When in Madurai, eat naattu kozhi.
With the mass-bred broiler chicken dominating our diet, country chicken – or ‘naattu kozhi’ as it is called in Tamil Nadu – is a refreshing and healthy change when one visits Madurai. The country chicken – bred in country-side farms, is healthier and, many say, tastier.
Naatu kozhi dishes in any of the messes in Madurai are a treat, especially so if you land a table at Kumar Mess.
Kumar Mess’s Naattu Kozhi Chops is a dish to die for. Naatu Kozhi nationalism should be a thing.
The owner of the mess is Ganeshan, who comes from a family of passionate cooks.
Ganeshan says he started the Mess about 26 years ago, and it was just a small shop on a platform under a tree. “Today we have four branches, 3 in Madurai and 1 in Chennai,” says Ganeshan, beaming with pride.
Among the star attractions at the mess are Mutton Sukka and Prawn Curry – dishes which Ganeshan loves to cook himself. But when it comes to chicken, it is the Naattu Kozhi Chops which is the winner.
Like the recipes of all the classic dishes, Ganeshan learned how to make Naattu Kozhi Chops from his brother, who took kitchen lessons from their mother and grandmother. Their delectable style has been passed on for generations, and still hasn’t lost its authenticity. “Even today I cook myself, and oversee the kitchen. I make dosas if the person is on leave, I even clean tables,” Ganeshan says, in all his humility.
Cooking the Naatu Kozhi with the masalas isn’t very difficult, but the magic lies in the natural flavours of the ingredients and the minor details of cooking.
For one, only leg-pieces are used for the Naattu Kozhi Chops. Although the name says ‘chops’, there is no chopping of the chicken. It’s just well-cooked chicken with the bones, cooked in the special gravy.
Apart from the special chicken masala used by Kumar Mess, the recipe also includes garam masala ingredients like bay leaves, cloves and star anise. Curry leaves are a must, and ginger and garlic add to the taste as much as they make the dish healthier.
The dish uses both small onions and normal-sized onions. Both their distinct flavours are required.
“While the masala is being cooked, it shouldn’t be allowed to settle down at the bottom because that changes the taste of the dish itself,” says Ganeshan.
Naattu Kozhi Chops also uses coconut paste, which gives it the semi-gravy consistency. The paste should be finely ground, Ganeshan points out.
But here is the surprise – Ganeshan’s own family is vegetarian. “That’s why I eat meat here and go, I don’t get it at home,” he laments, with a smile.
Watch the video for all ingredients and cooking style, and don’t forget to watch the food and travel show ‘Sutralam Suvaikalam’ on NEWS7 Tamil at 12:30pm every Sunday.
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