Chettinad Chicken Curry (Chicken in Roasted Coconut Curry) with Variations

To marinate the chicken:

Chicken – 1 lb, around 500 gm
Yogurt – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper powder – a pinch
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Lemon/lime juice – 2 tsp

To dry roast and grind (see Notes too):

Whole dried red chilis – 6-8 (as per heat level desired. If you are still apprehensive, I suggest using just 4-5)
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper corns – 1-2 tsp ( depends on your heat level, but do not skip it entirely)
Cinnamon stick – 1? piece
Cloves – 3
Cardamom pods – 2-3
Nutmeg mace – a small piece
Kalpasi or black stone flower – a small piece (I used a small piece of star anise here)
Coconut – 1/4 cup, freshly grated

For the curry:

Oil – 3 tbsp
Curry leaves – a small handful
Onion – 1 large-sized, finely chopped
Ginger – a thick 1? piece
Garlic – 4-5 cloves
Green chilis – 2
Tomatoes – 2, chopped
Water – 1 cup
Salt – to taste
Lime juice – 1 tsp
Cilantro leaves – a few, to garnish

Wash and cut the chicken into small pieces. Combine with the marinade ingredients and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add all the ingredients to be dry roasted. Lightly roast stirring every now and then till the coconut is golden brown and the spices are fragrant. Cool slightly and grind to a smooth paste with a bit of water. Keep aside.

Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and green chilis as well. Or you can substitute with 2-3 tsp of ginger-garlic paste and a couple of chopped green chilis. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a large pan and add the curry leaves. When they crackle, add the chopped onions and saute till they are golden.
Then add the ginger-garlic-green chili paste and saute well till the raw smell goes away. Now add the tomatoes and cook till they are mushy and well combined.

Add the prepared spice paste and saute for a few minutes. The gravy should be thick, dark and very fragrant.

Add the marinated chicken pieces and mix well to coat with the gravy. Add water and salt and bring to a gentle boil. Now cover the pan and cook on medium heat till chicken is done.

Open the lid, check seasoning and squeeze some fresh lime juice.

Reduce the curry to desired thickness. Remember that it will thicken upon cooling as well.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve.

Notes:

In case you do not have dried red chilis, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and garam masala ingredients, you can use the respective spice powders. Start by roasting the coconut on medium heat till lightly golden. Add the spice powders towards the end and roast further till they are slightly aromatic. If you add the spice powders at the beginning and then start roasting the coconut, you run the risk of burning the spice powders and this may make the curry bitter.

For a vegetarian version, add cubed potatoes and other vegetables, making sure that they are all similar in size, to ensure even cooking.

You can add boiled and halved eggs to the curry as well.

If you feel the curry has thickened too much, gently boil it again with a bit of hot water to loosen it.

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