Chicken Varuval is a Southern Indian dish originally from the region of Chettinad. This spicy dry-fried chicken is easy to prepare but promises a hearty dish which goes well with rice. A quick warning, this dish has large amounts of chilies in it and will make you sneeze when frying. It’s meant to be a dry style curry that’s jam packed with flavour and incredibly fragrant.
The inspiration for this dish came from dinner at the home I grew up in Malaysia. My mom used to make this for us a fair bit. She was very good at cooking Indian cuisine which she learnt from an old Indian lady who looked after me as a kid and would feed me curries when I was 2. We’d have it with rice and raita. As any typical Malaysian family, we’d mix cultures and would have it with a plate of stir fried choy sum or something similar. My mom believed in having a balanced meal so we would always have some carbs, protein and vegetables on the dinner table, but it was always a mish mash of cultures.
Chicken varuval is also served in Indian restaurants across Malaysia. There’s a roti man making the dosas and parathas, whilst the curries are kept warm in a bain marie ready to be served anytime of the day.
I would only serve this dish to those who can handle their spice. Reducing the spiciness just doesn’t make it authentic anymore. I love cooking this dish especially when my Australian boyfriend eats it and starts crying! Hahah! This is why I usually have some raita on the side, which I make by mixing together some plain yoghurt, lime juice, salt and finely diced onions and cucumber. Sometimes I’ll add pineapple if I have some handy.
- 1 chicken, cut into bite size pieces
- 10 dried chilies, cut into half, seeds removed and soaked in water for 10 mins
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 5 cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp meat curry powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- Combine ingredients for marinade and then add in the chicken. Mix really well and let it set in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Heat up some oil over medium heat, then fry the chicken until golden brown. Remove chicken from the oil and set it aside.
- Remove most of the oil from the frying pan, leaving about 2 tbsp of oil. Add the shallots and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant and lightly brown.
- Add in the curry leaves, dried chilies and spices. Continue to stir fry until fragrant.
- Add in chili powder and toast it in the oil for a few seconds. Add salt and sugar, followed by the chicken. Continue to turn and toss until chicken is fully coated. If it is too dry, add in 1 or 2 tbsp of water at a time. Finally, add in the black pepper. Mix well.
- Remove from heat and serve the chicken varuval with rice and some raita.
Check out the links below for more of Diana Chan’s recipes, or read here interview here.