Varutha kozhi, which means “fried chicken”, is one of the most basic and popular dishes of South India and there are many variants on the basic recipe which essentially consists of coconut and spices, the different blend of spices giving it the subtle differences in flavours. Each household has their own recipe and it is worth experimenting with your own ideas. But here is one of The Naughty Cook’s varieties.
- 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil
- 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- ½ tablespoon of fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- 20 curry leaves
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- large thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
- ¾ ounce / 25g desiccated coconut
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- 3 tablespoons of groundnut oil
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large cubes
- 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Create the paste by heating the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan and adding the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, the chilli flakes, cinnamon, cloves and curry leaves. Fry for a minute or two until you are really getting those spicy aromas but before they start to burn.
Add the shallot, garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes before adding the coconut and turmeric. Fry on a low heat for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool, before blitzing in a food processor with 1 tbsp of water until you have a smooth paste.
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan (see Tips below) and add the chillies, shallots, and turmeric and fry for about five minutes or until golden brown.
Add the paste, give a good stir and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the can of chopped tomatoes and stir everything in and allow to bubble for a few minutes while you tend to the chicken.
In a frying pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil and stir fry the chicken pieces until they’re browned on the outside.
Add the chicken to your curry, combine well and then simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
Stir in the coriander, add seasoning to taste and serve with rice.
I use the same pan for making the paste and cooking the chicken, and just wipe it with some kitchen roll in between.
The Tamil word kozhi basically refers to a cockerel, so in a recipe it refers to chicken as an ingredient. However, it also has another meaning when applied to people. Cockerels are notoriously promiscuous in nature, so, when Tamils refers to a man as kozhi, they mean he is sly, shameless, of questionable morality – in fact, the kind of man who might have a wife and several secret mistresses on the go. A new Tamil movie called Kattu Kozhi released in 2015 features the steamy adventures of just such a character.