David’s South Indian Chicken Curry
This south Indian chicken curry is a flavorful, well-spiced dish made by our good friend David. While it does require a bit of spices, the other ingredients are easy and one simple trick makes it much faster.
At our church in Vilnius, Lithuania, we’ve met some really great people, including a smart, talented student/chef from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in southern India.
He had been telling us for months about his amazing chicken curry, but we hadn’t had a chance to taste it yet. Luckily, now that it’s summer, he had some free time so we invited him over to taste his famous chicken curry.
Not only did he deliver one of the best curries I had in my life (the other amazing one is Diana’s spicy sweet coconut chicken curry), but he was also kind enough to show us how we can make it too.
According to him, you can use beef, mutton or lamb as well, but never pork.
David is a self-identified meat-atarian, so he says unenthusiastically that you can make vegetable curry as well, with potatoes and other hardier vegetables.
Being Indian, of course, this recipe has a good amount of spice. It’s nothing that will burn your nose off, but if you have very little tolerance for heat you may want to cut the chili in half.
In fact, because our guests were all European and not too friendly with a lot of heat, David quickly whipped together a raita (a combination of plain yogurt, cucumbers, and mint). However, raita is normally eaten with biryani, not curry.
All good curries must start with a good base of spices, and this one is no different. We wish there could be some shortcuts, like curry pastes from the store, but the best is always homemade.
The spice mix above contains turmeric, coriander powder, chicken masala, chili powder, garam masala, whole spice, bay leaves, cardamon, cloves and pepper.
There’s just no getting around that. If push comes to shove, you can get a spice mixture from a trusted source.
Next, David showed us a trick to cut down the time.
He added a few spices to the chicken, including turmeric, chili powder and salt.
He then popped them in a 430 F (220 C) oven for 15 minutes, and then brought the temperature down to 385 F (200 C) for 20 more minutes until nicely roasted and beginning to pull back from the bone.
While the chicken was roasting, he made the curry: oil in a pot, the whole spices fried for a few minutes, and chopped onions and tomatoes until the onions have gone soft and the tomato has lost its liquid.
Lastly, add the ground powder and let it cook for a few more minutes.
Then you blend it all to your desired thickness. However, it is better to have a finer curry.
Next, add the chicken with the pan juices (yes, all the pan juices) and cook over medium flame. After 15 minutes, you’ll need to add the sour milk (kefyras in Lithuania) and mix until well blended.
Cook for a further 10 minutes until the oil rises to the top of the curry.
If you don’t have sour milk, you don’t need to buy it from the store. For 1 cup of sour milk, simply add 1 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice with enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir, and let it stand for abut 5 minutes.
Please note: sour milk is not the same as spoiled milk. Spoiled milk is simply old milk and will make you sick.
We served it with basmati rice, cooling raita and this delicious naan bread from Saveur.
David’s South Indian Chicken Curry
This chicken curry is a flavorful, well-spiced dish made by our good south Indian friend, David. While it does require a few spices, the other ingredients are simple and one simple trick makes it much faster.
- 2 kg chicken legs and thighs (or other bone-in chicken)
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 inch ginger, chopped
- 5 medium onions, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 large tomatoes, rough chopped
- 3 tbsp sour milk
For the spice mixture
- 15 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole allspice
- 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
- 1 dried chili
- 2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp cardamon
- 2 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp chicken masala
- 2 tbsp garam masala
Preheat the oven to 430 F (220 C).
Wash the chicken. Mix 1 tbsp salt, 1.5 tsp chili powder and 1 tsp turmeric and pour it over the chicken.
Place the chicken in a baking dish and put it in the oven when ready.
In the meantime, add the oil to a large pot over medium high heat. Add in the whole spices first (whole chili, allspice, peppercorns, cloves, cardamon and bay leaves). Do not add the ground spices yet.
Add in the ginger and garlic with the spices and deep fry in the oil until they begin to pop.
Add in the chopped onions and tomato, and cook until the onions are soft and the tomatoes have lost their pulp.
Add in the remaining ground spices (turmeric, chili powder, coriander, and the masalas) and blend the curry until fine. Remove from heat until the chicken is done cooking.
When you see the chicken is beginning to pull away from the bones, remove it from the oven.
Add the pan juices (as much as you can bear) to the curry, and then drop in the chicken.
Bring the pot to a boil over medium flame and let it cook for 15 minutes.
Add in the sour milk and whisk until well blended. Cook further until the oil has come out of the chicken and risen to the top, about 20 minutes.
Optional 1 (basmati rice): in this time you can make basmati rice by mixing 2 cups of dry rice with 4 cups of water in a pot over medium flame. When the rice begins to boil, cover the pot and turn down the heat immediately to a low simmer. Leave it alone for 15-20 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let the rice sit in its steam for 5-10 minutes, open, fluff with a fork, then close again for another 5-10 minutes.
Optional 2 (raita): you can also quickly chop up 2 medium English cucumbers, 1/2 onion, 1 cup of plain yogurt and a handful of mint leaves. Add some salt and coriander powder.
When the chicken is ready, serve it over a bed of basmati rice with an optional naan and raita.