Chettinad chicken


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

This recipe, Kozhi Varatha Kosambuk, comes from the trading community in the area known as Chettinad. The curry is quite fiery as it uses both chillies and black pepper, but you can reduce these to suit your palate. The chicken is cooked with distinct aromatic spices such as fennel, cloves, star anise, fresh ginger, cumin and cardamom pods for a unique flavour. Creamy-white poppy seeds help to thicken the sauce.


  • 4 large chicken quarters, about 1kg/lb in total, skinned
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 5 ml/1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp white poppy seeds
  • 25 g/1oz/¼ cup desiccated (dry unsweetened shredded) coconut
  • 5 ml/1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 ml/1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 ml/1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 whole dried red chillies, torn into pieces
  • 10–12 black peppercorns
  • 2.5 cm/1 in piece cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 45 ml/3 tbsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2.5 cm/1 in fresh root ginger, grated, or 10 ml/2 tsp ginger purée
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 10 ml/2 tsp garlic purée
  • 2.5–5 ml/½–1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 10–12 curry leaves
  • toasted flaked coconut, to garnish
  • Plain Boiled Rice, to serve


  1. Cut the chicken into smaller portions, separating legs from thighs. If using breasts, cut each one into three pieces. Rub with the lemon juice and salt and set aside for 15–20 minutes.

  2. In a small, heavy pan, dry-roast the poppy seeds and the coconut until they are a shade darker. Remove from the heat, transfer to a small bowl and leave to cool.

  3. In the same pan, dry-roast the whole spices for about 1 minute, until they release their aroma.

  4. Allow the spices to cool, then mix them with the roasted poppy seeds and coconut. Grind the mixture in a coffee grinder in batches and set aside.

  5. Using the same pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry, stirring frequently, until soft, then add the ginger and garlic.

  6. Continue to fry for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to brown, then stir in the chilli powder and turmeric.

  7. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the chicken pieces and fry, turning frequently, for about 5 minutes, until opaque.

  8. Pour in 300 ml/½ pint/ cups hot water and add the star anise. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

  9. Add the ground spice and coconut mixture, tomatoes and curry leaves. Stir to combine, then cover the pan and cook for a further 15–20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

  10. Remove the lid and let the sauce reduce for a few minutes, if necessary, until it is thick. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with flaked coconut and serve with Plain Boiled Rice.


  • As with most Indian recipes, the chicken is cooked on the bone to add flavour to the finished dish. You can use boneless chicken thighs or chunks of breast meat if you prefer, but you will need to reduce the cooking time in Step 8 to 5 minutes and use just 175ml/6fl oz/¾ cup water.

  • If you can’t take the heat, reduce the amount of chilli used.

Per portion Energy 375kcal/1572kJ; Protein 45g; Carbohydrate 7g, of which sugars 6g; Fat 23g, of which saturates 6g; Cholesterol 169mg; Calcium 157mg; Fibre 2.2g; Sodium 163mg.