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Chettinad chicken curry. Coconut. Bold spices. Curry leaves. And Indian hotel curry gravy. If you want to make something crazy delicious, this is not a bad place to start.

There’s something about South Indian food. Something that keeps me coming back. And it’s not just because it’s a change. A change from the formula dishes served at every Indian restaurant in the world.

That’s part of it. Can’t deny that. But there’s complexity of flavour here. Spice. Heat. It all works so well. This one just makes me smile.

Indian hotel style for maximum flavour

This chettinad chicken curry is a little different. A new approach to Indian restaurant style cooking. One I am really excited about. A game changer really.

I love Indian restaurant style. There’s a huge number of recipes on glebekitchen dedicated to making it.

I cook restaurant style when I want to make curry like I get in most Indian restaurants and takeaways. Those lush gravies. That smell. You know what I mean.

But when I want to pull out all the stops. When I want to make curries like they serve in the finest Indian restaurants. The best of the best. Then I go hotel style.

Hotel curry curry gravy is more work up front. There’s no doubt. But you make enough for multiple curries. And you can freeze it and pull it out as needed. Hotel style on demand.

It’s easier later. When you are making the actual curries. The technique is actually simpler. And it isn’t messy like Indian restaurant style. No splatter. Not anymore.

The wow factor that hotel style brings should not be discounted either. Hotel style gravy is mother gravy. Like French mother sauces.

This is disciplined cooking. Indian style. Did I mention I was super excited about it?

Chettinad chicken curry, dal, rice and parathas on a platter from above.

Those wonderful chicken juices

I love cooking Indian restaurant style. Don’t get me wrong. But one thing has always bothered me about it.

Indian restaurants pre-cook their chicken. It’s ready to drop into the final curry. It’s faster. Which makes customers happy.

It’s also safer in a restaurant environment. No handling raw poultry on a per order basis.

And it takes the moisture released by chicken as it cooks out of the curry. So there’s no need to try to reduce the sauce to get the consistency right.

But it comes at a price. And that price is all the flavour that is in the juices. That flavour goes down the drain. That’s my problem. Giving up flavour. Can’t stand that.

Hotel style takes care of that. It’s designed to accommodate those juices. So your curry consistency is right when the chicken is cooked.

All that flavour winds up in the curry. And then in your mouth. Where it belongs.

Closeup of chettinad chicken curry in a carbon steel bowl from the front.

Fresh ground spices for great chettinad chicken curry

For even more wow I’m adding fresh ground spices to this. Like you weren’t thinking this chettinad chicken curry was already too much work.

If you go for it though, you are in for a treat. A real treat. Fresh ground spices take this to a whole different level.

I don’t always do this. And I don’t tend to write about it. For two reasons.

This is more work. Which makes sense. You never get something for nothing. But I know I already push. Constantly. Always asking you to the go the extra mile. Sometimes I’m lazy too. I get it.

More importantly, I don’t want to ruin things for you. Because this really is better. Noticeably better. There is just something about grinding freshly toasted whole spices. It makes a difference.

It’s more hassle. No denying that. But once you try it, you’ll see why it’s something you need to think about doing.

In this case I don’t feel too bad. I had to do it. It is near impossible to find pre-made chettinad masala. At least where I live.

And if you want chettinad chicken curry, it’s hard to get around it. The masala is in the name of the dish…

Closeup of chettinad chicken curry in a carbon steel bowl surrounded by fresh curry leaves.

Chettinad chicken – for when you want something new

Chettinad chicken curry may not be the most common dish on Indian restaurant menus. That’s a shame. It should be.

If you are looking for something different. Something delicious. With big South Indian flavours. Then this one is worth a try.

Freshly ground chettinad masala. Indian hotel curry gravy. All that flavour from the chicken. How can that not be good?

Chettinad chicken curry in a carbon steel bowl from the front. Dal and rice in the background.
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5 from 6 votes

Chettinad chicken curry – Indian hotel style

All sorts of big south Indian flavours in one delicious Indian hotel style curry.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chettinad chicken curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 640kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

chettinad masala

  • 1 tbsp coriander seed
  • 3 dried red chilies – I like kashmiri chilies for this
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 inch cinnamon bark also known as cassia
  • 2 arms from one star anise Literally break off a couple of the arms from one star anise. You don't need a lot.
  • 1 clove
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • pinch ajwain optional

The spice mix

  • 2 tsp chettinad masala – see above
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

chettinad chicken curry

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil – any neutral oil is fine. Coconut oil is nice as well. Try 1/2 and 1//2.
  • 1 2 inch cassia bark
  • 4 tbsp onion chopped coarsely
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste – recipe link below
  • 10 curry leaves – fresh. And it's about 10. Not exactly 10. Just grab a few.
  • the spice mix from above
  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy – don't worry if it seem to thick. The juices from the chicken will thin it out.
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 3-4 pieces each
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste – or tamarind pulp if you make it yourself.

Instructions

Make the chettinad masala

  • Pre-heat a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Measure out all the large spices (coriander seed, cinnamon bark, peppercorns, star anise arms, clove and green cardamon. Put those in one small bowl. These are the "big" spices. Measure out the cumin seed, poppy seed and ajwain into another bowl. These are the "little spices". Very scientific. I know.
  • Add the "big" spices. Toast, shaking the pan, until they start to get fragrant. This should take a minute or two.
  • Add the "little" spices and chilies and toast, shaking constantly, for another minute. Flip the chilies about half way through.
  • Let cool and grind to a fine powder. I like a coffee grinder for this. One of those ones with the blade.

Do your prep

  • Chop the onion. Measure out your spice mix (everything can go into one of the little bowls you used above). Grab your curry leaves. Prep your chicken. Measure out a cup (237 ml) of Indian hotel curry gravy.
  • Have your garlic ginger paste, tamarind and coconut milk handy. You're good to go now.

Make the chettinad chicken curry

  • Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan until the oil just starts to shimmer.
  • Add the cassia bark. You should see little bubbles forming around it. Cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the onions. Cook the onions until they are fully translucent. If you can get the edges to brown a bit that's a good thing.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste. Gently fry until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering. This is the only messy step.
  • Turn your heat down to medium low and add your spice mix and the curry leaves. Cook for about 30 seconds. You really want to fry your spices in the oil. Don't skimp on the oil. Bad things happen if the spices stick and burn.
  • Add the Indian hotel curry gravy. Stir it really well to get the oil to combine with the curry gravy. You want everything mixed together at this point. Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken thigh pieces in a single layer. Nestle them down into the sauce. Cover and ccok about 5 minutes. Remove the cover, flip the chicken and recover. Cook until the chicken is done. Use an instant read thermometer if you have one. You are shooting for an internal temperature of 160F. It will get to 170F as the curry finishes cooking.
  • Add the tamarind paste and coconut milk.
  • Look at the consistency. If you are happy with it, cover and simmer for 2 minutes. If it's too thick, add a bit of water. If it's too thin don't cover it.
  • Chettinad chicken curry is great with rice or, if you really want to go large, rice and a paratha. Parathas make everything better…

Notes

Make your Indian hotel curry gravy ahead of time. It takes time to make so think about doing it the day before.
For maximum flavour you should consider making your garlic ginger paste from scratch.
1 cup is 237 ml.
You may notice there’s no tomato paste or passata in this recipe. That’s because the tomato flavour comes from the hotel curry gravy. It’s there already.

Nutrition

Serving: 2servings | Calories: 640kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1257mg | Potassium: 870mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 891IU | Vitamin C: 118mg | Calcium: 117mg | Iron: 5mg

28 thoughts on “chettinad chicken curry – Indian hotel style

  1. Hi Romain,
    Struggling to get fresh curry leaves without buying too much, for too much. Is there an alternative? Thank you.

    • Sadly I have yet to find anything that replaces curry leaves. Have you thought about freezing them? The do keep reasonably well frozen.

      This dish will still be very tasty if you do decide to leave them out. Not quite the same but the spice mix is a big part of the recipe.

  2. Just tried this out… oh boy. 12 out of 10. The restaurant recipes are good, but this has a whole extra depth of flavour. Definitely worth hunting out all the spices, I get the feeling that even those tiny amounts of star anise and ajwain, you’d miss them if they weren’t there.

  3. Brilliant absolutely delicious, right up at the top of our all time favourite curry. We’ve had it twice once with chicken and once with pre-cooked beef. What’s next in the hotel curry range?

    • It’s one of my favourites too! I love south Indian. I’m delighted to hear you liked it.

      Next up is a chicken tikka jalfrezi.

  4. Hi Romain,

    I loved this curry it was great, nice spice heat. I found this website looking to make curry at home instead of ordering rubbish curry from a takeaway. I look forward to trying something different every Friday.

    Thank you

  5. Hi from the north east of England!!
    Been trying your dishes since in lockdown and they have been amazing. Made this base during the week and the curry this evening. Again an absolute winner.
    Thank you for putting this out there
    Claire x

    • Glad to hear you are finding something worthwhile during lockdown. I am super excited by the hotel style curries. Great to hear you are enjoying them too!

  6. silly question, but if I am going to make this for 16 people, will I need to put 8 times (as recipe is for 2 people) the spices etc

    • I’ve never tried it for 16 but the beauty of hotel style is that it scales pretty linearly. Might be able to cut back on the oil some. Make sure you have enough to properly bloom all the spices though.

      • Thanks Romain
        I think once I have made the hotel gravy, I will reduce the hot dry spices to maybe half just in case it ends up to hot. Can always add if needed.

  7. This was amazing. Week 3 of my Indian Hotel Style Curry Gravy recipe experiment and I definitely feel I have nailed it. Week’s one (Ceylon and week’s two, Green Chilli) were good but I fell short on a couple of the ingredients – my own fault, and felt they both could have been spicier. Now stocked up with a supply of Green Finger Chillies and fresh Curry Leaves in my freezer to try them both again. So this week, armed with everything I needed for the Chettinad Chicken Curry, and a read through of the entire recipe instructions before getting underway, I am thrilled with the results. We grow our own fruit and vegetables so had an abundance of tomatoes and onions which I used to make the base in advance. The Ginger and Garlic Paste I have made for several years now and always have a batch on hand in the fridge. The flavour of making your own totally outweighs any shop bought so really worth taking the time to make it, which is a few minutes. The results were impressive and I am blown away with just how well it turned out. Next week it’s your Garlic Chicken. Can’t wait.

    Thanks for sharing such great recipes.

    • It’s so great to hear you are enjoying the hotel style curries and working your way through them. Yours must be especially good with all the garden fresh vegetables.

      The garlic chilli chicken curry is regular restaurant style though – not hotel style. I’ll do a hotel garlic chilli chicken soon (it’s definitely on the list!).

      • So presuming its not just a case of making the hotel Style base and using that for the Garlic Chilli Chicken, rather than the restaurant style?

        • Afraid not. The Garlic chilli chicken is developed using the thin, bland regular curry base and a different approach. I have hotel style garlic chilli chicken on the list though so it will come.

  8. Wow wow wow. What a recipe, such flavour.
    Made this last Saturday, its certainly up a league.
    Trying hotel style Madras today.
    Keep them coming Romain.

    • You put a smile on my face this morning. I will keep going on hotel style – have no fear! Achari chicken curry is coming up next.

    • Normally I would recommend against it as tamarind sauce tends to be a fairly sweet concoction without the tartness whereas tamarind paste is just pure tamarind plus preservatives. In this case, as the amount of tamarind is quite low I think it will probably be OK. A little sweeter and without the tart edge maybe but not the end of the world.

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