Courtallam / Kutralam Border Kadai Pepper Chicken Varuval

How many of you would enjoy visiting water falls? For those born in Tamil Nadu/Kerala, the most sought after spot for waterfalls is Courtrallam/ Kutralam. It is a small town located in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. It is engulfed by huge mountains of Western Ghats and beautiful landscape of villages around Tirunelveli. Since it lies on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the perfect season to visit the place will be few weeks after the onset of South West Monsoon. The weather will be perfect then – gentle cold breeze with tolerable mild temperature. I have visited close to 5-8 falls during each trip. They are Main Falls, Shenbagadevi Falls, Old Falls, Five Falls,Tiger Falls and Palaruvi Falls or Milk Falls (in Kerala). I have visited Courtrallam a lot of times in the month of June-August. It’s more a family celebration than anything else. During day time, you have to stand in que to enjoy the water. Imagine standing in a long que just to wet ourselves for 5-10 minutes. We don’t want to enjoy the place during day time. It is so very crowded in all the falls. If you ask me, I would call that so uncool. So what we do is? We visit the falls after 7.00PM. It’s damn cold but that’s thrill right. Extremely cold water falling right over you and when we are around your fun loving cousins or friends, all you want to do is scream till the sky falls apart. The bath makes us feel so relaxed. The water gushes down with so much intensity that the body gets relieved of any back aches. It’s gives a SPA effect for sure.

I have visited Kutralam so many times but the memories from this visit so fresh in my mind. It was during my 8th grade summer vacation. Everytime we plan our trip to Kutralam, we stay in Tirunelveli and take the cab to Kutralam about 40 km distance. After playing and drenching in the ice cold water, the hunger pangs will be at its peak. We didn’t want to drive back all the way to Tirunelveli to have dinner. Instead we asked the local for a decent place to eat. Locals suggested to try the BORDER KADAI. Does the name sound funny to you? Yes,  the name sounded interesting to me. I am sure everyone will remember it for lifelong. Next time, you are visiting Tirunelveli or Kutralam, make sure to visit this place.Border Kadai is located right before the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and hence gets the name. During the time they got started, it was the place for truck drivers to dine. It’s a simple takeout joint with rickety benches and chair and servers are casual and no big etiquette followed by the diners. The place will take you by surprise as there will be more men than women. Sometimes our car driver would say its better to order take out than sitting there as few men might be drunk and super excited after their gala time at the water falls. Anyways for the first time we dined inside.

 My male cousins and uncle let the girls and women of the house sit in the middle followed by them seated on all the four corners of the huge rectangular dining table. They have very limited menu and there is only non-vegetarian options. The most famous dish is Border Kadai Pepper Chicken Varuval with parotta. We placed our order and waited for not more than 10 minutes for the food to arrive. The food was served on a clean banana leaf sprinkled with water. Biodegradable, green and inviting. The smoky hot chicken varuval was placed on the banana leaf. The aroma that eminates from the touch of hot chicken over the tender leaf is so appetising for me. As I took a lungful of its aroma, I waited for the parottas to arrive. With chilly hands and rumbling tummy, I took the first bite of chicken with parotta. Wow! No words can describe the taste of that gastronomical combination. It was like walking over a bed of fluffy clouds. Warm, soft and comforting.

Meaty black chicken coated with charred onions and peppercorns was a true delight in every bite. The parottas were crunchy and we enjoyed a hearty meals so many parottas and chickens.

Today I have created my version of Border Kadai Pepper Chicken Varuval.All I did was I made a tasty base with loads of curry leaves, pepper corns and onions. Little bit of ginger-garlic paste and freshly made garam masala went inside the sauce. I let the chicken cook for 20-30 minutes and removed them to broil in the oven for another 15 minutes to get that black colour. As the chicken was getting mildy charred, I simmered the sauce for further 15 minutes on high to thicken. I re-added the broiled chicken and mixed them all together to get a sloppy varuval that oozes spicyness from just peppercorns. Purely black and dark with speckles of green curry leaves popping in every corner like jade perched on the neck of a dark women. Beauty personified.

Source: Self + tips from my achi
Serves: 4
2 tablespoon olive oil
25 curry leaves
2 large red onions – chopped
2 tablespoon ginger and garlic paste
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup black pepper corn – freshly crushed + more for added spice kick and colour ( I think I used close to 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoon coriander powder
8 chicken dumstick or use 1 .5 pounds chicken thighs (cut and cleaned)
1 tablespoon garamasala
1. Heat oil in a large kadai. Once hot enough, add the curry leaves and let it crisp up, about 2 minutes.
2. Throw in the onions and little salt and let it brown a bit about 15 minutes on low flame. Add the ginger and garlic paste and saute till the raw smell disppears, about 2 minutes.
3.  Add turmeric, pepper corns and coriander powder. Saute for couple of minutes. Add the chicken and cook covered for 20 minutes.
5. Set the oven to broil (550F).
6. Gently remove the chicken pieces to a baking sheet. Broil it for 10- 15 minutes. Keep an eye to avoid getting too burnt. We are just trying to get a crisp outer covering.
7. In the meanwhile, add garam masala to the sauce and let it cook at high flame for 15 minutes. Keep an eye again to avoid burning. We just want the sauce to thicken so keep stitting to avoid burning the base.
8. Add the broiled chicken and mix it with the sauce. Let it cook for another 2 minutes. Switch off the flame and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot with parattos or rice.
Additional notes
1. Spicy pepper chicken can be eaten during phase 1 of SBD. You can replace drumsticks with boneless chicken breast.
2. They taste absolutely delicious with sandwich thins

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  1. Now you got me craving for the border kadai parotaas and chicken. Have you tried the muttai parottas they serve? They are equally good! Miss kutrallam and the food 🙁

  2. Born in Tirunelveli, even I have not visited all the falls you have named here. Your write up brought back beautiful memories. Border kadai pepper chicken is my favorite too… Your snaps look finger-licking good!!

  3. I used to eat pepper chicken a lot when I used to stay in bangalore. Mostly it would be breast piece cube cut size. But this, this I am loving more cause I love chicken legs. Love photos sweetie.

  4. wow wow wow, what you described as your nostalgia of courtallam holds every bit good for me too. I love this shop and our family men sit in the corners of those benches too. After a late night bath (mostly in five falls or main falls) we used to head here to this place, drenched in the water wearing wet clothes, hands numbed and cold,and stomach growling in hunger, we used to enjoy the pepper fried chicken, parotta, egg parotta,omlette,etc. haah bliss! will try your recipe and come back here.
    thanks for kindling all those wonderful memories

  5. I love kutralam a lot..Used to visit every year during the season. THose are unforgettable moments. We go to falls even in mid night's and enjoy hot milk …its so tasty to drink hot milk after taking wonderful bath. There are so many restuarants I love both in kutralam, tenkasi… Five falls and paalaruvi is my fav one…. Lovely post.

  6. Swetha Sivakumar 8 years ago

    Great website…Not just the recipes, but wonderful posts stirring memories of all things Indian..especially Kutrallam. We used to go there on family vacations almost 20 years ago. We used to dread entering the waterfall…the force was so strong. But once we kids got in, our parents had to drag us out kicking and screaming:). It was that much fun. Thanks for bringing those memories back. Great meeting up with you at Jayanthi's.

  7. Ashmita 7 years ago

    We also went to kutrallam and had biryani which the localites called as Rehamats hotel, it was awesome to be exact. Are you talking about the same place where you had border pepper chicken? But most people were having biryani along wit pepper chicken, tandoori chicken etc.

    If yes then please if you can share the recipe and tell us wat kind of biryani it was??

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