Pepper chicken curry, more commonly known as pepper chicken masala, is a poultry dish that is native to South Indian Cuisine. It is spicy, flavourful, and aromatic thanks to the freshly ground spice mix that is often used. Unlike most other South Indian/Sri-Lankan curries, the heat comes from the freshly ground black peppercorns rather than red chilli peppers. This dish can be served as a starter with naan as you will find in many restaurants or as a main accompanied by rice. When I make this dish, I tend to serve it as a main with basmati rice, a quick salad, and an omelette. It is a simple dish, yet it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to flavour.
There are many different versions of this dish. My version doesn’t use garam masala, cardamoms, or cloves as I find the aroma of these spices overpower the aroma of the pepper. Instead I use one whole cinnamon stick which nicely compliments the aroma of freshly ground black pepper. Like with any recipe, you have the option of adapting it to suit your tastes and that of your family.
Pepper Chicken RECIPE
- 1 whole chicken, skinned and cut into medium-size pieces
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 10 dried red chillies
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 1.5 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 sprigs curry leaves, washed
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 stick cinnamon, broken in two
- 1 Tbsp ginger paste (or freshly grated ginger)
- 3-4 Tbsp oil (I used sesame seed oil)
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- fresh curry leaves for garnish
- In a pan, dry roast the dried red chillies, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns on med-low heat until the spices turn aromatic and a shade darker. The roasting process releases the oils found in the spices allowing for the best flavour and aroma possible. Once the spices have been roasted and cooled, grind them into a fine powder. Use a fine-mesh sieve if necessary to make sure the curry powder has been well ground.
- In a bowl, combine the chicken pieces, turmeric, salt, and curry powder. Let stand for half hour.
- Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon stick, curry leaves, and onions. Stir often to prevent the onions from burning. Once the onion turns translucent and golden, add the ginger. Cook for a minute before adding the tomatoes.
- Add the marinated chicken pieces in the pot and pour the coconut milk atop. Add salt and give the contents of the pot a quick stir. Cover and let cook on medium heat for about 25 minutes or until chicken is done cooking.
- Remove the lid and cook the curry until very little liquid remains. Adjust salt if need be and top with freshly ground pepper and fresh curry leaves.
- Always roast the spices before making your own curry mixes and powders to achieve the best flavour and aroma possible. When roasting spices, always roast on medium-low heat and stir often to prevent burning of the spices.
- If using a non-stick pan, the amount of oil that is called for in this recipe can be reduced. I used a ceramic-coated pot to cook the chicken. If you are using a pot that sticks, make sure to stir every so often.
- This dish is great paired with freshly made rice, salad, and a masala omelette.
- If this dish seems too spicy for you, simply reduce the amount of black peppercorns and red chillies that are called for in this recipe.