If you can’t find Byadgi chilies at the Indian market to make these chicken wings, you can substitute Kashmiri chilies. (Reshma Seetharam)

If you can’t find Byadgi chilies at the Indian market to make these chicken wings, you can substitute Kashmiri chilies. (Reshma Seetharam)

A taste of South India with spicy masalas and creamy coconut

Reshma Seetharam shares her recipes for Indian chicken wings, chicken sandwiches and a shrimp roast.

South Indian cuisine is known for its spicy masalas and creamy coconut. The Southern Peninsula states are bordered by the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea on either side, giving them easy access to fresh seafood. Malabar seafood delicacies are to die for.

Here, it is an age-old tradition to marinate seafood and meat in basic masalas — lime, red chilli powder, garlic, salt, turmeric. A daily staple is a quick saute, stir-fry or curry to go with rice.

For a richer affair, spicy green chilies, black pepper, ginger, curry leaves, fennel, red chillies, cardamom and cinnamon are used. To tenderize meat, South Indians use tomatoes, tamarind, lime juice, yogurt, coconut milk and even raw papaya.

Here are some quick South-Indian flavored chicken and shrimp to try. For more recipes, visit my blog at www.reshmaseetharam.com.

Byadgi chicken wings

The lip-smacking spice behind these chicken wings are sun-dried red chilies. The Byadgi chilies used here are native to South India. You may also swap these for Kashmiri chilies, or any other chilies that are rich in color, but mild and sweet in flavor.

For the chicken wings:

2 pounds chicken wings, washed and drained

1 cup sun-dried whole chilies (Byadgi or Kashmiri chilies)

¼ cup vinegar (apple cider or synthetic will do)

2 tablespoons oil

½ teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste

Salt to taste

If you can’t find Byadgi chilies at the Indian market to make these chicken wings, you can substitute Kashmiri chilies. (Reshma Seetharam)

If you can’t find Byadgi chilies at the Indian market to make these chicken wings, you can substitute Kashmiri chilies. (Reshma Seetharam)

For the garnish:

¼ cup melted butter

4-5 sprigs curry leaves

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Juice of 1 lime

Dry roast whole chilies on the stove-top on medium heat until you feel the aroma fill the air. Or pop them in the oven at 200 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Let the chilies cool, then soak them in vinegar for 15 minutes. Grind them into a paste and set aside.

In a large nonstick saute pan, add oil and let it warm up on medium heat. Place chicken wings flat, skin down in the pan and let them brown, about 5-7 minutes. Flip and do the same for the other side.

Once the wings have browned uniformly, set aside on a plate. In the same pan, add ginger and garlic paste. Stir and let cook for a few seconds.

Add the ground chili paste and combine. Let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add salt and turn the heat to low. Cover and cook the chili paste for another 4-5 minutes.

When the oil separates from the masala, add the chicken wings and turn up the heat to medium-high. Toss the chicken wings well to coat the masala. Set on low heat for 5-7 minutes uncovered. Pour the chicken onto a serving dish.

Make the garnish: In a pan, on medium high heat, add melted butter. When it begins to smoke, add the curry leaves. Once it fries to a crunchy texture, remove and set aside. Now add the onions and let it brown a bit. Pour the onions over the chicken. Garnish with crunchy curry leaves and a squeeze of lime juice.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Serve coconut chili chicken sandwiches with a side of ranch or southwest salad dressing. (Reshma Seetharam)

Serve coconut chili chicken sandwiches with a side of ranch or southwest salad dressing. (Reshma Seetharam)

Coconut chili chicken sandwiches

Creamy chicken enveloped with warm spices and coconut milk makes for a hearty sandwich filler.

For the coconut chili chicken:

4 cups boneless chicken, cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon garam masala

½ cup coconut milk

For the sandwiches:

12 slices whole-wheat bread

6 cups fresh baby spinach

1 cucumber, sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced

2 red onions, cut into rings

In a pan on medium high heat, add olive oil. Add garlic when the olive oil is warm. As it bubbles, add the sliced chicken and saute on high heat for 4-5 minutes.

When it is browned, add salt, garlic, chili powder, turmeric and garam masala. Turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add in the coconut milk and cook until the mixture turns thick and creamy. Turn off the heat. While the chicken cools, assemble the sandwiches.

Build the sandwich with baby spinach, cucumber slices, tomato slices, red onion rings, and then top it with a spoonful of creamy chicken.

Serve sandwiches with ranch or southwest salad dressing on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Don’t skimp on the ghee when making this shrimp roast. (Reshma Seetharam)

Don’t skimp on the ghee when making this shrimp roast. (Reshma Seetharam)

Shrimp ghee roast

Ghee roast is simply an intensely flavorful masala from the South Indian Coast. This recipe calls for shrimp. You may swap it with chicken, boiled egg or tofu instead.

My blog features the traditional recipe, but here is a quick way to get the same results — well almost!

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon lime juice

½ teaspoon white pepper powder

½ teaspoon salt

For the masala:

4 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

1 cup marinara sauce

½ can coconut milk

1 teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon garam masala powder

For the shrimp ghee:

2 pounds uncooked jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup ghee (don’t skimp on this)

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

Sprig curry leaves

1 teaspoon tamarind paste or lime juice

Salt to taste

Pinch sugar

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Marinate the shrimp for half an hour to overnight in the lime juice, white pepper powder and salt.

Grind the ingredients of the masala to a fine paste.

In a wok on medium heat, add oil; shallow fry shrimp until pink. Set aside.

In the same wok, add in ghee, cumin seeds and curry leaves. When the splattering subsides, add masala paste, tamarind paste, salt and sugar. Cook on low till oil separates. Add shrimp, cook on low for just 2 minutes. Garnish it with cilantro. Serve with steamy rice, chapatis or rice crepes.

Makes 6 servings.

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