Spicy Pepper Chicken

Even though I belong to the Himachal/ Punjab region of Northern India, I spent most of my early years in Madras (now known as Chennai) which is in South India. As a result, I grew up loving the diverse regional flavors of both Northern and Southern Indian food. Though the most well-known foods from the South are Dosas and Idlis – this only the tip of the iceberg of the depth of Southern Indian cuisine.

I think some of the best non-vegetarian foods are from the South. Here is one of my personal favorites which is quite easy to re-create, even here in New York. I originally learned this recipe from my mother’s friend Shireen Ryan who serves the most amazing food. This dish is best eaten with plain white rice or dosas or aapams ( if you can make them….I sure can’t and have to keep running to Shireen aunty’s house to eat them).


Serves 6-8 people


5 pounds of chicken with bones, chopped into 2 inch pieces

2 medium onions sliced

2 tablespoons of garlic and ginger

1 black cardamom (moti elaichi)

4-5 cloves (laung)

1 -2 pieces of cinnamon bark (dalchini)

4-5 sprigs of curry patta

2 bay leaves

4 plum tomatoes pureed

1 bunch of cilantro

1 tablespoon of roasted cumin powder

Mustard oil


  • Heat 3 tablespoons of mustard oil (or any oil of your choice)
  • Add 1 black cardamom, 4-5 cloves, 1-2 pieces of cinnamon bark and about half of the curry leaves.

  • Add the chopped onions and cook for 10 minutes till the onions are browned.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of garlic and ginger and sauté for about 10 minutes.

  • Add ¾ teaspoon of turmeric and salt to taste.
  • Add the chopped chicken and mix well.
  • Add 4-5 teaspoons of fresh ground pepper and chili powder to taste.

  • Mix well and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes.
  • Add 4 pureed tomatoes and mix well.
  • Cook uncovered for another 20 minutes on medium heat.

  • Add 1 tablespoon of roasted cumin powder and cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot with white rice, dosas or aapams

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