Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Koli Saaru - Mysorean Chicken Curry

Koli Saaru is a kind of rustic style traditional chicken curry prepared by people settled in the old Mysore province. It is made in different ways according to influence of the neighbouring states. This Koli Saaru I have highlighted here comes with thin soup like gravy, somewhat resembling Kerala Stew. It is full of flavours, loaded with spices and herbs, makes a wonderful simple main course dish for dipping bread, Raagi Mudde(Finger Millet Ball) or soft Mangalorean idli called Sanna. It can also be relished with steamed white rice. It is famous in the undivided Mysore District, particularly in Chamarajanagar town, where the locals influenced by Tamilian cuisine make this pretty well. At least for me, it has fond memories associated with it, as I have worked in Chamarajanagar during the years 1979-80 following my first appointment.

There was this 'Mahadevappa's Hotel' where we got good Mutton Pulav and Mutton/Koli Saaru. They call the gravy 'Sherwa', and they pour it like waterfall over a heap of steaming hot rice served on 'pathravali', a disposable plate woven with dried teak leaves, gobble up balls of rice while biting into the succulent pieces of mutton or chicken and essentially one hard boiled egg! The subtle aroma of mint and coriander leaves, the strong whiff of garlic pepper and and other spices, the sweetness of poppy seeds and coconut paste, the tangy tamarind and tiny bits of tomato appearing occasionally made my dining those days really memorable.

I asked Nagappa, an expert cook, my next room neighbour in the building where I stayed those days, about the probable recipe they followed to make that Koli Saaru. Though Nagappa was Telugu guy from Andhra Karnataka border, he knew how to make Mysorean Koli Saaru. All South Indian nonveg curries have a similarity, that is adding poppy seeds and fennel seeds in the masala. Nagappa mostly used to make Andhra style chicken curry and chicken dry. He told me what to do and how to go about making Koli Saaru. He also emphasised that the gravy should be thin like soup and we must add ghee or RG(Refined Ghee or vanaspati) to make any South Indian nonveg curry to make it more tasty. Simple tips from a guy from a small town, but that has helped me a lot in making fine dishes today!

I was transferred to Bangalore in 1980 September, and there I have made this curry at least six times during my five and odd years of stay there. It is easy to prepare, and slight variation in ingredients doesn't make a big difference in taste. Remember that adding ghee is essential, using 'Naati Koli' or country chicken with bones adds to the taste, and the ghee blends well with the chicken broth(Yakhni), gets spiced up with the other ingredients and resultant soup compliments rice, raagi mudde or sannas pretty well. Also don't forget to drop 4 hard boiled eggs in the curry just before serving. Without boiled eggs, Koli Saaru meal is incomplete!

Eggs - 4
Chicken pieces with bones - 500 Gms
Grated Coconut - 1/2 Cup
Green Chillies - 4+2
Coriander Leaves - A handful(25 Gms)
Mint Leaves - 2 Sprigs 
Onion - 1 medium
Garlic - 10-12 flakes
Ginger - 1" piece
Peppercorns - 1/2 Tsp
Poppy Seeds(Khuskhus) - 2 Tsp
Cloves - 4 
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Fennel Seeds(Saunf) - 2 Tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 Tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 Tsp
Tamarind - A small pinch(or lemon juice 2 Tsp)
Tomatoes - 2 small chopped
Salt - 2/3 Tsp(or to taste)
Ghee - 2 Tsp

Hard boil the eggs, peel and make fine gashes on them.
Cut chicken into 1 inch curry size bits.
Chop tomatoes into tiny bits.
Roast peppercorns, poppy seeds, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds and cumin seeds lightly.
Make a fine powder with the roasted ingredients.
Chop ginger, garlic, onion, four green chillies, mint leaves and coriander leaves.
Slit two green chillies and keep aside.
Grind into a fine chutney along with grated coconut, tamarind(or lemon juice) and turmeric powder.
Heat ghee in a thick pan and fry chicken pieces for 5-10 mins.
Add the ground chutney, fry for another 3 minutes.
Add 2 cups of water, chopped tomatoes and salt.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for another 5 mins.
Mix in the masala powder, add two slit green chillies and simmer for another 5 mins.
Check for salt and switch off the flame.
Drop the boiled eggs into the curry and serve hot with steamed white rice/raagi mudde/sannas/aapam/bread/chapati.

If you use country chicken, pressure cook the chicken along with the chutney and the masala powder for 15-20 minutes.

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