Karwar chicken curry-country style, served with mung dal kichidi

Updated: Jun 24

Karwar is a small costal town in the state of Karnataka that played an important role in history during the Maratha rule. It was also an important as a port, a fort and center for trade during the Portuguese and East India Company rule on India. Today it os a resort town known for eco-tourism and beautiful beaches.

The food of Karwar is complex and spicy! The town is situated on a delta between the ocean and the Kali River, the food is loaded with coconut, and the local Bydagi chili, bright red and fiery. The cuisine is also characterised by the plethora of spices, nutmeg, cardamom, poppy seeds, black peppercorns, and so much more, complex yet in perfectly harmony.

This chicken curry is no exception. Loaded with coconut, fresh and desiccated), a complex mix of spices and lots of byadgi chilies. The chicken was fall off the bone tender, the curry spicy and the color a beautiful flaming red. This is a curry I can make often. As a note, you can substitute the red Kashmiri chilies for this dish, but the flavor and color are different, it is still wonderful.

I served this with a wonderful kichidi instead of rice. I got tired of boring kichidis a few years and have developed a few recipes. This is one that is made with roasted split green mung dal and brown rice tempered with cumin seeds and lots of turmeric. The mellow and flavorful kichidi tempers and balances the spicy curry beautifully.

This is a very specialised cookbook on Karwar cuisine that i adore. The food is intense and authentic, every recipe that I have cooked from here is absolutely delicious. I really have no memory of where and when I bought this cookbook, but I am so glad it sits on my shelf. I highly recommend this cookbook to those who want to master and enjoy this very unique cuisine.



For the curry:

For the curry paste:

1/2 cup fresh grated coconut, frozen ok

1/4 cup desiccated powdered coconut

1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 green chilies, sliced, or to taste

1/2 bunch cilantro, minced

1 tablespoon garlic paste

1 tablespoon ginger paste

3 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons oil


8 cloves

1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

15 black peppercorns

4-5 green cardamom pods

1 black cardamom

12-15 whole bydagi chiles, or other chilies, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

A pinch nutmeg


For the Chicken:

2 lbs chicken, legs, thighs, breasts or any combination

1 onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons ghee

Cilnatro, minced to garnish


For the kichidi:

1 cup split green mung beans, washed and drained

1 cup brown rice, washed and drained

1 onion, finely minced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons ghee

Salt to taste

Water, as required


To make the kichidi:

Heat the ghee in a pot or in the Instapot and add the cumin seeds. Sauté for 30 seconds till lightly colored. Add the turmeric and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the mung beans and sauté on medium heat till the mung beans are roasted and browned, about 3-4 minutes. They must smell aromatic. Add the rice, salt and water (till the first joint on your index finger) and cook as you would lentils, I cook them in the Instapot on the "beans" setting. The kichidi should come out sticky and the brown rice adding a wonderful bite.


For the curry paste:

Toast the wet coconut on a dry pan on low heat till a rich brown color, be careful not to burn the coconut. Most grated fresh coconut is uneven in size, so the low flame allows the larger pieces to also get toasted. Don’t worry if the coconut is not evenly browned. Set aside in a large bowl.

Toast the desiccated coconut as above. Add to the roasted coconut.


Add the 3 tablespoons oil and fry the sliced onions till a rich brown color. Add the chilies, ginger paste, garlic paste and cilantro and fry till browned well. Add to the roasted coconut.

On a dry frying pan roast all the whole spices individually till lightly colored and fragrant. Collect the roasted spices and powdered nutmeg in a separate bowl and cool. Grind to a fine powder in a coffee or spice mill. Add to the roasted coconut bowl.

Add all the ingredients in the bowl to a blender with some water and purée to a very fine paste. This may take some time so be patient. You want just enough water to allow the paste to slide down the sides of the grinder, not a very watery paste.Set aside.

In a small sauce pan add the second 3 tablespoons oil and sauté the ground spice mix over a medium low flame till the curry paste looses all the water and turns a beautiful red-brown color, and the oil begins to separate out of the paste, about 15-20. Be patient, this is the critical step in this curry.

in a large pot, add the ghee and sauté the minced onions on a medium to low flame till browned. Add the chicken and turn the heat up to medium and sauté the chicken till browned. You may need to do this in two batches if your pot is not large enough. Overcrowding the pot will cause the chicken to stew and not get fried and sealed. When the chicken is browned, add the spice mix, turn the heat down to low and sauté the spices till they cling on to the chicken heavily. Be careful not to burn the spice mix.

Add enough water to cover the chicken and salt, stir to mix the paste into the water to form a smooth curry. Allow the curry to simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring once in between. The final curry should be thin, spicy and should have a layer of oil floating on top. Taste and adjust salt as per your palate.

Serve with the kichidi. Note: I find this curry delicious, but too rich. I generally make this curry a day ahead and put it in the fridge overnight. The oil coagulates on top of the curry and can be scooped off.

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