Chefs' Recipes

Tony Tan's chicken pepper stir-fry

It's the spice paste that really sets this stir-fry apart.

By Tony Tan
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 20 mins cooking
  • Serves 4
  • Print
"Here's another classic from my Tamil friends. The food of south India is, sadly, not as well known here but if you ever go to Singapore and Malaysia, most of the Indian food there is either from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka," says Tan.
This stir-fry is excellent served with this eggplant, coconut and tamarind sambal.


  • ¼ cup ghee or vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 15 gm (3cm piece) ginger, finely shredded
  • 3 green cayenne chillies, thinly sliced
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 500 gm chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Large pinch of ground black pepper
  • Juice of half lemon or lime
  • Extra fried curry leaves, to serve
Spice paste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 100 gm coarsely grated coconut flesh (or 50 gm desiccated coconut)
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 cm piece of cinnamon quill
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander


  • 1
    For spice paste, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add coconut, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cinnamon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until coconut is golden brown. Add ground spices and cook for another minute. Cool and transfer to a blender. Add 200ml water and blend to a fine paste.
  • 2
    Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and as soon as they pop, add curry leaves, ginger and green chilli. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened (2-3 minutes). Add onion and cook until golden brown (2-3 minutes). Add garlic, followed by tomatoes and spice paste, stirring each ingredient for a minute, before adding the next one. Season to taste with salt.
  • 3
    Add chicken to the pan and cook until golden (2-3 minutes). Add 250ml hot water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover pan partially with a lid and cook until chicken is tender and the liquid is well reduced (3-4 minutes). Serve stir-fry sprinkled with black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and with extra fried curry leaves.
  • undefined: Tony Tan