Monday, February 20, 2012

Malvani Masala Chicken Curry Recipe

My exposure to Malvani food has been very limited, and for many years was largely confused with Mangalorean food, thanks to a certain Ossie Pereira, my early guide to western Indian cuisines among other more important things. It was after watching some food shows on TV that I learned about the distinct Malvani style, and began to keep my eyes and ears open for an opportunity to try something out. That opportunity came in the form of a Malvani Chicken and Kombdi Vade post on Poonam Borkar’s excellent food blog - Kande Pohe.

  1. Make Malvani Masala Powder by blending roasted spices together.
  2. Marinade the chicken with the masala, lime juice and some oil.
  3. Make coconut-onion paste along with a little garlic, some ginger and fresh coriander leaves.
  4. Fry the onions, with some hing, add the chicken and fry for a while. Let it all brown and stick a little.
  5. Add the coconut onion paste.
  6. Bring to a boil, adjust the gravy consistency.
  7. Done.

I first made a Malvani masala powder with Poonam’s ingredients, which are

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 red chilies (see note #1 below)
1/2 tsp black pepper
3-4 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom
3-4 green cardamom
1 star anise
1 mace / javetri (I used about half)
1 small piece of stone flower / dagadphool (I used more, maybe 1 tbsp of the stuff, see note #2 if you don’t know what dagadphool is)

I dry roasted all above ingredients together by placing them in a superhot pan twirling them around a couple of times and letting them cool down in the pan itself, though the original recipe says you should fry it in a little oil and roast each of the ingredients separately. I ground all of this to a powder, and it turns out to be quite a good amount, and looks pretty spicy, and for a moment I was worried if I should use it all. Well, use it all! It works. I added a little turmeric powder and a generous pinch of nutmeg powder. I skipped the suggested paprika looking at and smelling this amazing aromatic powder. If you like it hot, do include the paprika.

I cleaned 500 g of chicken and rubbed this masala into it, along with a tbsp of lime juice, two generous tsp of salt and a little oil to carry and blend the flavors. I like salting my meat while marinating, it is a personal preference; you can add the salt while you are cooking if that gives you a greater sense of control. I let it stand for almost an hour the first time, and half a day covered in the fridge, it did not make a lot of difference to the taste. The marinated chicken looks fiery, grainy and yummy, and I set it aside so that they could all get to know each other properly.

I had to improvise on the coconut onion paste both times, and it tasted pretty good. I am certain, though, that using dry roasted grated coconut will make it that much tastier. In a blender, I first put

1 large onion roughly cut into small pieces
10 cloves of garlic (the recipe asks for 3-4, but I cannot get myself to use 3-4 cloves of garlic, other than maybe for one two-egg omlet)
1 inch of ginger, roughly chopped into small pieces
1 generous bunch of roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves (the recipe asks for ¼ cup)

Once this was well blended, I added

Canned coconut milk (1 cup, equivalent of first press milk from 1 coconut)

and blended again, till it was a smooth paste of pouring consistency.

I heated oil (if you are using chicken with skin on, cut back on the oil as the chicken will yield a good bit of oil while cooking) and once it was smoking, added finely sliced onions, and kept stirring it till starting to brown at the edges. Then a dash of hing to wake the neighbors up, and the marinated chicken immediately after. Hing not only wastes away if fried for too long, but can impart an unpleasant bitterness without any of the aroma that can ruin a good dish.The recipe asks for a 8 min fry, but I gave it 8 mins without stirring, and then turned the pieces over, and gave it another 8 mins. Once I had a good bit of Maillard going, I added the coconut-onion paste and mixed all the cooked and caramelized spices and stuff evenly. I gave it another 10 mins on the boil, stirring every couple of minutes to get the stuff sticking at the bottom back into circulation, added two cups of boiling hot water, and once back on the boil, let it simmer on low heat for another 10 min.

1. Though I am a Bengali and a ghoti of that too, I have lived in Hyderabad long enough to have developed reasonable tolerance to hot food. I typically use Guntur dry red chilis for heat, and the proportions in the original recipe along with the 1 tsp fresh Tellicherry black pepper (instead of the suggested ½ tsp) got the table fairly worked up. I replaced the Guntur with Bydagi, and used ½ tsp of pepper, and it was more acceptable to everyone.
2. Stone flower or Dagadphool is commonly called Biryani Phool in Hyderabad, and is not Star Anise, as many might believe.
3. My version turned out greener and darker than the pictures on Poonam’s post, primarily because of the fresh coriander proportions I used. My guess is that a perfect rendition of this dish will result in a richly textured dark reddish brown appearance. Unfortunately, both times, I forgot to take pics, so this post will be without pics till I do get down to it.

The original recipe is a Kombdi Vade combo but we had it with plain rice, and the next time with chapatis and it disappeared both times much faster than we thought it could. Thanks Poonam, for some brilliant meal times. Do check out the original recipe by visiting her blog. And do remember to come back once you have tried it out and let me know how it turned out in the comments section.


  1. i am so thrilled to see this post on my recipe..i am very very glad that you liked it..thanks a ton for writing this made my day!! :)

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  4. I love this recipe. One of my favorites. Thank you for sharing this.