Chicken Varuval Recipe by Diana Chan

Chicken Varuval by Diana Chan
Chicken Varuval by Diana Chan

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

Serves: 4



  1. 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.
  2. Heat up some oil over medium heat, then fry the chicken until golden brown. Remove chicken from the oil and set it aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Add in the curry leaves, dried chilies and spices. Continue to stir fry until fragrant.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Ayam Percik (Barbecued Spiced Chicken)

Baby Octopus Sambal

Flourless Lemon Yogurt Cake

Red Emperor Assam Pedas

Diana Chan

Guest Chef

Diana Chan is a Malaysian-born Australian chartered accountant and celebrity cook. She is the winner of MasterChef Australia for 2017 and currently works with children through food education via the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. Diana loved cooking from a very young age and she learnt a lot through both her parents, but it was only when she moved to Melbourne that her interest grew as she discovered the farmers’ markets that supplied plenty of fresh and local produce from around Australia. She developed her own cooking style, which combined some of the hallmarks of her parents’ styles - her mother’s fresh, herb-driven approach and her father’s love of seafood. Diana believes in creating wholesome, balanced and delicious meals incorporating fusion flavours and her future plans of opening her food concept is deep in the planning stages.

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