Chicken with Curry Leaves from Andhra Pradesh (Kodi Gasi)

When I ordered The Essential Andhra Cookbook: with Hyderabadi and Telengana Specialities by Bilkees I. Latif I didn’t know much about this part of India (I even had to check on the map…) apart from the extensive use of my beloved curry leaves by its inhabitants. Now, having tested only one recipe from Ms Latif’s humble looking book, I know I have found a precious addition to my cooking library. This chicken dish might seem similar to any another Indian curry, but it is really unique. Like many Indian dishes I know, it’s packed with spices and laced with creamy coconut flavours, but it has a unique, clean touch and a tantalising new aroma I got quickly addicted to.

If you have never tasted curry leaves, they are small, highly aromatic and grow on Murraya koenigii trees. They are particularly popular in southern parts of India and, contrary to bay leaves, they are cooked fresh and are actually eaten. They are usually fried at the beginning together with onions and sometimes also used as a topping (in the above dish they appear in both).  Thanks to their wonderful unique aroma, they change the flavours of the final dish and make it very special. After dozens of meals in Indian restaurants in several European countries I had never had the occasion to taste them (no comment, but you can imagine my angry face) until I started to cook from Rick Stein’s India. I fell in love as soon as I took the first bunch of leaves from the shop: their pungent smell was so amazing, so complex, I couldn’t stop myself from sniffing my shopping bag throughout the whole trip back home….

Since curry leaves are now very difficult to get in fresh form in Switzerland, whenever I have an opportunity to buy them, I vacuum pack small portions and freeze them because dried form loses much of its aroma (not to mention the texture which makes leaves too thick to eat). (If you don’t have a vacuum packing machine, before freezing, wrap the leaves in plastic film as tightly as you can). If you want to taste fresh curry leaves and don’t find them in your local Indian shop, you can easily order them on internet (they are not only grown in Asia, but also in the US!). Write to me if you need precise information about internet sources I’ve found. In short, do whatever you can to get fresh leaves. At worst you can use dried ones, but they are not even half as good…

I don’t have access to good quality fresh coconut or frozen fresh coconut, so, as I often do, I have used here coconut milk instead (my experiments with dried coconut in curries have always been a failure, so I stopped trying). I have cut down on frying oil and had to modify also the cooking process and adapt it to a lower amount of fat. Apart from that, I have slightly tweaked ingredients’ amounts, used chicken breast instead of whole chicken, shallots instead of onions, and so on… so check The Essential Andhra Cookbook for the original recipe.

TIPS:  If you like this curry as much as I do, I advise preparing a big batch of masala and either keeping it in the fridge (it will keep for five days) or even freezing it in small portions. Then you stir fry onions and curry leaves, take a protein source (meat, seafood or paneer, and why not tofu?) or a vegetable to the masala, add some water and the quick delicious meal is ready in no time at all!

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves four):

3 medium chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons coconut fat (or any oil of your choice)

5 big European shallots, finely sliced

15 curry leaves (fresh or frozen)

salt, water


150 ml coconut milk

4 long fresh red chilli peppers (choose the variety according to your heat resistance), sliced

1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon crushed garlic (about 3 medium garlic cloves)

4 black peppercorns

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

4 shallots, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

First prepare the masala. Roast the whole spices in a pan (make sure they don’t burn and take the pan off the heat as soon as they start to yield a strong but pleasant smell).

Grind the spices in a coffee grinder, spice grinder or in a mortar.

Mix well with the remaining ingredients in a food processor until you obtain a thick sauce.

Heat the oil in a shallow pan and stir-fry approx. 2/3 of the shallots with half of the curry leaves.

When the shallots start becoming soft, add the chicken pieces, salt them and stir-fry until slightly browned.

Add the masala, about 200 ml water and let the dish simmer until the chicken is cooked.

In the meantime, heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a small pan.

Stir-fry the remaining shallots and curry leaves until the onions are slightly browned.

Serve this curry with fried shallots and curry leaves on top. It’s excellent with naan.

17 Replies to “Chicken with Curry Leaves from Andhra Pradesh (Kodi Gasi)”

  1. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never actually cooked with whole curry leaves. Something I must change. Thank you for a delicious sounding dish.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. No need to be embarrassed. They are not always easy to get outside of India… and they are not as popular as, say, turmeric 😉

      1. I HAVE whole fenugreek leaves in my pantry but not curry leaves and there’s an Indian grocery store 10 minutes away which probably has frozen curry leaves so really … there’s no excuse. 🙂

        PS: I don’t use turmeric that often though I have a jar.

  2. O.k. now I understand why the curry leaves I bought have very little flavor. Like parsley, they apparently lose their unique flavor. I never see then fresh here, but then I haven’t really looked either. The list of ingredients in this recipe have my mouthwatering. A bit of this chicken dish would be a party in the mouth for sure!

    1. Hi MJ, thank you so much for the compliments. I’m glad you agree… dried curry leaves are sold here in every Indian grocery shop but they simply have no taste… it’s better to skip them. Some herbs work great when dried (oregano, thyme, bay leaf is even better in my opinion when dried…) but some are just awful (like basil). You can buy them on internet (ebay I think) without cross-border shipping because I saw some people actually grow and sell them in the US! I’m sure you would love them… they have such a distinctive strong aroma…

  3. The curry leaves sound exquisite. I know exactly what you mean about the punch through flavor of certain herbs; it’s amazing what a difference it can make. I have never purchased fresh curry leaves and am not certain whether I’ve been treated to them at Indian restaurants (although I do often remark just how fragrant and robust the flavors are at our favorite spots…). I just had a look on Amazon and they offer the fresh curry leaves so I added them to my cart 🙂 thank you for your freezing tips too. Your dish looks delicious and so very warming – precisely what I’m craving.

    1. Hi, Kelly. Thank you so much for the kind words! They are exquisite indeed! I hope you will like them (I’m almost sure you can grow them most of the year in your garden…. many people grow curry leaves in the US, sometimes in green houses but in warmer areas only putting them indoors only for winter).

  4. I love that you use actual curry leaves, it’s so exotic! I have seen curry leaves in our specialty stores but I’ve never bought it because it looks like I’d have to toss most of it, they sell in such quantities! I appreciate your idea to vacuum pack them for future use, I can easily do that and I already do that with lemon grass because I never use the entire bunch when I purchase it; plus, it’s always nice to have some one hand, in case an urge to cook with them comes over me and I don’t have time to go out!
    Your curry dish looks wonderfully warming, it’s been overcast and miserable lately, today we are expecting freezing rain later, so it would be perfect!

    1. Eva, how I envy you!!!! Several years ago they used to (rarely) sell them here also in big bunches and now I regret I didn’t buy tons. They freeze very well and take minimum space. And now I have to buy them and they cost a lot when sent from abroad.
      Thank you for the compliments. Such a spicy aromatic curry always puts me in a better mood even in winter…

  5. I love your curry recipes, I would like to try this one as well. But, like you’ve said fresh curry leaves are hard to find, I have never even seen any. I have some dried ones, but they are completely useless. I bought quite a large bag a few years ago and they are still there, in the cupboard, it doesn’t make any sense using them since they have no flavor at all. I have to search the Internet for fresh ones, it has never occured to me before…

    1. Thank you, Adina. Sadly, dried ones are really useless, I agree. This curry is special not only because of curry leaves, but they make it 10x better, so I hope I’ll always be able to buy them by internet, freeze and use from time to time.

  6. With all the spices, I can see why you would love this curry. I’ve taken your earlier advice and have ordered a few food items (including gochujang) that are impossible to find in our town. I think curry leaves will be going on my next wish list.

    1. Thank you, Karen. I’m glad I could give you the internet buying idea (until recently I would never buy food by internet, but recently I realised the rare products such as low-fat Japanese mayonnaise or my favourite brand of soy sauce can be bought only online ; since then I discovered almost all the rare herbs and seasoning can be bought online). I hope you will like gochujang! (unless you already know it…). It’s such an addictive product!

    1. Haha! Thank you, Katerina, for kind words. I’m very far from mastering either or these cuisines and I’m sure I’ll never do…

  7. I have frozen curry leaves and used them last night in a Kofta Anda. it was the first time i’d used them and the flavour in the dish was amazing. The leaves don’t appear any the worse for freezing!

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