“I love love love this! No Kerala meal is complete without Appam and Stew !” N exclaimed. I wanted to disagree, but her excitement was so genuine that I didn’t have the heart. I can list a few other Kerala meals that could equal or rival this, but I get it. Lacy appams and creamy stew are always a winning combination !
I have talked about Appam and the Potato Ishtu earlier . It may be one of the few meals that everyone in the house sits down to eat without any complaints ! While the vegetable stew was is so popular here many of my friends prefer the meatier cousin – Chicken Ishtu. Just like the potato Ishtu it is creamy and fragrant, but with some added protein.
Appam is the perfect side to scoop up the very many spicy and non spicy curries. Varutharacha chicken curry, chole , peas curry , and beef fry all being popular ones. But the creamy Ishtus are extra special – whether made with vegetables or meat.
Ishtu is a classic Kerala dish – homes style , mildly fragrant, light and utterly delightful. “Utterly delightful” , really ?? Agreed the descriptors need a bit of work, but once you taste it you will agree. This is one of those dishes that look very unassuming , and makes you rethink Indian food. No elaborate spices, no diary – just light refreshing flavors.
Though this can be made with red meat , I prefer to use chicken. The milder flavors of the chicken works better as does the white meat. I have to confess, I am a little partial to the white color of the stew.
For ages I thought that there was only one version of Ishtu – the vegetarian version , white, creamy and made with just potatoes. It is still my favorite, but now a days I add peas , carrots and sometimes beans as a way of sneaking in more veggies to the diet. The non veg version of the stew was something I was introduced to much later ! Thank god for friends !
This is not an elaborate dish. There is no powdering of spices or making spice paste business here. The vegetables and the meat is cut to size and simmered in light coconut milk until done ! Everything stays soft and tender – no caramelization , no sauteing …
I am not sure where I had it first – probably at a friend’s house. It is an eye opening experience to see that some of the things that you grew up with had an entirely different version in your friend’s home.
Pardon me, I digress .
Chicken stew follows the same recipe as the potato stew . There is coconut, whole spices and curry leaves , onions and garlic. There is no powdering of spices or making elaborate pastes and marinades. You could throw everything together into the pressure cooker with a little water and salt. Cook following the directions for chicken ( In the standard stove top – 1 whistle for boneless chicken or 2 for with bones). Let the pressure release naturally. Open and adjust salt and add enough coconut cream (thick coconut milk). Simmer for a few mins and serve !
With bone in chicken it could look a little more creamier and yellowish. As I mentioned above I am a little partial to the white color and often makes it with boneless chicken breasts. The bone in version on the other hand is definitely more creamier and flavorful, though the stew has a slight yellow color.
Using fresh coconut milk adds more flavor to the dish , but canned milk or powdered milk works well too.
- 1/2 Kg Chicken Skinless
- 1 Onion Medium White
- 1- 2 Green chilly To Taste
- 1/2 Inch Ginger
- 1 - 2 Garlic Cloves
- 1 Potato Medium
- 2 Inch Cinnamon
- 4 Green Cardamom
- 4 Cloves
- 1/2 Tsp Whole Pepper Crushed
- 1/4 Tsp Fennel seeds Optional
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Cup Thin Coconut milk See Notes
- 1/2 Cup Thick coconut milk See Notes
- Salt To Taste
- 1 -2 Sprigs Curry leaves
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
- 1/4 Cup Diced Carrots
- 1/4 C Peas
- Chop the onions into thin slices. Slit the green chilies For more heat else leave whole. Thinly slice or finely chop the ginger and garlic. Peel and dice the potato into 1 inch cubes.
- Cut the chicken into 2 " size pieces .
- Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices. Keep the heat at medium. As the aroma fills the air add the onions along with garlic, ginger and green chilies and curry leaves. Sprinkle 1/2 Tsp salt and cook till the onions soften.
- Add the potatoes and chicken along with thin coconut milk. Add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low to medium heat till done (20 to 30 minutes). Half way through cooking check if the water is drying out. If needed add more water.
- Add 2 Tbsp oil . When the oil is warm enough add the whole spices. Heat for 30 seconds and add onions, ginger, garlic, 1/2 Tsp salt, chilies, chicken , potatoes and thin coconut milk in that order.
- Place the lid on.
- In electric pressure cooker set to manual mode and cook at high pressure for 5 minutes
- For traditional stove top models cook till 1 whistle.
- Release the pressure naturally.
Season and Serve
- Open the lid stir the stew , taste and adjust salt. Sprinkle the crushed black pepper on top and add the thick coconut milk. Mix well , bring to a simmer and turn off the heat. Serve!
- Add 1 to 2 Tbsp of coconut cream from the can to 1 C warm water and mix to make 1 C thin Coconut milk.
- For thick Coconut milk use the full fat can version or just dilute the
cream with enough water to make a thick paste.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.
Do you have a preferred version of Ishtu ?
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear about it ! Leave a COMMENT, RATING , share a photo and TAG me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK OR GOOGLE+
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