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  • Uppu Kari – Featuring Chettinadu Cuisine

    Posted on | April 8, 2007 | 21 Comments |

    Chettinad cuisine is originated in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu state comprising of Madurai, Tirunelveli and Karaikudi regions. This cuisine is well known for its hot and spicy, aromatic non vegetarian dishes like Chicken Chettinad, Pepper Chicken, Fish Varuval etc. Chettinad cuisine is so different from the traditional healthy vegetarian cuisine of the Tamil Brahmins, but when I think of Tamil cuisine, the first word that comes to my mind is Chettinad – just my type of dishes! 

    When I mentioned to Siv that there is an event called Regional Cuisine of India (RCI) and this month’s theme is Tamil cuisine, he volunteered to find me an authentic Chettinad recipe from his mom, and even better make it himself to keep it truly authentic. :) . After some brainstorming, he picked a dish called Uppukari, an authentic Karaikudi dish, that I have never heard of before. 

    Uppu means salt in Tamil and Kari is used to describe mutton or sometimes used as a generic term for meat. Uppu kari is prepared by marinating the cubed meat in salt for about an hour before cooking, the salt really softens the meat. I am assuming the name Uppukari came from this process. If anyone has a better explanation, I would love to hear it.

    The heat in this dish comes from split dry red chilies, not chilly powder. That makes it truly unique, with a subtle spicy flavor, so different from all the Kerala lamb recipes I normally make.  In our house, we both have our on signature dishes, I am the mutton expert and Siv is the fish curry guy. But after tasting this uppu kari, guess I’ll have to share my mutton throne with him, this was that good!


    • 1 lb Lamb/Goat meat with bones cut into small cubes
    • 1 tbsp ginger paste
    • 1 cup sliced onions
    • 10 cloves garlic minced
    • 12 split dry red chilies
    • 1″ cinnamon stick
    • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
    • 1/2 cup grated coconut or coconut flakes
    • 1 bunch curry leaves
    • Salt for taste
    • oil for sauteing


    Marinate the cubed meat with salt and keep aside for an hour.

    Add the ginger paste to the meat and pressure cook till the meat is tender(about 7 minutes after the first whistle). Alternatively you can cook the meat and ginger mixture in a regular sauce pan along with a cup of hot water till the meat is tender and the gravy is completely dried up.

    In the mean time, heat oil in a large frying pan, fry the cinnamon, fennel seeds and the split red chilies till fragrant and keep aside.

    In the same pan, saute the onions and garlic till brown. Add the curry leaves and the fried spices from the previous step and mix well.

    Check the cooked meat and dry most of the liquid that might have formed during the pressure cooking process.

    Add the dry cooked mutton into the pan with the fried onion and spices and mix well till the remaining moisture is all dried up.

    Add the grated coconut to the pan and fry till the coconut is slightly brown.

    Serve hot with rice.

    Note: Siv completely forgot the coconut when he made this, still it tasted great. He says coconut adds a great texture to the dish, but skip it if you are not a coconut fan, it is still delicious.

    There is not that much information about Chettinadu cuisine in Wikipedia, but here is a link to what they have:

    This is my entry for Tamil cuisine – RCI – April 2007 event hosted by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine.

    Category: Good with Drinks, India - Tamil Nadu, Lamb or Goat, Recipes, Side Dish - Dry

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    21 Responses to “Uppu Kari – Featuring Chettinadu Cuisine”

    1. Sandeepa
      April 9th, 2007 @ 1:01 am

      I always thought Tamil cuisine didn’t have a lot of Non-Veg recipes. This looks firey and delicious and going to try this some time

    2. bee
      April 9th, 2007 @ 1:56 am

      Chettinad food is great. now that’s spicy stuff ;-) They have great veggie dishes…tried barota and vada_kari? –Jai

    3. Sig
      April 9th, 2007 @ 4:23 am

      Sandeepa, yeah, Tamil cuisine has a variety of non-veg dishes, they are great! Hope you try.

      Jai, Vadakari is Siv’s favorite, I didn’t know it was a chettinad dish!

    4. Meena
      April 9th, 2007 @ 4:55 am

      Oh I love Chettinad cuisine, deliciously spicy! I’ll surely try this out? Do you have a tried and tested recipe of Chicken Chettinad? I’m just smitten by that one! :)

    5. Sig
      April 9th, 2007 @ 6:13 am

      Meena, no, I’ve never made Chicken Chettinadu, but I’m sure my MIL has a recipe, will try it and post sometime.

    6. Asha
      April 9th, 2007 @ 11:48 am

      Hi Sig,catching up with you on Monday!:)

      Uppu kari looks fabulous,easy and spicy.My kinda food!I was looking foe Tamil recipes yesterday and read about Chettinad and Madhurai dishes.Sounds great,I am making one too,one from Madhurai.

      Uppu is salt in Kannada as well.In Hawaii,they use many lbs of Sea salt and bury a whole fish and bake it until it’s hard. Them break the salt with hammer.There is fish perfectly cooked with no other spices at all.I saw that on Food channel!It was so tender!!I guess salt tenderize meat.Hope you get more traditional recipes from MIL!

    7. Richa
      April 9th, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

      hey sig,
      I love chettinad dishes. There’s a nearby restaurant where they serve excellent gobi chettinad, it is so very spicy and yummy. I guess the mix of fennel, dry chili and black pepper sets it apart.
      Loved your recipe, btw coconut flakes is dessicated coconut right?

    8. Pravs
      April 9th, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

      I have not tried much of chettinad dishes. Just chicken chettinad. When i see a chettinad recipe, it’s spicy but simple to make…i mean no long procedure to follow. This looks simple too.

    9. Sig
      April 9th, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

      Asha, hope you had a relaxing easter weekend! Can’t wait to see what you are cooking for RCI, hope it is non-veg ;) . I’ve had salt-crusted fish from a restaurant, it was delicious, just salt and fish, no other spices!!! The Hawaiian way sounds great.

      Richa, yes, u can use Dessiccated coconut too, but not the powdered variety, bigger flakes are better since you need to feel the coconut texture in it. Dried coconut flakes available in stores would be a great choice in this dish, but fresh is always the best. I buy frozen fresh shredded coconut from the Indian store.

      Pravs, hope you try this, I think we have very similar tastes, so I’m sure you’d love this!

    10. Paddukoti
      April 9th, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

      love chettinad food sig and i always saw my hubby ordering only lamb chettinad in any restaurants but i never tried but i will surprise him this time!!
      lovely pictures!! love those vibrant colors

    11. Mishmash !
      April 9th, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

      Hi Sig, during my stay in chennai, we often used to visit karaikudi and chettinad restuarants for some spicy non-veg dishes :) sometimes i just used to order a spicy chicken dish and rasm and rice.
      I checked ur tapioca biriyani recipe and as u said its a bit different preparation from mine. Try this recipe, i think u will like it :)


    12. Kay
      April 9th, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

      Lamb is my falling…. I’ve always got so-so results with lamb (goat actually, but most of the time, we get lamb sold as goat- argh!), except for this one time, when it turned out great.

      I’ll try this one, next time… Love chettinad cuisine.. I have a booklet for only chettinad stuff and very authentic to boot.

      Btw, you might enjoy this article on chettinad cuisine from my bookmarks.
      Article by vikdoc

    13. musical
      April 9th, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

      Sig, even though i don’t eat meat, these pictures look very inviting :)

      As usual, i am going to adapt this recipe with mushrooms and soy-wadis :) . i love spicy and this recipe i am sure is going to work out well for me, like the last recipe i adapted from here :) . Thanks for sharing this bit of Chettinad food, Sig.

    14. Sig
      April 9th, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

      Padmaja, thanks, let me know what he thinks, I know he is your best critic :)

      Shn, I used to do the same thing, I don’t like Rasam, but I would just get a chettinadu chicken dish and have that! Yes, your tapioca biryani in my to-try list.

      Kay, welcome to my blog and thanks for the article, very informative.

      Musical, I’ll try to make some veg dish for you sometime soon:). Been posting too many non-veg recipes, I know.

    15. Reena
      April 10th, 2007 @ 5:48 am

      sig, chettinad cusine is spicy and tasty. pictures look so tempting. i have to try it. btw send some over if you can :) )

    16. naveen
      May 14th, 2008 @ 7:31 am

      Chettinad cuisine is unique and is ONLY from Chettinad. Please in the name of writing your Recipe DO NOT DISTORT Facts.

    17. Achyutha
      May 26th, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

      Sig, thanks for sharing the recipe. I tried this recipe four times so far and every time I started liking the dish even more. To give the dish a little more color I added red chilli powder and to bring the chettinad flavor I also added tamarind paste.

    18. Lawrence
      July 5th, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

      As an english guy who loves Indian and Asian food this was great. Had lots of fun and great aromas cooking this dish. I did add some Urad Dhall to the spices first

    19. Miri
      November 2nd, 2008 @ 3:35 am

      I made this recipe (Uppu kari) with some alterations, for a Diwali dinner we had at home and it was an absolute hit! Thanks!

      Glad you liked it Miri! Siv always make it for parties and it is always a big hit :)

    20. amusan
      December 18th, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

      add pinch of turmeric powder it gives a lovely color.not must not spoil the taste.