Keralan Chicken Stew

The word “stew” has become part of the Indian culinary vocabulary. In Southern India, stew is made with coconut milk and Malabar coast spices. In Kerala in particular it is commonly eaten with appams or rice flour pancakes for breakfast or Sunday brunch. In northern India, even roadside eateries serve a mild curry that they can stew.
The dish can be made milder still by reducing the green chilli, but it is really aromatic. A lady from Kerala says that she thinks the combination of ghee and oil imparts a special flavour. The Keralites use very tiny pieces of chicken on the bone, but you can use small boneless pieces, if you like. On the bone, this quantity will serve 4, but boneless should be enough for 5 people.
Serves 4-5


1 3/4-in piece of fresh ginger (half cut into thin julienne, half cut into pieces)
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 onions, chopped coarsely
2-3 green chillies
2 cups grated fresh coconut
10-12 new potatoes
to taste salt
2 tblsp oil
1 tblsp ghee
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 cinnamon or bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
2 inch cinnamon stick
4 cardamoms
3 cloves
20 curry leaves
1 3/4lb boneless, skinless chicken pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-in strips
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon garam masala


  1. Pound the ginger pieces (retain the julienne strips for later), peppercorns, and a little turmeric and make into a thick, uneven paste.
  2. Blend together the onion and green chillies. Put the grated coconut into 2 cups of water and blend to make an extract of milk. Strain and keep to one side.
  3. Scrub the potatoes and half-boil them in their skin with a pinch of salt and turmeric.
  4. Heat the oil and ghee, and when hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the cinnamon or bay leaf. When the mixture turns a khaki color add the garlic, cinnamon stick, and cardamoms. After 20 seconds, add the ginger and turmeric paste, cloves, and curry leaves, then add the onion and green chillies. After 2 minutes put in the chicken pieces and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, carrot, and salt to taste, and cook, covered, for 2 minutes. Finally add the coconut milk, 1/2 cup of water, the peas, and juliennes of ginger. Sprinkle with garam masala powder, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked.


50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi

Mike Powell

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