Chicken & Tamarind | Thai / South Indian Fusion Curry

This South Indian Chicken & Tamarind Curry takes South Indian approaches to cooking and combines them with exotic, far reaching Asian ingredients.

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Chicken and Tamarind Recipe


I normally start by choosing a dish I like and recreating it in a fun or otherwise tasty way. But when I started making curries, I did what I imagine most people want to do in the kitchen. I got a bunch of ingredients I liked and that I thought fit into a curry and I messed around with them until I had something tasty.

Looking back, I think it might be a bit of a shame that I got these two aspects of cooking backwards. Perhaps it would have been better to practise all of the well known dishes first and then begin exploring the more creative side of cooking Indian food?

So that’s exactly what I’m doing now. My original intention with this dish was to make a traditional Chicken Chettinad, the delicious, coconutty dish from Tamil Nadu. But when it came to it, I concluded that a dish inspired by the overall flavours of South East India might be more fun.

Throw in a few Thai flavours and techniques and we’re there!

Easy Indian Cooking

About the dish

As I alluded to above, this dish takes some of the great things about South Indian curries and kicks them up a notch. That’s where elements like the tamarind come from, as well as elements like the poppy seeds and the choice of spices.

That’s also the main influence behind the coconut milk. The cuisines in the southernmost parts of India are, naturally, largely shaped by the coastal areas.


This means a great deal of fish and seafood, although we’re not going to be using that today. But it also means coconut milk. Or coconut in general.

Another rare ingredient occasionally found in the Southeast is galangal. A rhizome more commonly used in Thai cooking than even in South Indian curry recipes. I don’t know whether it’s native to the area or if it’s imported, but every now and again, it finds its way into the cuisine!

About this dish – South Indian Chicken & Tamarind Recipe

So, in reality, this dish has quite a lot in common with my other South Indian dishes. Among them, my two Goan dishes, like this South Indian Fish curry or this Goan Lamb Curry.

That south Indian influence is why we’ll be using tamarind, the beautiful, souring paste commonly used across much of Asia. We will be stirring just a little bit in toward the end of the cooking process and we’ll be amplifying its sour, yet slightly savoury flavour with a little lime juice.

Coconut is a also huge part of South Indian cuisine. Whether crushed and added with the spices or as garnish, or in the form of coconut milk. In this instance we will be using the latter.


The way we will be using that coconut milk, however, is more of a Thai thing. We will reduce it all the way down and use the split oils to fry off our aromatics and spices. This means that when we add the chopped tomatoes to the dish, we won’t have to reduce the dish for hours and hours once the main ingredients are already cooked. Instead, we will simply blend the dish and reduce just enough to thicken.

Another Thai influence is the galangal, which we will use alongside ginger to squeeze in even more wonderful freshness. As well as in a yogurt based marinade for the chicken, which we’ll grill for a bit of colour.

A quick guide – Chicken & Tamarind Curry Recipe

We’ll start by dicing up our chicken and marinading it in a mixture of yogurt, ginger, garlic, galangal, red chilli and turmeric. While that marinades, we’ll start the coconut milk reducing.

As those two processes goon in the background, we’ll toast our whole spices, the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cardammom pods, cloves and cumin seeds, in a hot, dry pan and grind them into a powder, mixing them with the cinnamon, black pepper and nutmeg.

Then, we’ll peel our garlic and ginger and make a paste out of them and the galangal, then set that aside ready for when we cook. And we’ll dice up our onions and set them aside with our mustard seeds.

Once the coconut milk is sufficiently reduced and the chicken sufficiently marinaded, we’re ready to cook!

We’ll start by grilling – or broiling, for American audiences – the chicken until it starts to blacken on top, then flipping it over and doing the same on the bottom.


While the chicken cooks, we’ll cook off our onion and mustard seeds on a low temperature until they caramelise and soften.

We’ll add our dry spice mix, followed by our fresh paste, then the chopped tomatoes. Finally, blending the mixture and adding some curry leaves, a bay leaf and reducing.

Once the sauce reaches close to the optimum thickness, we’ll add the chicken and bring everything back to temperature, finally seasoning with tamarind, lime juice and additional salt, then garnishing with fresh coriander.

There really is nothing quite like chicken curry.

A few final things to remember

  • If needs be, you can skip the galangal in this recipe, or even the ginger. They do have quite different flavours and they do both bring something to the dish. But they can be used as substitutes for one another in a pinch.
  • If you can’t get hold of tamarind, you can use extra lime juice or even a little vinegar. Although I would always advise keeping an eye out if you can, because tamarind really does bring something unique to the dish. It has a very complex flavour, somehow sour and slightly earthy at the same time. You can substitute it, but you can’t replace it.
  • I would recommend plain rice as the side for this dish. There are lots of flavours involved and the dish benefits from a simple, straightforward side. Naan would also work, but again, a fairly plain naan might be a better option than, say, a peshwari or keema naan.

Similar Recipes & Useful Sides

The Best Kashmiri Lamb Rogan Josh Recipe – An unexpected favourite, a childhood favourite in its grown up form. Rich, deep and incredible.

Passanda Sauce Recipe – An Authentic Leftover Chicken Curry – The sexiest, creamiest, butteriest, chickeniest curry I’ve ever made and an absolute personal favourite.

Goan Lamb Curry – Another of Goa’s beautiful curries. This time a delicious vindaloo style lamb dish!

The Best Indian Flatbread Recipe – The best Indian flatbreads you’ve ever seen. Seriously.

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Chicken & Tamarind Curry

Chicken & Tamarind | South Indian Curry

This South Indian Chicken & Tamarind Curry takes South Indian approaches to cooking and combines them with exotic, far reaching Asian ingredients.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 2


  • 2 lrg Chicken Breasts
  • 250 ml Yogurt full fat
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 2 inch Fresh Ginger
  • 2 inch Fresh Galangal
  • 2 inch Fresh Turmeric or 1 tsp dried
  • 2 Dried Red Chillies
  • 1 can Coconut Milk full fat
  • 1 lrg White Onion
  • 1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 5 Cardamom Pods
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Poppy Seeds
  • 5 Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 6 Curry Leaves
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 – 2 tsp Tamarind Paste
  • Lime Juice
  • Fresh Coriander



  • Grind up the ginger, garlic, galangal (optional) and turmeric in a pestle and mortar, then remove half and set aside to be used as the curry paste later in the recipe. To the other half, add 2 dried red chillies and the turmeric, then grind those to combine and add them to the yogurt.
  • Dice up the chicken into medium-large pieces and add it to the yogurt marinade for at least an hour. Ideally 2.
  • Pour the coconut milk into a medium sized saucepan and reduce until the milk splits from the oils. Eventually the coconut milk will look almost like pure oil. This is the point at which you can fry off the other ingredients.
  • In a separate pan on a high heat with no oil, toast 1 tsp coriander seeds, 5 cardamom pods, 5 cloves and 1/2 tsp cumin. Just heat for a minute or two until they start to brittle and the scent lifts. Then grind them up in a pestle and mortar with 1/2 tsp poppy seeds, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.


  • Finely dice an onion and caramelise it with a little salt and the mustard seeds for about 8 minutes on a low-medium temperature in the reduced coconut milk.
  • Then add the spice mix and cook through for a further minute or two, followed by the paste, for a further minute.
  • Add the tomato paste and blend the ingredients together, then return it to the pot and reduce with the curry leaves and a bay leaf, for at least half an hour on a low temperature, to thicken ever-so-sightly and to infuse.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and place under a hot grill for 5 – 10 minutes with a little seasoning, however long it takes to blacken and char, just a little. Then turn it over and repeat the process on the other side.
  • Add the chicken to the sauce and add some tamarind paste. 1 – 2 tsp should suffice. Stir it all in and cook for a couple of minutes, just to bring everything to the same temperature. Pick out the bay leaf and stir in a little lemon or lime juice and any additional salt you might need.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.
Keyword Chicken, chicken & tamarind, chicken curry, galangal, south indian curry, tamarind, tamarind paste

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