A stew (or ‘ishtu’ as often referred to) is an extremely popular dish in Kerala, especially enjoyed for breakfast.
The Kerala style stew is quite different from its Western counterparts, distinctly characterized by the addition of coconut milk. It’s a light dish in terms of richness or addition of spices since it’s often had for breakfast. And the perfect accompaniment for any stew is fermented rice breads like appams, dosa, idiyappam (string hoppers) etc….
Beginning of this year, when I visited my home in Kerala, my mom made this variation of the traditional stew – a Fried Chicken Stew. As soon as I tasted it, I knew that not only should I learn how to make this dish from her, but also share it with all of you.
So for those who do not know much about a Kerala style stew, it is coconut milk based liked I already mentioned, really light but fragrant and aromatic because the key flavours are green chilli, ginger and peppercorns. Made with both vegetables and meat; the mutton stew is perhaps the most popular and is often served as a breakfast item on weddings. If you prefer a vegetarian version, do try with potatoes…sooooo delish!
For today’s recipe, the base of the stew remains same, the only difference being that the chicken pieces added are first marinated and shallow fried before adding to the coconut milk gravy. Marinating and frying the chicken pieces before adding to the stew not only adds more flavour but also provides a different texture that makes the dish really interesting.
I have paired this Kerala style fried chicken stew with kal dosa – a thicker, softer and spongy variant of the regular dosa (fermented rice crepes). Usually the same batter is used but instead of spreading out into a thin crepe, the batter is spread thicker almost like making a pancake. The spongier texture of the kal dosa makes it an ideal vehicle for soaking up the stew…..absolute deliciousness.
This Kerala style fried chicken stew would be a delicious treat for your breakfast this weekend; so let’s get onto the recipe.
- 700gms chicken (with bones); cut into really small pieces
- 2 medium potatoes; diced
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp ginger; grated
- 1 tsp garlic; grated
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp fennel seeds; crushed
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Salt, to season
- Coconut oil; for shallow frying the chicken
For the gravy:
- 4-5 green chillies (add more or less depending on the heat of the chillies used)
- 2-3 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 inch ginger; julienned
- 1 large onion; diced
- 200 ml coconut milk (thin extract)
- 200 ml coconut milk (thick extract)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns; crushed
- Salt, to season
If you are using canned coconut milk, then dilute 200ml of coconut milk with 150ml water to get the thin extract.
- As mentioned, the chicken pieces must be small. So make sure you ask the butcher to cut accordingly. Clean and wash the chicken pieces; drain well.
- In a bowl, add the chicken pieces along with all the ingredients mentioned under marination. Mix well to combine and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Heat coconut oil in a pan, and shallow fry the chicken pieces till just about done. (Don’t overcook the chicken as it tends to go rubbery after adding to the stew gravy). Do this in batches and keep aside.
- In another pot or pressure cooker, add the diced potatoes along with the green chillies, half of the curry leaves and ginger, onion and season with salt.
- If using a pressure cooker, do not add any water and cook for just one whistle. If using a regular pot, add ½ – 1 cup water, just enough to cook the potato.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, add the thin coconut milk extract (refer notes above if using canned coconut milk) and the fried chicken pieces. Bring to boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
- Reduce heat and add the thick coconut milk extract and crushed black pepper. Mix and remove from heat.
- Serve warm garnished with curry leaves and julienned ginger.