• Black pepper chicken fry (Anson Smart)Source: Anson Smart

Christine Manfield's Tasting India cookbook showcases recipes by home cooks, such as this southern specialty (known as "black chicken fry") by Mrs Meena Meyappan, a food and architecture expert in Tamil Nadu.






Skill level

Average: 2.7 (41 votes)

This Chettinad classic was prepared by Mrs Meena Meyappan’s house cooks at her Chennai house. Farmed quail can be cooked in a similar way, as I tasted a few years ago at Bangala, her homestay in Karaikudi.


  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • 2 white onions, finely diced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets


Pepper masala

  • 3 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4 small dried red chillies

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. To make the pepper masala, dry-roast the spices over a gentle heat. Cool, then grind to a fine powder. Store in an airtight container and use as required.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and ginger to a smooth paste. 
  3. Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-based saucepan and fry the cinnamon and cardamom over a medium heat for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onion and stir over a high heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Add half the pepper masala and stir until fragrant. Add the ginger garlic paste and the tomato and fry for a few minutes, then season with the salt and cook, stirring, for another minute or so.
  4. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat in the aromatics. Fry for 3−4 minutes until the chicken is beginning to colour. Add 1 cup (250 ml) water, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken is cooked and tender.
  5. Remove from the heat and check the seasoning. Serve with appam (steamed rice pancakes) or steamed rice.


This recipe is from Tasting India (Simon and Schuster, $49.99) by Christine Manfield (photography by Anson Smart).