I am writing this post after a really long time and the reason for this is I am back in India for a few days. 😀 My first few weeks in India were spent visiting families, meeting relatives and enjoying the rains and now I’m visiting my parents and making an attempt to learn those traditional Maharashtrian food from my Mum. I hail from the coastal regions of Maharashtra where coconut is used in abundance while cooking. Ironically the one thing I found difficult while cooking was the use of coconut. I did not know how much of it is to be used, do we use the dried coconut (known as kopra / khobra here) or the fresh coconut etc etc. So today I decided to spend sometime learning the much famous coconut based masala which forms a base for most of the coastal Maharashtrian cooking and is extremely delicious. Although the ingredients seem a lot, they are not hard to source. Moreover, this masala can be prepped in advance and used as a base for a number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes. My favorite recipe with this masala blend is the Malvani Chicken curry.
This chicken curry has been a staple in my house since my childhood. Often even requested by guests when we have them over for lunch or dinner. Since it can be prepped in advance, this recipe does not require a lot of efforts. The cooking technique is the key here, although it is not complex, we have to be careful while cooking the masala blend else we may risk burning it 😛 . Also the spice levels here can be easily controlled, so if you are not a fan of chilly or hot spices, you can give that a miss and still make a delicious gravy.
The base flavor for this recipe is roasted coconut and roasted onions. In earlier days, when food would be prepared on traditional hearths, onions and dried coconuts would be roasted whole in the fire before being ground on mortar into a fine paste. The smokiness of the hearth would add on to the flavor of this masala but we can try our best to replicate those flavors but roasting these ingredients. You can still roast the onions and coconuts whole on a barbecue grill to get similar results but I would suggest you start with roasting them in a pan to get the flavor right before experimenting with barbecue.
Here I finely chopped dried coconut and onions before roasting them individually in a pan till they developed a fine golden hue.
The other spices I used here were fennel seeds, coriander seeds, whole cardamon, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, a bit of cinnamon & cumin seeds. Which were roasted too on mild heat till they turned fragrant. A pro-tip here would be to add a touch of ghee to the pan before roasting these spices as this will add an additional kick to the flavor of these spices. If you love some heat in your food you can also roast a couple of whole dried red chilies with the spices.
The Chicken used here does not require any special preparations. It can be marinated in yogurt, salt, ginger garlic paste and lime for just 30 minutes prior to cooking or even a day before for more juicier gravy.
I started off with marinating the chicken and roasting the spices, onions and dried coconut for the Malvani Masala. Once roasted, I ground the spices, onions and dried coconut together into a fine paste adding just a bit of water for better texture.
I then tempered some hot oil with one bay leaf, one finely chopped onion and a teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste. Once the onions had softened, I added one chopped tomato, covered the mixture and let it cook till it was all tender. Once the onions and tomatoes were softened and cooked, I added in the marinated chicken, a tablespoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of turmeric powder and cooked till the spices coated the chicken well. I then covered and cooked the chicken for another 5 minutes before adding in the Malvani Masala Paste made earlier. At this stage I also added in around 100 ml of warm water to add some texture to my gravy. I then covered the gravy and let it cook for another 15 minutes before the chicken was cooked through and ready to serve.
Pro-tip – if you have some ground Garam Masala powder at home, sprinkle a teaspoon of it over the gravy once you switch off the heat on the gravy before topping it off with fresh coriander.
Serve warm with fresh rotis and steamed rice.
Malvani Masala Blend
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 Star Anise
- 2-3 whole Green Cardamom Pods
- 2-3 Cloves
- 5-6 Peppercorns
- 2 dried Red Chillies (optional)
- 2 whole chopped onions
- 3/4 cup dried grated coconut or fresh grated coconut
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped coriander for garnishing
- Marinate chicken with the yogurt, 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste, lime juice and salt and keep aside for at least 30 minutes (this can be done a day in advance too).
- Roast the onions and dried coconut from the Malvani Masala list, separately till it turns golden
- Add half a teaspoon of ghee to the pan and once heated add in the spices (coriander, fennel, cumin, star anise, cardamon, cloves, peppercorns and chilies) and saute till they are roasted and fragrant.
- Grind the onions, coconut and spices together to form a paste.
- In a pan, heat oil and add one bay leaf to it. Add in the chopped onion and 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste and saute till the onions have softened.
- Add in the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes have softened.
- Add in the marinated chicken, chili powder and turmeric powder and mix well till the spices have coated the chicken well. Cover and cook for around 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Add in the ground Malvani Masala blend, cover the chicken well with it and add 100 ml of warm water to blend the spices well.
- Cover and cook for another 15-20 mins on medium heat till the chicken is well cooked through.
- Sprinkle the gravy with a teaspoon of garam masala powder, freshly chopped coriander and serve warm with fresh rotis and steamed rice.
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