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  • A Chicken Fry from Chettinad – Kozhi Uppu Varuval

    Posted on | September 20, 2009 | 44 Comments |

    I am one of those people who start salivating at the mere mention of the word Chettinad. It is the spiciest cuisine I have come across and you all know spice is my favorite flavor. Now, whenever I mention a region in a dish title, I know what’s going to follow next – the authenticity police will be here in no time. What I really want to tell them is – screw you! The explanation that follows is for those who are genuinely interested in the background of a dish. Chettinad is a region in South India and to assume that there is one “authentic” recipe for Chettinad Chicken is absurd. I like to believe that the Chettinad folks have figured more than one way to prepare chicken. This particular recipe is very different from the popular dish that is simply known as “Chicken Chettinad”.

    Now, I don’t know about the authenticity of this recipe. I found this in one of my favorite cookbooks lately – Aharam –Traditional Cuisine of Tamil Nadu by Sabita Radhakrishna. I wrote about this book in a previous post and have prepared many dishes from it since then. Even though the dish is called Chettinad Chicken Fry in the book, I am not calling it that, as I know most of the people who’d search for Chettinad Chicken are looking for the other recipe I mentioned before. The Tamil name for the dish “Kozhi Uppu Varuval” makes more sense – it means Salted Chicken Fry. It is very similar to a recipe I’ve posted a while ago – Uppu Kari (Salted Meat). It is a mutton recipe from my mother-in-law and has earned many fans for Siv. It is a hit with all our friends. This one is a much simpler version of that recipe and with chicken instead of mutton. Since I know “Uppu Kari” is an “authentic” (I am starting to hate that word) Chettinad recipe, I am assuming this one is too.

    Wow, that was a long-winded explanation; especially for someone who wanted to say screw you to the authenticity police! Look what they’ve done to me!!! :) I will just jump into the recipe without any further ado. Even though the book is pretty good, the ingredient proportions are way off! I always ignore what the book says and go with my guts and here is what worked for me. You might have to increase/reduce the chilies to suite your taste buds. It’s a simple dish

    Kozhi Uppu Varuval

    Chettinad Chicken Fry - Kozhi Uppu Varuval


    • 1.5 lb Chicken, leg and thigh pieces, skinless, bone-in
    • Salt to taste
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
    • 15 dry re chillies (broken into half)
    • 2 cups onions, chopped fine
    • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped fine


    Cut the chicken into desired size, not too small. Marinate the chicken with the salt and turmeric powder and keep aside while preparing the other ingredients, like cutting the onions and tomatoes.

    Heat the oil in a large pan and add the fennel seeds and broken red chillies and saute for a minute. Don’t let the spices burn. Add the chopped onions and fry till brown, now add the chopped tomatoes and saute till well-blended.

    Add the chicken pieces and saute. Keep some hot water ready by the side of the stove. Keep sprinkling some hot water on the chicken pieces while frying, if the pan gets too dry. Cook for about 10-12 minutes till chicken is tender. Add a bit more oil if needed to brown the chicken at the end.

    Garnish with cilantro and serve with some fresh lime squeezed over. It goes well with rice, or an awesome accompaniment to beer or a cold cocktail.

    See, Chettinad chicken doesn’t have to be so complicated, even though it is not the same Chettinad chicken you were hoping for! :) I didn’t time myself, but the whole process took less than 30 minutes for sure and it has only 8 ingredients, even if I count the salt and oil and chilies. So I think it will make a perfect entry to the Express Indian – Mad Tea Party that Anita is hosting to celebrate three years of blogging.  Congratulations Anita and hope it is not too late to join the party!

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    Category: Chicken, Good with Drinks, India - Tamil Nadu

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    44 Responses to “A Chicken Fry from Chettinad – Kozhi Uppu Varuval”

    1. archana, mama of twins
      September 20th, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

      screw them! :)

      this is so delicious sounding and its easy to make. a winner for busy moms..

    2. nags
      September 20th, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

      anything chettinad gets my thumbs up sig and i particular like roasted chicken. the way you have garnished it makes it looks like a south east asian dish. this is how almost all dishes are garnished here – cilantro and half a lime :)

    3. shilpa
      September 20th, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

      droooling :)

    4. arundati
      September 20th, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

      i love what you said to the authenticity police!!

    5. Arch
      September 20th, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

      People actually question the authenticity ?? For me, all that matters is good food, regardless of its authenticity…This looks real good…If you enjoy spicy food, you should try Coorgi cuisine, if you havent already…The spices, especially the pepper takes the dish to a whole new level !

    6. Naina
      September 20th, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

      I am soooo glad you brought up the authenticity police. Those guys hammered me for the authenticity of a coorgi chicken fry recipe that i got from a cookbook. I say screw you too!! Go Sig! Love Chettinad cuisine as well and this looks great and sounds so easy to make. Have to have to try this one.

    7. Sra
      September 20th, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

      Chettinad is the spiciest you’ve eaten? You haven’t had Andhra food? Esp in those “authentic” Andhra restaurants where they believe they’ve to live up to that image and add much more spice than I’ve ever eaten at home, mine or anyone else’s? :lol:

      • sig
        September 26th, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

        oh yeah, I forgot about andhra cuisine. My favorite Andhra restaurant in Bangalore had a chilli chicken, with ground green chilies. So spicy, yet so good!

        • anonymous
          November 7th, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

          Guess you are from andhra, that is why you take the word spicy for anything with lots of chilli in it. In chettinad, spicy means with lot os spices in it. Chettinad dishes uses the most number spices at the same time at right proportions and in right combination. I would say onething about Chettinad, that they have a done research on both veg and non-veg food, in chettinad recipe there will bea reason for everything in the process

    8. Happy Cook
      September 20th, 2009 @ 10:35 pm

      Me too i too just drool while reading the name.
      Beautiful and drooley delish.

    9. hb
      September 20th, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

      Isn’t that color just perfect! Are you using a different camera(read better)?That fry looks awesome!

    10. indosungod
      September 21st, 2009 @ 6:03 am

      I will take dry chicken any day and if it is Chettinad even better.

    11. Anita
      September 21st, 2009 @ 6:44 am

      :) There is authenticity police around? But, really, me – I am interested in the origin of the food so I can begin to understand how and why it is put together the way it is…and then know what I might want to change. But, as they say, eat to please yourself! It’s not blasphemy…it’s your food!

      But, thanks, Sig for showcasing this authentic gem from your repertoire – it’s on the party menu next week (the real not virtual one)!

    12. Rina
      September 21st, 2009 @ 6:51 am

      Chicken looks yum Sig! And the happy part is.. its so the color..the next chicken dish that I’m going to cook is this.

    13. Srivalli
      September 21st, 2009 @ 8:01 am

      Lovely picture sig, no need to say anything abt chettinad cuisine..we all love it!

    14. Kavya
      September 21st, 2009 @ 10:55 am

      Hey Sig,
      Lovely dish!! I’d be mad to need all that explanation to enjoy this dish ;-)

    15. AJ
      September 21st, 2009 @ 11:21 am

      Wow. I have been following your blog for quite sometime and amazed by the simple and tasty recipes you post. I have tried several of them and they all came out really great.

    16. sumi
      September 21st, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

      I also make this dish, once in a while, exacly the same way you have mentioned, except that I got the recipe from a TV show in which this dish was showcased by a famous person who hailed from chettinad.This dish never lets me down.very simple and authentic.

    17. Nirmala
      September 21st, 2009 @ 11:03 pm

      Huh…don’t bother about authenticity…its all about how much we tune the recipes to our taste. This one looks simple enough and does this uppu kari gets the name by the marianating process ?

    18. Shantanu
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 2:12 am

      Heh! I love spicy too and therefore Chettinad cuisine. BTW, there is no ‘authentic’ cuisine. Cuisine always evolves. Did you know idlis came into India from Indonesian origins? :)

    19. Cynthia
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 7:13 am

      Now, whenever I mention a region in a dish title, I know what’s going to follow next – the authenticity police will be here in no time. What I really want to tell them is – screw you! – I totally agree with you.

      This recipe is an example of straight forward ingredients that yield outstanding results.

    20. Ann
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 9:56 am

      Oh my. That pic is amazing. For something to look that good I thought there would be 97 ingredients and a compulsory back-flip in the recipe. Bookmarked!

    21. Ann
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 9:57 am

      BTW – note to self – it would help for me to actually get my own website right….. :cry:

    22. mathew
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 10:22 am

      this sure gonna be working in my kitchen next week..i love chettinad style..and this one looks so appealing..

    23. spice and more
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

      Wow that looks and sounds fantastic. The use of fennel with chicken is quite different….I will have to try this one for sure. Thanks.

    24. Smitha
      September 22nd, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

      Sig, A silly qtn ;-) Do they use coconut oil for chettinad cuisine?

      • sig
        September 26th, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

        :) Sorry Smitha, I have no idea! But if you like coconut oil, by all means try the recipe with coconut oil :)

    25. Bong Mom
      September 23rd, 2009 @ 7:01 am

      I love chettinad at least what goes by chettinad cuisine at restaurants. Will try this

    26. Raji
      September 24th, 2009 @ 9:34 am

      looks like an easy tasty recipe.We made your Kerala style chicken fry (with coconut,src:Mrs.B.F Varghese). That turned out very tasty. I am going to try this out soon.
      Thank you.

    27. Roopa V Shetty
      September 24th, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

      this is useful and easy to make…will let you know as soon i try it


    28. Lubna Karim
      September 25th, 2009 @ 3:05 am

      Wow… the addition of fennel….will try this simple and yum version soon…

    29. tina
      September 27th, 2009 @ 6:05 am

      Chettinad chicken fry looks attractive and colourful……. ;-)

    30. Miri
      September 28th, 2009 @ 8:32 am

      Point all those people to me – I will enlighten them on how I have tried so many of your recipes (especially chicken and now fish) and how each one of them have been simply awesome! So as you said – screw everyone, I am going to definitely try this recipe!


    31. Jaya
      September 29th, 2009 @ 2:55 am

      ah! forget about authenticity ,these are absoultely yumm and looks so tempting , you cant please these “authenticity police”so I have started ignoring them :)
      and for me all that matter is “good food”….and cuisine as Shantanu said “evolves”….
      Reading a book by Lizzie Collingham named “Curry”…and it reveals many hidden origin of food in India.It says chilly pepper made way from Potuguese to Malabar Coast… and i thought it’s native to us….there you see can not bind the recipes in few lines and ingredients in one border…recipes evolve and that’s the beauty of any cuisine absorbs anything and everything and that too for the betterment :smile:
      hugs and smiles

    32. Juliana
      September 29th, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

      This chicken looks delicious..all the flavor in it…and the picture cannot reflect better the yummieness :-)

    33. Donna
      October 3rd, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

      Hi Sig, I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime now and felt I had to reply now or never. I tried your recipe and it turned out really well, my family loved it. And the best part is it requires so little effort no ginger-garlic hassles.. hehe…. very simple yet tasty. :grin:

      • sig
        October 4th, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

        Thanks for the feedback Donna! I am glad you and the family loved this recipe. Yeah, it is one simple preparation. :)

    34. Sunny
      February 5th, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

      best pork fry recipe indian style

    35. Vanessa
      July 15th, 2010 @ 3:01 am

      Dear Sig,

      Will you please tell me what is the measurement for 1.5 lb Chicken, leg and thigh pieces. I really want to try it out this weekend. It looks yummy.

      Please reply.


    36. Abirami
      September 8th, 2011 @ 3:39 am

      Its very easy to prepare and very delicious

    37. Rakesh
      November 12th, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

      Really nice. Basically i am from kerala. I loved this dish………

    38. 5 mistakes
      December 8th, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

      Your site is pretty interesting to me and your subject matter is very relevant. I was browsing around and came across something you might find interesting. I was guilty of 3 of them with my sites. “99% of website managers are guilty of these 5 mistakes”. You will be suprised how fast they are to fix.

    39. Divya
      July 31st, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

      I’ve tried making this dish several times before and every time my chicken gives out so much water that it never browns and the dish is never this dry. What do you do?