sliced and chopped (around 3 cups)
1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger paste
2 tablespoons fresh garlic paste
2 medium tomatoes chopped (190g, 1 cup)
6 teaspoon Kashmiri Chilli powder (Read notes)
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
3-4 rounded teaspoons of coriander powder
2-3 tablespoon of coconut oil (Vegetable oil can be substituted)
3 cardamoms
3 cloves
3 small pieces of cinnamon sticks
2 green chillies seeded
2-3 twigs curry leaves
1-1 ½ cup boiling water or as required
salt - as required
Coriander leaves - for garnishing


1.Wash chicken several times and place it in colander to drain of all water. Place a wide saucepan on medium heat and add oil. When it is hot, add whole spices, i.e cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and sauté for few seconds until it leaves aroma.

2. Add chopped onions and salt. Cover and Cook on medium heat for around 15- 20 minutes stirring occasionally until it turns golden colour. Give plenty of time in here for the onion to be sautéed really well as this effect the end result much.

3. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the raw smell fades.

4. Add chopped tomatoes, cover and cook until it becomes pulpy .

5. Add spice powders – i.e. chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and sauté for 2 minutes. Tip in chicken, mix well to coat all spices. Cover and cook on medium heat till done. You may add ½ cup of water if the curry gets too dry while cooking. But normally chicken will release enough water to keep the curry moist, with thick masala.

6. When it is completely cooked, add enough amount of water to make slightly thin gravy, as per your taste and the water content in the sauce and boil for couple of minutes. Add curry leaves, garam masala and couple of green chillies, cover and cook for 1-2 minutes for the flavour to infuse.

7. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.


1.If your chilli powder is spicy, substitute half or more of chilli powder with paprika. Generally paprika is not used in Malabar cooking but as my chillies are real hot, I substitute half of it with paprika to balance the heat. Here, I used 3 teaspoon of paprika with 3 teaspoon of kashmiri chilli powder. You may reduce it even further to 2 teaspoon of chilli powder to 4 teaspoon of paprika if you want it even milder.

2. At stage 6, you may not add water at all if you like a really thick gravy and even boil off the extra sauce in the pan until the chicken is smothered in onions and spices. More oil is added to this curry at the end. We call this Kozhi varattiyathu and is even more tastier than the water added version or the curry version.
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