Crunchy & Aromatic
It is hard to find a non-vegetarian who doesn’t like fried chicken. I don’t eat fried chicken often, but when I do, I want it to be perfect. And this mashup of the famous Southern fried chicken of the U.S. and the flavors of the South Indian state of Kerala is pretty much perfect. Chef Asha Gomez’s cookbook called “My Two Souths” brings together her South Indian roots with her adopted home of Atlanta where she lives. She was the chef-owner of the award-winning—but now-closed—restaurant Cardamom Hill. One of her signature dishes was her Kerala fried chicken and the following recipe rests on that foundation. Instead of using wheat flour, I’ve used a mix of cornstarch and rice flour to avoid gluten, and since non-gluten flours tend to absorb less fat. I also find that rice flour helps create a shatteringly crunchy crust. Using potato starch is also a good move if that is what you have.
Kerala Fried Chicken
It is difficult to describe to you how good this fried chicken is. The combination of a marinade that keeps the chicken moist, tender, and well-flavored combined with chili and spices. Make it as mild or hot as you like it. Then there is the coating sifted through with more Indian flavors. Wow, what a treat!
There is no need for any special equipment, but this chicken is best given an overnight soak in spiced buttermilk or yogurt. And you will need to heat some oil for deep frying. So if you don’t fry often, this is the dish to splurge with. Be sweet and invite over your best friends and make it a party. Serve it with my Indian-ish coconut cabbage salad or my potato masala at room temperature. Raita on the side wouldn’t go amiss either.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Kerala Fried Chicken
- 3 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs ~ About 8 thighs
- 2 cups yogurt ~ Or buttermilk
- 12 whole garlic cloves ~ Or 1/4 cup grated, puréed, or finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger ~ Grated or puréed
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/2 tablespoon cayenne or substitutions, more or less to taste
- 2 teaspoons green chili ~ Minced: 3 small Indian or 1 1/2 Serrano chilies
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- 1 tablespoon sea or table salt ~ 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup rice flour ~ White or brown
- 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
- 1 1/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Kerala garam masala ~ Or 1 tablespoon regular garam masala; link to Kerala garam masala; see Notes below
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, more or less to taste!
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt ~ Maldon for example, optional garnishing
- 2 sprigs curry leaves ~ Optional, fry for garnishing
- oil for frying ~ Grapeseed, avocado, or your favorite oil
- lemon or lime wedges
- Gather your marinade ingredients.
- Trim and cut each chicken thigh in half.
- Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature for 20 minutes before frying.
- Gather all the breading ingredients and mix together. Place a cooling rack on a sheet pan to be ready for the fried chicken.
- Shake off excess marinade and coat the chicken with the flours and spices.
- Using a dutch oven, wok, or a large cast-iron skillet, add oil to the depth of 1-inch and heat over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to 350°F (180°C) using an instant-read thermometer, candy thermometer, or use the handle of a wooden spoon. Put the end of a wooden handle into the oil and if bubbles up immediately, the oil is hot enough. After adding each batch of chicken, temporarily increase the heat as needed because the additional meat will reduce the temperature of the oil. Frying with too low a temperature will lead to oily fried chicken.
- Stir the chicken gently after adding to the pan to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Fry it until it is a deep golden brown and cooked through and the temperature registers 165°F (75°C) on a thermometer. This will take about 4 minutes on each side. Place the cooked chicken on the cooling rack to drain and sprinkle with coarse salt, if using. Leave space between the pieces of chicken and keep it warm in a 200°F (100°C) oven. Don't leave it too long or it will dry out. A 30-minute wait will be fine.
- If you are using curry leaves after all the chicken is cooked, add the curry leaves to the hot oil and fry for 10 to 15 seconds until turn a darker, shiny green.
- Serve with raita and/or a favorite Indian pickle.
- Instead of the rice flour cornstarch mix you can use 2 cups rice flour, or all potato starch.
- Instead of all garam masala, use a mix of 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala and 1 1/2 teaspoons chaat masala. Play with your favorite spices!