Recipe courtesy of Maya Kaimal

Chicken Kurma

Kurma is a creamy, mild curry from North India. This is the Kerala Muslim version of the northern classic, taught to me by a Mappila woman named Haseena Sadick. Her version has rich, layered flavors, and it's thickened with a coconut and cashew paste.
  • Yield: Serves 6
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1/4 cup grated unsweetened coconut

1 1/2 tablespoons raw cashew pieces

1 tablespoon white poppy seeds (optional)

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots or onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced ginger

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh green chilies (serrano or Thai)

1 cup chopped tomato

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish

Ground masala:

6 teaspoons coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Garam Masala (see below)

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Garam Masala:

4 whole pieces star anise

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground clove

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. In a mini food processor or blender combine the coconut, cashews, poppy seeds, and 1/3 cup water. Grind thoroughly to form a smooth paste like pesto. (A mini processor works best for this.) Set aside.
  2. In a wide deep pan heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Fry 1 cup of the shallots until light brown. Stir in the garlic, ginger, green chili, and fry for 1 minute. Add the tomato, 3 tablespoons cilantro, ground masala, Garam Masala, salt, and 1/2 cup water; fry until the tomato breaks down and forms a paste.
  3. Add the yogurt and stir until it dissolves. Add the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Fry the remaining 1/2 cup shallots in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until very brown and crisp. Remove them to a plate.
  5. Add the coconut and cashew paste to the chicken and simmer for 10 more minutes. Check the salt.

Garam Masala:

  1. Place the star anise in a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Measure out 2 teaspoonfuls, reserving the rest for another use.
  2. Grind the fennel seeds in the coffee grinder to form a fine powder.
  3. Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight jar away from the light. It will keep for 6 months.
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