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Kerala Chicken Stew (Koshi Ishtu)

by Suneeta Vaswani

Serves 6-8

This is a recipe from the Syrian Christian community of Kerala.

2 lbs     skinless boneless chicken thighs  1 kg
2 tbsp    oil  25 mL
6    green cardamom pods, cracked open 6
6    whole cloves  6
1    stick cinnamon, about 2 inches (5 cm) long 1
1⁄4 tsp   black peppercorns  1 mL
2    bay leaves    2
21⁄2 cups finely chopped onions   625 mL
2 tbsp    minced green chiles, preferably serranos   25 mL
1 tbsp    minced peeled gingerroot     15 mL
1 tsp     fennel seeds (saunf), powdered    5 mL
1⁄4 tsp   turmeric  1 mL
11⁄2 tsp  salt 7 mL
6    small potatoes, halved (about 12 oz/375 g) 6
1 cup     chopped green beans (2-inch/5 cm pieces)   250 mL
1 cup     chopped carrot (2-inch/5 cm pieces)   250 mL
20   fresh curry leaves 20
2 tbsp    julienned peeled gingerroot  25 mL
2 tbsp    thinly sliced garlic    25 mL
1    can (14 oz/400 mL) coconut milk   1
1⁄2 cup   frozen peas, thawed 125 mL


1.   Rinse chicken and pat dry thoroughly. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaves. Sauté until fragrant, about 40 seconds.

2.   Add onions and sauté until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add chiles, ginger, fennel and turmeric and sauté for 2 minutes.

3.   Push masala to side of pan. Add chicken, folding each piece to double the thickness. Spoon masala over top and brown for 5 minutes. Flip chicken to brown other side, 3 minutes. Stir chicken to mix well with masala.

4.   Add 1 cup (250 mL) water and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until chicken is partially cooked, about 15 minutes.

5.   Add potatoes, green beans, carrot, curry leaves, ginger and garlic. Increase heat to medium and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

6.   Add coconut milk and peas. Continue to simmer until vegetables are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve hot over rice.


Substitute beef or lamb, if you prefer, for the chicken.



Recipes reprinted with permission from Complete Book of Indian Cooking, by Suneeta Vaswani, Robert Rose Inc., 2007.

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