Kalpasi: The Hidden Gems of Indian Spices – Chettinad chicken curry


The world has over thousands of spices that are ground, powdered, dried or used as is, in creating some of the most special and beloved delicacies of all-time. Each region in every country adds a sprinkling of their secret spice mix to their cooking pots to wow the diners. It’s all about the little nuances that go into creating a dish – a little more vinegar, a dash of coconut cream or a few pods of peppercorn or star anise. A fine tuning of all the ingredients is what brings a world of a difference to a dish. And if these dishes are prepared with local, indigenous produce, then better the flavour!

Kalpasi: the mystery flower – Alternatively known as ’black stone flower’, kalpasi is a kind of lichen. Though not much is known about its production, many believe that a few places in Tamil Nadu – Ooty and Kodaikanal – harbour this rare spice.

It is used in cooking traditional Chettinad food but for most in Tamil Nadu, the spice is elusive and not regularly utilised. However, the blackish purple flower is often blended with other spices to make some indigenous masalas.

preperation time: 20 minutes

cooking time : 40 minutes

serves : 4

1 lb Chicken (1/2 kg approx, cut into small pieces)
2 tsp Lime juice
¼ tsp Salt
½ tsp Turmeric powder
7 nos Dry red chilli
4 tbsp Corrainder/dhania seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
2 tsp Fennel seeds
2 tsp Black peppercorns
3 tsp Poppy seeds
2 tsp Split roasted gram
5 tsp Dry coconut flakes/ desicated / fresh coconut
2 nos Cinnamon
3 clove Cloves
3 nos Cardamon
2 nos Mace (2 petals)
1 pinch Nutmeg powder  (or 1/8 the of teaspoon grated nutmeg)
1 no Star anise (2 petals)


2 nos Bay leaf
3 nos Black stone flower/ kalpasi
3 nos Onion
2 nos Tomato
1 no Green chilli
1 tsp Ginger garlic paste
1 tsp Red chilli powder
6 sprigs Corrainder leaves (chopped)
10 nos Curry leaves
1 tsp Salt (or to taste)
5 tbsp Oil
¼ cup Water


  • Marinate chicken with turmeric powder, salt and lime juice for at least 1/2 hour.
  • Dry roast all the ingredients from group 2 for about 3 minutes until they slightly release aroma and oil. ( if possible try to dry roast coconut separately, as it could burn fast.)
  • Grind the dry masala with ginger garlic paste to make a coarse powder and keep it aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add bay leaf and kalpasi ; add chopped onions & green chillies and fry until golden brown; add marinated chicken and fry with onions for a while.
  • Add chopped tomatoes along with red chilli powder, ground masala powder (Just add 3/4 of the masala powder and check the taste, if its not too strong for your taste, then add the rest) and salt.
  • When the masala turns dark brown add water and garnish with coriander & curry leaves. Serve hot with  any rice dish.


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