Jan 20, 2014

Kerala style Chicken Stew

For Christmas eve last year, I decided to have a potluck dinner with some good friends. While planning the menu for our party I knew that Appam with Chicken Stew had to be there. I absolutely love the combo and trust me once you try it you'll also fall in love with this combo.

In keralite christian households, Appam with Stew combo is usually served for breakfast on special occasions, specially Christmas (The stew can be made of veggies, chicken, mutton etc). Chicken stew is also called as Chicken Ishtoo in Kerala (I'm not sure if the colloquial pronunciation makes it sound like that) and is prepared by stewing the chicken with plenty of spices, with/without veggies along with three stages of coconut milk. Traditionally 1 or 2 coconuts are freshly grated and this is squeezed tightly with hands or within a cheese cloth and thick coconut milk is strained out from it (this is first stage). Then some water is added to the remaining strained coconut and the second stage of coconut milk is squeezed out. Finally again some more water is added and the third stage of coconut milk is squeezed out , which is the most dilute form of coconut milk.  These three stages of coconut milk is used for the preparation of this stew....But I haven't done any of this, just used 1 can of coconut milk and used it to mock the three stages of coconut milk and prepared the stew. No matter how it's prepared, it's simply superb and a must try dish.

And Chicken Stew is best served with Paalappam....soft spongy and lacy Appams dunked in creamy flavorful Chicken stew is a must savored dish and I urge you all to try it. Usually I make Potato stew or add boiled eggs to the potato stew whenever I make Appam, but special occasions call for special dishes :-)

For our Christmas party night, Manish went and got this gorgeous Christmas ornament wreath and beautiful White roses and I felt they need to be shared here...the sparkly Christmas trees were a gift from me to him for our wedding anniversary and it all added to the deco of the party!!

And lil'Appu wasted no time in enjoying the gorgeous rosy fragrance from the beautiful Roses... :-)

Oh and before I forget, I wanted to share a mishap that occurred while I made Chicken stew for our Christmas potluck dinner...I'm usually very picky about the stores from where I buy certain produce, specially non-veg, but due to certain other commitments I did not get time to go to my regular store and instead had to buy the chicken from a different store. Anyways, I thought it should be fine and went ahead and started making my chicken stew for our dinner. But even after cooking the damn thing for almost 2 hrs I realize that the chicken I bought was terrible....it was rubbery and chewy and absolutely inedible. With a broken heart and completely panic struck I shared my plight with Manish, who was being a darling helping out with cleaning up the house. Well he was in no mood to go out (just few hours before the party), but then that would mean no chicken stew for dinner, he wasn't planning to let that happen :-P So he finally went to my usual trusted store and got some fresh chicken and I dumped the entire chicken stew I initially prepared straight into the trash **sigh** And then I went ahead at lightning speed to make it again and get it ready before our dinner...phew!!
Lesson learnt: No matter your commitments, buy your produce from trusted stores before the day of a party....experiment on other days :-D

You have seen now what it looks like, now go ahead and make it yourself and know how it tastes too :-)
I like to add some veggies in my stew for some color. Sometimes I also like to add fried cashew nuts and raisins and/or fried onions but its all personal choice. I like to mildly spice up my stew which is why it looks mild brown shaded.

Kerala style Chicken Stew

You’ll Need
Whole skinless, bone-in Chicken (cut into medium sized pieces) – 1 kg
Initial spice mix
Butter – 1 Tblsp
Cinnamon – Two 1 “ sticks
Green Cardamom – 3 or 4
Cloves – 3 or 4
Whole black peppercorns – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
Star Anise – 1
Bay leaves – 1
Remaining ingredients
Red Onion (sliced or cubed) – 1 large or 2 medium
Green chillies (split lengthwise) – 2
Ginger (thinly sliced) – 1“ piece
Garlic (thinly sliced) - 4 cloves
Curry leaves – 8 - 10
Carrot (cubed) – 1 medium
Potato (cubed) – 1 medium (russet or gold)
Green peas – ¼ cup (optional) {I like it for the color it adds}
Corriander powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 ½  tsp
Can of Coconut milk (14 oz) – 1
Salt – to taste

1. If using Canned coconut milk, do not shake it, instead open it and scoop out the thick coconut cream from the top (1st coconut milk). Then pour about ½ cup of the coconut milk in a separate bowl (2nd coconut milk) and to the remaining coconut milk add ½ cup water and keep aside (3rd coconut milk) .
2. In a large cooking pan, heat the butter and as it melts add all the spice mix ingredients and sauté until you can smell the aroma of the spices (be careful not to burn)
3.  Next add in the onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies and curry leaves along with a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft.
4.  Then add the potato, carrots, green peas and Chicken pieces along with the 3rd coconut milk with enough salt and cover and let it cook on medium-low heat until chicken is almost cooked. Can stir in between.
5.  To the 2nd coconut milk mix, add the garam masala and coriander powder, mix without lumps and add it to the stew. Again cover and cook until the chicken is fully cooked and is bone-tender (i.e, comes apart easily when pulled)
6.  Finally take the 1st coconut milk (coconut cream), give it a stir. Lower the heat to low and add the coconut cream to the stew. Stir well and turn off the heat. Enjoy with hot lacy Appams…

Some suggestions:
1. There is no need to add any water for the gravy as the chicken itself will have enough moisture while it cooks and then there’s coconut milk, however if you feel gravy is less after the initial cooking, then add some more water to the 2nd coconut milk mix along with spice powders.
2. You can add fried cashew nuts, fried raisins and/or fried onion to the stew.
3. I like my stew to have a bit of spice, so sometimes I add crushed black peppercorns as well, about 2 tsp. Its purely optional though.
4. You can make the stew with just chicken and potatoes if you don’t want any other veggies, but they add color and it's good for you :-)
5. If you have the patience to grate fresh coconut and squeeze out the 1st, 2nd and 3rd coconut milk as its traditionally done in Kerala, be my guest. That would result in a supreme Chicken Stew!

Hope you all are tempted by now to prepare this dish...do try it out and let me know. My lil'Appu really loved the dish as it was mild on spice and of course the chicken and veggies are soft and yummy! So it's very kid friendly as well. 

Have a lovely week ahead you all...see you all soon!



  1. we always make potato ishtu (and yes, it is colloquial!!!) for our vellapams, i've always wanted to make it with chicken or mutton, and then umma comments, "pachakkari maathramaavan sammadikkole?' hehe... ur pic is really tempting me to go ahead and make it one of these days, hopefully... good to see a stew which is not whitish... :)

  2. My daughter, nephew and niece all love stew like lil appu... like you said I think it because it not too spicy... Your stew pictures made me real hungry... Wish I could devour a plate of appam and stew now !!!
    I also always add carrot potato and peas to stew... :)

  3. When ever I happen to visit Delhi, I never miss out on Appams and Chicken Stew at Swagath restaurant. Your chicken sounds perfect and those appams so fluffy. All I can say is irresistible!

  4. I love stew and yours looks really delicious! and its sure making me hungry. Oh my little one loves it too

  5. Manju, this is such a great recipe!! Love it and bookmarked :)

  6. All the recipes look nice and mouthwatering ...cheers!!

  7. Chicken Stew looks absolutely delicious Manju, tempting pics of Appam & chicken stew. I'm sure little Appu would have devoured it happily, kids here love all kind of stew as they are not much spicy :)
    I totally agree to buy Non-veg from trusted stores, Halal meat allathe ividathe groceries store-ile chicken just sucks, ethra nalla reethiyil cook cheythalum kollathilla alle ;)

  8. Last minute mishaps are killing especially when the preparation is for a party :( Anyway you tackled it well...the appam and curry looks yum. My family prefers chicken stew over egg, so I made it whenever I made appams...love to have some now..

  9. I can understand the panic situation at the eleventh hr of the party....anyway u r so made it up well dear....n seeing the istoo pics... I'm falling on it...really drooling dear........irresistible......This motivated me to do it asap......

  10. Ahh..the chicken stew looks perfect ... and ya they are a must for special occasions like Xmas with appam.....kothiyavunnu...

    I would not have been myself if I ruin something at the last moment esp. to be served for guests ... u really had the patience to make it again ...good job there.. Ha ha...ur little one is so deeply enjoying the fragrance ... u got that captured at the right moment.

  11. Your hubby is a gem to go out to get more chicken. I also only buy fresh food/meat from a few stores I trust. The stew looks amazing and I know it tasted wonderful. Enjoyed all your Christmas decorations. :)

  12. palappam + Chicken stew...my fav....enikku vayya....drooling....feel like having it right now!!!

  13. I love this...ad am going to prepare it for my boyfriend am sure he'll love it..celebrating my first pregnancy

    1. Congrats on ur first pregnancy and I hope you and your boyfriend liked this dish.

  14. I love it ad am preparing it for my boyfriend

  15. I love this recipe. One of my favorites. Thank you for sharing this.


  16. I seem to be the only one who actually cooked it. Here is proof https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kxi_wJvHKt48zohMTyiUCpFVtlrp3tmJPQ/view?usp=sharing However something was missing in its tste. My wife thinks it is because there is no red chilli powder, nor is the coriander combined correctly.

    1. HI Anil Philip,
      Thank you for trying the recipe and sharing your feedback. I generally never add red chilli powder to my chicken stew preparation and the corriander powder and garam masala is just sprinkled on top for a mild flavor. Most of the flavor in the stew comes from the whole spices and ginger-garlic and ofcourse the chicken and coconut milk. Infact in most traditional recipes you will notice that no masala powders are added at all except black pepper :-) But do feel free to adjust as per your taste.


    2. I think normaly in stew v dont use corriander & garam masala.. usually stew has very lite yellow gravy.. sorry i havnt tried ur recipe..will definitely try..

  17. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. Your method of using Canned Coconut milk makes it such an easy cook. I made it today and served it with steamed rice. My husband and I absolutely loved it!

  18. I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!


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