The Masala Dabba #4, our spice journey“Chili, spice of red Thursday, which is the day of reckoning. Day which invites us to pick up the sack of our existence and shake it inside out. Day of suicide, day of murder.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

Time for The Masala Dabba #4 & Chettinad Chicken Curry. Both very delayed yet finally here. This time I’m lagging behind royally. Chilies was the pick for the month of April, and we’re well into May now June.  I can’t say I didn’t try because I began writing this in May, but life happened! One month ran into another, time racing at an alarming pace. It was just yesterday, in January 2016, when we began the spice journey. June already! Really? Where did April and May go?Chilies from Karaikudi

Chettinad Chicken Curry Only me to blame even as I thought April was going to be the most explosive spice journey ever as Dolphia picked chilies. Just back refreshed from a very exciting trip from down south in Karaikudi {do read about it here}, chilies was all I had on my mind. The vibrancy of the region we had just visited added to it. Heritage, colour, culture, architecture, art, cuisine, shopping…Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaAs I rather belatedly enter month #4 of our collaborative spice journey exploring or rather ‘shooting’ spices, a fun interaction with Dolphia, Simi, Meeta and me, April was for chilies. I really love the spice journey and the stories it carries with it. Personal tales, heritage recipes, travelogues and all sorts of inspiration that connect us as community. My story this time comes from Karaikudi, a region deep in the heart of South India.Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaOur stay at Chidambara Vilas, then a masterclass on world famous Chettinad Chicken Curry, stops at other heritage properties in the region and local market jaunts,  that included shopping for guntu chilies, inspires this post. Not least, my companions in crime, the two vegetarian bloggers Sanjeeta and Madhuli, who were more than ready to dive into chicken curry as the chef stirred it up, chilies and all!Gundu Chilies from Karaikudi This is just what Chettinad cuisine is all about, freshness and simple local flavour. Pure delight – the aromas of whole spices and shallots hitting hot oil, the curry leaves crackling, the colours, fresh simple ingredients, the location an outdoor heritage courtyard kitchen, the company, the curry! Sunset, Chidambaram Vilas, Karaikudi, Chettinad, South IndiaThe women of the Chettinad community were instrumental to managing the vast estates and running kitchens, often while the men were away. {More about the region here}. Easily available local spices and ingredients, traditional cooking methods and a deep interest in food led to a vast repertoire of recipes collectively called Chettinad cuisine. Chettinad Chicken Curry, Masterclass @ Chidambara Vilas, KaraikudiChettinad chicken is the regions most popular export to the culinary world, and it was nowhere fiery and spicy as I believed. A traditional recipe, it’s made with very basic ingredients. Spice mixes from roasted spices, ginger, garlic, shallots, tomatoes, curry leaves and coconut paste. Red chilies of course! Chilies from Karaikudi Shooting spices is therapeutic, inspiring and always fun. I mean, can you not fall in love with an ingredient that promises so much colour, character, variety and texture? Consider the fact that there are as many uses as varieties around the world and the charm multiplies! I’m thinking chili chocolate. Mmmm…Chilies from KaraikudiCooking curry is equally therapeutic and fun. You just need a basic recipe in your head, then go about throwing in as much spice, or as little, as you like. Taste as you go. I do loads of North Indian chicken curries at home, so this authentic South Indian one was even more engaging. Chettinad Chicken Curry Of course I deviated here and there. Bay leaves tossed in, fresh mint tossed over. That’s just the charm of curries. Follow your palate.Chettinad Chicken Curry

Chettinad Chicken Curry
Print Recipe
Chettinad Chicken Curry; mildly hot, tangy and finger licking good. Simple basic pantry staples and a coconut paste ​​make for a hearty good curry. This is my rendition of the curry we learnt at the masterclass.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Chettinad Chicken Curry
Print Recipe
Chettinad Chicken Curry; mildly hot, tangy and finger licking good. Simple basic pantry staples and a coconut paste ​​make for a hearty good curry. This is my rendition of the curry we learnt at the masterclass.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
750g chicken on the bone, cut into 12 pieces {skinless}
Spice 1 / Dry mix
1 tsp ginger paste
Spice 2 / Coconut paste
Servings: people
  1. First make the spice mixes. These can be doubled, and/or made in advance. Store the dry mic=x in a cool place, and the wet mix in the fridge for 2-3 days, else freeze.
  2. Spice mix 1 / Dry mix
  3. Roast the fennel, cumin seeds, red chili, coriander seeds and pepper gently over low heat until fragrant. Dry grind. Reserve in bowl.
  4. Spice mix 2 / Coconut paste
  5. Roast the cashew nuts, coriander seeds, cumin, red chilies, fennel and black pepper gently over low heat until fragrant. Grind to a smooth paste with ginger, garlic and grated coconut. Reserve.
  6. Heat the oil in large heavy bottom pan or wok. Add cinnamon stick, star anise and fennel, followed by curry leaves. Give it a good stir and add the shallots. Sauté until the shallots are golden brown and fragrant.
  7. Add Spice Mix 1 {dry masala mix}, ginger paste, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Stir well and cook until the tomatoes are soft, stirring once in a while.
  8. Add the chicken pieces and stir well to coat them with the spices, followed by crushed garlic. Add a little water, about a cup, stir well, season with salt and simmer until the chicken is cooked.
  9. Now stir in the coconut paste or Spice Mix 2, fresh coriander. Garnish with fresh coriander {or mint as I did}
  10. Serve hot with rice or chapatis, paratha, naan, tandoori roti etc.
Share this Recipe

“1 mobile kitchen, 9 cities, 10 chefs and 15 food brands on a 365-day gastronomic journey.”
Singapore TakeOut

Singapore Take Out, New Delhi New Delhi marks the seventh stop for the Singapore Takeout on its nine-city world tour.  It has already delighted diners in London, Paris, Moscow, New York, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. I was glad to be part of this novel concept, a fun afternoon with live cooking and delicious food, made even more interesting with a good bunch of food bloggers from Delhi. In the picture below – Apeksha, Rituparna Chef Benjamin Seck, me, Parul, Rekha. Also met up with talented fun non-food bloggers like Purba and Prateik.

Photo courtesy Prateik @ Snow Leapards BlogPhoto courtesy Prateik @ Snow Leapards Blog

The event was an exclusive preview and luncheon for the media to a taste of sensational Singapore-inspired food from the Singapore Takeout, a mobile pop-up kitchen concept that unfoldsor should we say, transforms, from what looks like an ordinary shipping container.Singapore Take Out, New Delhi In each city, Singapore’s most innovative and internationally celebrated chefs work side-by-side a talent from each respective destination, whipping up dishes that are so unique, so special, and so incredibly delicious, you’ll be left speechless and wanting more! … Just what happened to me!Singapore Take Out, New Delhi From word go, from the time the container literally popped open with a state of the art kitchen fitted inside, it was a unique culinary experience, one that tantalised the palatte and left us wanting for more. It was an afternoon of inspired food, showcasing the best of Singapore celebrity Chef Benjamin Secks gastronomic expertise. He teamed up with two top chefs from ITC Hotels, Chef Manisha Bhasin and Chef Rajkamal Chopra, to serve up a mouth-watering selection of Singapore-inspired dishes. The result – delightful  renditions of Indian cuisine taken to delicious heights … fusion cooking at its best!Singapore Take Out, New DelhiChef Benjamin’s best-selling dish of Nyonya Prawn Curry with Roti Jalal (lacy pancakes) and his vegan rendition of Popiah Goreng (deep fried spring rolls) filled with cabbage and carrot, were excellent and left us longing for more. The sweet red chilli dip served alongside complimenting the spring rolls beautifully! The spiced prawn curry with the tender lacy pancakes were excellent, full of subtle flavours and spices. We were lucky to see a live demo of the pancakes, and I am happy to share the recipe below. Both dishes reflected the chefs Peranakan heritage and of the diverse cultures in Singapore.

Scampi and Lemongrass Ceviche & Chicken Tikka with NaanPhoto courtesy Prateik @ Snow Leapards Blog

Chef Manisha showcased Duet of Asian Inspired Antipasti, a dish featuring Scampi and Lemongrass Ceviche presented in a traditional methi dhania papdi shell. Accompanying it was ITC Maurya’s specialty Chicken Tikka marinated with Laksa paste to give it a Singapore twist and finished on a charcoal grill. Our tastebuds were screaming for more. The duet fabulous, one cold, one hot, the cold served with a piquant tamarind sauce while the warm tikka tender and moist; they made for a handsome bite indeed. The delicately flavoured tikka was served over a basil naan, the anitpasti plated by the chef herself with expertise that reflected her talent and passion. Laksa Pulao and Vegan Spring Rolls, Singapore take Out, New DelhiAs a flavourful finale, Chef Rajkamal recreated a vegetarian Laksa Pulao, which he showcased during the Singapore Takeout launch in Singapore in April 2011. I finished that bowl of pulao in a heartbeat. Even though I consider myself a small eater, I could have had another serving, it was that good. Each grain of rice separate, flavourful and in harmony with French beans tossed in a laksa curry paste. The touch of a seasoned chef came through in every bite, the spices light and endearing. The pulao was topped with a garlic raita and caramelised onions … a mouthwatering symphony of textures and flavours! Singapore Take Out, New Delhi

The Singapore Takeout is part of the Singapore International Culinary Exchange (SPICE) – an initiative helmed jointly by the International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and SPRING Singapore which champions Singapore’s cuisine, culinary talent and food products globally. “Singapore has come a long way in its culinary journey. The country is fast becoming a must-visit destination for all food lovers, providing inspiration for culinary talent and an environment which encourages fast and furious food innovation,” says Aw Kah Peng, Chief Executive of Singapore Tourism Board, “SPICE will spur this growth on through initiatives like the Singapore Takeout, where our local food and beverage talent will collaborate, exchange ideas, and network with their overseas counterparts.

Foodies can follow the Singapore Takeout journey on www.facebook.com/SingaporeEats.


[print_this]Recipe: Roti Jalal / Lacy Pancakes

Summary: Savoury Light lacy pancakes made from a flour and coconut milk batter. Serve with a prawn/chicken curry. A Nyonya cuisine recipe from Chef Benjamin Seck

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 drop yellow food colouring
  • 1 tbs rice flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Oil for frying


  1. Stir flour, rice flour and salt
  2. Beat eggs, water and coconut milk together.
  3. Incorporate the flour mixture before stirring in the egg yellow colouring. Allow the batter to rest for five minutes.
  4. Heat a flat based frying pan, brush some oil, and when hot pour the batter through a container with holes at the bottom, moving in circles to make a lacy pattern. {A tin can with holes works well here}
  5. Fold the pancakes into quarters and pile them one on top of the other


Download the new PAB iphone app Don’t miss a post
Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

%d bloggers like this: