[Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]
If you're looking for a reason to get out of that dent in the couch and into the kitchen without too much effort, this is the recipe for you. It's more of a let-it-do-its-thing-in-the-pan kind of recipe so it's perfect for lazy folks.
Chicken Pepper Fry can have many flavor variations depending on the region where it's prepared. Primarily you'll find it in the south of India, where pepper is the king of spices. This version is from Kerala, a state where the pepper vine veils walls and roofs, and finds its way into almost every meal.
The oil is the key to the flavor of the dish because the spices infuse into it and coat and fry each piece of chicken until the flavor of the pepper and other aromatics goes into the meat. The onions and tomato give the dish some body and add thickness to the gravy. You can reduce the amount of pepper if your spice threshold is low, but I'd recommend that you don't go too low.
You can have it with white rice, pilaf, roti, or bread. In front of the television.
Note: Ginger-garlic paste can be found in most Indian markets. Alternatively, combine equal parts grated fresh ginger and garlic.
- 1 pound chicken breast or thigh, skinned, legs divided into thighs and drumsticks, breasts split in half
- 1 tablespoon juice from about 1 lime
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger, divided
- 2 tablespoons grated garlic, divided
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (or less to taste)
- 2 tablespoons coconut, vegetable, or canola oil
- 1 medium onion sliced thinly (about 1 cup)
- 2 small green chillis slit lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large tomato split in half lengthwise
- 1/2 cup water
Combine chicken, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon ginger, and 1 tablespoon garlic in a large bowl and toss to coat. Transfer to a plastic bag, refrigerate, and let marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Grind the whole peppercorns in the mortar and pestle until roughly ground. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, remaining 1/2 tablespoon ginger, remaining tablespoon garlic, and chillis and cook, stirring, until fragrant, taking care not to brown the onions, about 5 minutes total. Reduce heat to low. Add fennel powder, cumin powder, turmeric, and curry leaves. Stir vigorously until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium. Add soy sauce, sugar, tomatoes and the marinated chicken. Fry the chicken in this flavoured oil until browned, about 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan if anything sticks.
Add water and cover. Allow the dish to cook for 10 minutes covered, Then remove the lid, increase heat to high and stir around till water has dried up totally, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Serve hot with rotis, dosas or with bread.
Heavy-bottomed [lidded] saucepan, mortar and pestle