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Chennai Pepper Chicken

Chennai Pepper Chicken

Jazz up your pizza or taco night with an Indian inspired chicken dish or just go traditional and pair with rice or rotis!

A touch of Indian culture…

I grew up omnivorous by culture, and, largely vegetarian by economics. Any animal product, even butter and ghee, was a luxury growing up. We ate meat/fish once a week, typically Sundays and any leftovers was relished as long as it lasted.

When I say meat, it really was chicken. Chicken in India was rarely ever fat or big breasted and we never really got to choose parts. We typically bought half to one kilo (1-2 pounds) of chicken every week. That could be a whole bird freshly slaughtered for you or pieces leftover from the previous customer and a new slaughter. The ‘butcher’ (a fancy word really) was a shop with no refrigeration or even a fan, chicken in cages ready for destiny, a big slab of wood on which the slaughter happened, and, baniyan and lungi clad men (bare hands!) wielding cleavers who killed, cleaned and chopped up the pieces. There was no option of boneless, it was all in. There was a simplicity and transparency to this whole process that I cherish in hindsight.

Back home, there were a variety of preparations for the meat – korma, pan frys with a variety of spices and condiments, biriyani and so many others, with greens, with tomato. Well, you had to have a roster of cooking techniques when the constraint is of having just one meat! Amongst them all, my favorite has always been a simple Pepper Fry.

Pepper in India refers to whole black pepper seeds and not the vegetable. 

So, today, I am sharing a recipe for the Chicken Pepper Fry of my childhood that befits the warrior class that I come from!

Notes on Cooking

The use of this dish can be traditional Indian, certainly, served with roti (check out my Spinach Parathas) or dal and rice. It is also fantastic in tacos, as pizza toppings, or on a stick as lollipops or over couscous or pilaf.

You can always make more of the ‘gravy’ or the sauce (especially when served over dry rice) by doubling the onions and cooking them down in a touch more oil.

See Also
African Chicken Peanut Soup

Do not add any liquid while cooking this dish. The flavor comes from the meat cooking in its own juices and pan crispness of browning. If it starts sticking, just lower the heat. The sticking is typically solved by having enough oil in the pan to prevent it!

Pictured Above: Pepper Chicken served with Spinach Parathas and Light Salad

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Chennai Pepper Chicken

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  • Author: Asha Yoganandan
  • Yield: 4 -5 1x


  • 68 pieces of chicken thigh (cut into smaller pieces, marinated for atleast 30 mins (up to overnight) in a little salt and turmeric)
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 4 T of whole black pepper (crushed as fine as you like)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 78 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp asafetida
  • salt to taste
  • oil to cook
  • cilantro or parsley for garnish


  1. Heat oil in a pan and toast the mustard seeds till they start to pop.
  2. Add curry leaves, turmeric and asafetida and stir till no longer raw.
  3. Add onion and cook till well done and reduced to half.
  4. Add the chicken pieces and black pepper.
  5. Cover and let it cook in its own juices for 20 -25 mins, turning the pieces over occasionally for even browning.
  6. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro or parsley.
  • Category: Dinner / Lunch
  • Cuisine: Indian



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