Chicken ishtoo

An Ishtoo (aka Estew, Eshtu, Ishtu, Istoo) is the bastardization of the tradition English (or Irish) stew brought to India by the British. The almost bland English version was adapted by the Indians, and the colonials in India, to include chilies, spices and coconut milk as the base. The essence of the dish was transformed to a delicate stew with flavors and aromas. The Kerala stew in particular is mild, lightly scented and beautifully flavored with a hint of chili.

This version also borrows from northern cuisine in the use of fried onions and ghee. This adaptation is due to the influence of the Mughal cooking techniques that depended heavily on onions based gravies. However, the stew does stay true to the South Indian roots, it is delicate, lightly flavored and with a thick coconut base. The stew is wonderful, the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, the flavors subtle and it is perfect with appams. Aklso check out thos delicious Mixed vegetarian ishtoo on this blog.

This South Indian cookbook brings to my shelf the unique cuisine of the Chettinad Tamils in South India. This, now popular cuisine, is known to be extremely spicy, complex and distinct. This book is a wonderful collection of recipes that makes this cuisine accessible to us at home.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


3 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 one-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-4 green chilies, cut lengthwise into half, or to taste

1 tablespoon ginger paste

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

9-10 shallots, peeled and left whole

12-15 curry leaves

1 lb chicken drumsticks, or cut of choice