Thursday, August 12, 2010

Virudhunagar Pepper Chicken

Viruthunagar a bustling little business town where all the farmers come from the near by villages with their produce such as toordal (Yellow split peas), sesame seeds,dried red chilies and other fresh produce which are then sent to other places country wide and exported to many parts of the world.

The buzz and the activity in the market and the old world charm of this town is really a beauty to watch while you walk through the crowded bazaar enticing aroma wafts through from the sweet stall were little children reach to the sweet vendor to buy their favorite sweet treats

moving on sweet smell of flowers attracts you to a flower vendor who spins his fingers in a fast paced action making beautiful garlands. Love the smell of fragrant roses, jasmine transcends you to a different world, close by the chimes of bell from a temple adds more to the experience.

Moving on to the next few shops which sell banana leaves, most eateries in South India uses banana leaves to serve food. It is customary and also considered auspicious. I met a fourth generation coconut vendor who taught me the nuances about how to check coconut just by hitting it with your thumb and index finger motion(the way we do while playing carom) and how every part of the coconut tree is of use and that's why its called the Kalpavriksha

The next shop was a that of a rice and lentil vendor where you get the best rice and lentil varieties. You get to smell and feel and taste raw kernels of rice and lentils.

A street side shop with a huge array of small utensils was an interesting add.I had picked up a few useful tools including a small sickle which helps in removing hard coconut with great ease.

Heading into what attracted me to this town is the all famous 'Burma Kadai ' ennai parotta , pepper chicken and salna (a fragrant coconut based gravy) .The shop is run by a fourth generation Burmese Immigrant family and all they have done is to provide simple food to hundreds of people who come into town everyday to do business.

The parotta is a bread made with all purpose flour and shallow fried in fragrant ,fresh Gingelly oil, which is readily available in the local oil press. The parotta is then smashed between the palms to make it flaky and a generous ladle of salna along with the pepper chicken is just what you need after a long walk through the crowded bazaar and a grumbling stomach

Pepper Chicken


chicken leg or thighs (skin less)- 1kg (cut in bite size pieces)
tamarind - 1 golf ball size (soaked in warm water)
black peppercorns- 3tbsp
cumin-1 tbsp
fennel seeds- 1tsp
coriander seeds- 2tbsp
gingelly oil- 3tbsp
asofetida- 1 tsp
ginger- 1tsp (chopped)
green chili- 4 nos (cut into pieces)
curry leaves- hand full
onion- 500g (sliced)
fresh coriander(cilantro)- 1/2 bunch (chopped)
salt- to taste

Masala(Spice mix)
Toast the peppercorns on a slow flame till it starts popping and the aroma fills the kitchen continue adding the coriander seeds and keep stirring till it turns golden brown, add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook a further two to three minutes and remove from the flame. Rest the spices and blend it coarse in a spice blender or a mortar and pestle.

Pepper Chicken
1. Soak tamarind warm water and remove the pulp.
2. Marinate the chicken pieces with the tamarind pulp and a touch of salt for a minimum of two hours overnight will be ideal.

3. Heat gingelly oil in a pan and add the sliced onions and sauté it on a slow flame till golden brown add the green chili, asofetida and curry leaves and chopped cilantro, continue cooking.

4. Add the half of the spice powder to the onion mixture and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes. Keep stiring and ensure the flame is low.
S5. Add the chicken marinated in tamarind pulp and continue cooking till the chicken is soft and add the rest of the spice powder and salt continue cooking for another 5 minutes and remove from the flame and enjoy with some parotta or a bowl of steamed rice and sambhar.


Most of my cooking will call for slow toasted spices (masalas) stone ground spices adds a punch to the dish.

Add more black peppercorns if you would like to increase the tingling touch in the chicken.

For vegetarians please go ahead and try it out with your favorite vegetables or paneer.

Gingelly oil is raw sesame oil and has many health benefits.

To know about the goodness behind this spice read The Power of Pepper by my friend Sarah Khan

King's Meal
Till then
Keep Guessing!!!