Chettinad Chicken

Spicy chicken curry with fennel, chilli and black peppercorn

Classic flavours of Chettinad Chicken hailing from the community of Tamil Nadu includes a number of whole spices. Roasted until they release their flavour and ground to a fine powder which lend a wonderful flavour to the curry. Cooked at special occasions; this chicken recipe traditionally is cooked with kalpasi (stone flower) which I have excluded due to availability. In the ground spice mix you can opt for dried mild chillies although again for the additional colour and flavour I have used kashmiri chilli powder. One of my favorites dishes I sampled during my travels to Chennai recently and learnt that a vital ingredient in chettinad cooking is Gundu chillies (Mundu). They are round, fat dried chillies with a smoky flavour and a bout of heat. With a thin skin and unique flavour they are renowned in the region due to their longevity and can be used all year round.

Tomatoes are not used in a chettinad gravy like this. I have used boneless chicken thigh which is great as it stay moist in the curry although you could use chicken on the bone for a little more flavour.


  1. Add the spice powder ingredients in a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add the chicken in a large mixing bowl and mix the ground spice powder. Coat well and marinate for 2 hours or overnight

  2. In a large heavy bottom pan heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the cinnamon stick and fennel seeds. Fry for a few seconds

  3. Add the onions and stir well frying for 15 minute. Continue to stir as they colour evenly all over. Add the curry leaves, garlic and ginger. Fry for 1 minute

  4. Now add the marinated chicken and turn the heat up slightly. Sealing the chicken pieces for 3-4 minutes

  5. Turn the heat low, season to taste and add 50mls water to create a light gravy. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes stirring half way through. Serve warm with paratha or rice

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