On the southwestern coast of India lies the beautiful region of Malabar. A lush tropical paradise long known as the "Land of Spices" that lies between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats. Malabar's astonishingly diverse cuisine is the result of the influence of Arabic, Syrian, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, and British spice traders over the centuries. A lavish use of spices, tart tamarind, and rich coconut are the hallmarks of Malabar cuisine. This boldly spiced brilliant red chicken curry is typical of Malabar's delicious dishes. Mellowed by sweet and sumptuous coconut milk the spices present as warmly aromatic rather than fiery hot. The sweet and sour tang of tamarind perfectly accentuates the combination of assertive flavors. This chicken curry is easy to make and it's rich gravy pairs well with steamed rice, chapattis, pulao, appam, or pathiri.
1 kg/2lbs chicken, skinless, cut into 6-8 pieces
3 TBS cooking oil
2 onions, sliced into thin half moons
1 tsp salt
2 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
2 tomatoes, diced finely
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped
1 can coconut milk (400ml)
2 tsp tamarind paste
Mix for marinade:
3 TBS yogurt/dahi
2 TBS garlic paste
1 TBS ginger paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
Grind to smooth paste for masala:
1 TBS lime juice
1 TBS water
3 whole star anise/phoolchakri
15 black peppercorns/kali mirch
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika + 1 tsp cayenne powder)
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
2 tsp ground cumin/jeera
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
Here's what to do:
1) Mix yogurt, garlic, ginger, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp tumeric together for marinade. Coat all chicken pieces in marinade mix and place in sealable airtight container. Allow chicken to marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight in the refrigerator.
2) When ready to cook grind all ingredients listed under masala to smooth paste, and set aside. Heat oil in deep heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai and fry sliced onions with 1 tsp salt until just beginning to brown.
3) Add cassia bark/dalchini and ground masala paste to fried onions. Stir well and fry for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and green chilis, stir well and fry until tomatoes soften.
4) Add marinated chicken pieces to fried onion and masala mixture in pan. Allow chicken pieces to fry for 4 minutes on each side, the chicken should just be turning white. If masala mixture begins to stick or scorch reduce heat and add 1/4 C water.
5) Add can of coconut milk and teaspoon of tamarind paste to chicken and masala mixture in pan, stir well. Allow mixture to simmer uncovered over medium low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. If mixture begins to stick or scorch reduce heat and add 1/4 water.
6) When chicken has cooked through and oil separates from gravy your dish is ready. Salt to taste and serve.
Never cook chicken in a pressure cooker, it gets a rubbery texture from the extreme, high heat.
If you don't have Kashmiri mirch a good substitute is 1/2 paprika plus 1/2 cayenne powder.
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