I have a friend from the southern region of India of Kerala and she is one of the best cooks I know. Her food is super tasty and always warmly spiced, using a lot of coconut, chilli and served with dosa when she can get the mix right.
When I came across this recipe for Chicken Chettinad, I was drawn in by the ingredients that lean on a lot of my favourite things like coconut, cashews, cardamom and cinnamon. But it’s not always easy to make these flavours work together in a dish. Like all curries, the name of this dish is just a place-holder really because Chettinad is more of a cuisine, an area than a specific dish.
Chettiars are in the south of India, near Tamil and are known for their trading history with places like Burma, Ceylon and Vietnam. This link to the spice trade means that their cuisine, while mainly vegetarian, is famous for its fragrant aromas, rich with chilli, Star aniseed, tamarind, fennel, cinnamon, bay leaf, cumin, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, galangal and fenugreek.
There’s a saying in South India that “One is lucky to eat like a Chettiar”.
This Chicken Chettinad Recipe comes from SpiceCravings.com and if you want some guidance on how to make this recipe using a slow cooker, the website has a video and some robust cooking instructions.
But if you don’t have a slow cooker, here’s how you can make it work. The recipe calls for whole seeds and spices, which is ideal for an authentic result, but if you don’t have those ingredients, it’s worth having a go with what you have.
The site also recommends Kashmiri chili powder if you can’t get your hands on gundu chilis.
For the Spice Paste
10 cashews (or 2 teaspoon poppy seeds)
¼ cup desiccated coconut or ⅓ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tp fennel seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns or rainbow peppercorns
1 tsp red pepper flakes or 4-5 dried red chilies
½ tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
4 green cardamom pods
1 inch cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoon garlic paste
1 inch ginger peeled, or 1 tablespoon ginger paste
For the sauce
1 large onion thinly sliced or chopped
10-12 curry leaves
1½ pounds chicken boneless thighs
1 tsp salt adjust to taste
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¾ – 1 cup water adjust as needed
Serve with steamed basmati rice, and chopped coriander and fresh lime/ lemon juice
Dry roast/fry cashews (or poppy seeds), shredded coconut, coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds, peppercorns, cloves, red chilies, red chili powder, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick. As the spices and coconut begin to turn golden brown, remove from heat.
Add chopped tomatoes, garlic cloves and peeled ginger to the toasted spices, and blend to a smooth paste. Add water if needed to blend the paste.
In a new pan, with some oil, saute the onions and curry leaves for 3 minutes, or until onions turn translucent and become soft.
Add chicken, salt and turmeric and saute for another 2 mins.
Deglaze the pot with some water and add the Chettinad paste and stir well. Turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour.