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Kaari Chawal (Curry and Rice) – A Bohra Eid specialty

September 15, 2010
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Last Saturday, I hosted a Ramadan Eid party at my home. As the guests talked about how long and trying the days were, and how quickly the month went by, I recalled the same Eid party at my home a year ago and tried to remember all that had happened in a year.

What I’m particularly proud about this Eid is that I learned how to make a dish that is made in every Bohra household on this big day of celebration. Kaari Chawal. Kaari is clearly a version of the word Curry, and only God knows what came from what. Chawal is the Hindi word for Rice. What also makes an Eid meal complete, is Sheer Korma, a milk and vermicelli pudding, prepared with assorted nuts, raisins and saffron. Hopefully I’ll post the recipe for this dish in a later post.

Back to Kaari Chawal! This rich curry is made with a unique concoction of roasted and then ground nuts and spices. When I learned about the composition, I wasn’t surprised why such a decadent combination of ingredients is reserved for a dish made specifically for a major day in the Islamic community.

White Poppy seeds or Khus Khus, White sesame seeds, Cashews, raw, Almonds, Cinnamon, Cloves, Black Pepper corns, Red dried, chilies, or Kashmiri Mirch, Whole Corainder seeds, Whole cumin seeds

Roughly equal quantities of everything is used, except for Cashews, which are used liberally, and which make the bulk of the spice mix. The ground mixture is available ready-made in India, sold by individual, family-owned grocers (yes those exist in abundance back home), mostly from the Bohra community. It goes without saying that every store has its own unique proportion of ingredients, not to mention a secret ingredient that we’ll never know of. Some Bohra women swear by one vendor’s Kaari spice mix over another, some others prefer to make their own Masala at home, from scratch. I used a ready-made spice mix that my sister had squirreled away from my mother’s visit a few months ago.

Making the curry once you have the spice mix is really a breeze and a one-pot dish. The flavor is nothing like any curry that you may have tasted at your local Indian restaurant.

Here’s how you use the spice mix to make the creamy, delicious curry. Serves 5 people:

Printable version of recipe

You will need:

  • About 7-8 skinless chicken drumsticks or about 2 lbs of bone-in, skinless chicken
  • 2 cups of the Kaari spice mix
  • 2 cans Coconut Milk, diluted in 1 can-full of water
  • 2-3 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 3-4 whole green chilies, slit lengthwise
  • 1 cup Ghee or clarified butter
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 Anise Stars
  • 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp Ginger & Garlic paste
  • 1/2 tbsp Red Chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup wet tamarind (available at any Asian or Indian grocery store)
  • A handful of chopped coriander and mint leaves
  • Lemon juice for garnishing


  • Clean the chicken, pat dry and keep aside. You can also use mutton in this dish, but cooking time will be much longer
  • In a large pot, heat the Ghee on medium heat. When heated, add the Cinnamon sticks, Anise Stars and cumin seeds
  • When the spices crackle and are fragrant, add the Ginger & Garlic paste. Allow to fry for a minute and then add the spice mix, lower the heat and toast it in the Ghee, stirring occasionally, until the fat separates from the sides of the mixture
  • Now add the chicken or mutton, and mix well. Allow the meat to cook partially in the spice mix, with a lid on the pot
  • Add the diluted coconut milk, dessicated coconut, and slit green chilies. Mix very well and add salt to taste. Put a lid on the pot, set heat on low-medium and allow the curry to simmer
  • When the meat is partially  cooked, add the red chili powder, mix well and continue to cook
  • When the meat is fully cooked, heat about 1 cup of water in a bowl and add the wet tamarind in it. Squeeze the paste from the tamarind into the water. Remove any solids from this mixture and add to the curry. Mix well. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes more.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander and mint leaves. The true test of a well-done Kaari is when the fat from the clarified butte rises to the top of the curry
  • Serve with hot naan and Cumin Rice
20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2010 1:02 pm

    Wow! looks awesome. Loving the color and texture of kaari. I can almost eat that out of the screen.

    Kaari with Pea studded rice. That’s my thing.

    • September 15, 2010 2:54 pm

      Thanks Kulsum 🙂 Yes I love pea studded rice too. And the green chutney to go with it all! Ummm…

  2. September 15, 2010 9:04 pm

    Looks delicious!! Kari chaawal is one of my favorites. I make it occasionally but somehow, it never turns out as good as my mom makes it. And yes, it goes wonderfully with the pea-studded rice, not to forget, some fried, browned onion sprinkled on top!

  3. September 24, 2010 7:32 pm

    Oh that looks great!

  4. fatema lokat permalink
    November 20, 2010 1:39 pm

    hie ….this was the first time I every tried making kaari chawal….and this receipe made my life a little simple… I made a little change .. I precooked the mutton in ginger – garlic – chilly paste and used the mutton stock in the curry…

    • November 22, 2010 10:50 am

      That’s a great suggestion Fatema! Thanks for trying out my recipe!

  5. November 25, 2011 4:15 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing and decadent, Sabera! The cooler weather here definitely is making me want to cook Indian food again…gonna take a spin through your recent posts and pick something out for this weekend!

  6. maryam permalink
    March 27, 2012 1:30 am

    Can i use oliv oil instd of ghe

    • April 3, 2012 8:49 pm

      Hi Maryam – Yes, you can certainly use Olive oil instead of ghee. However be sure to use a ‘light’ olive oil only because extra-virgin olive oil has a distinct flavor that does not go with Indian flavors.

  7. June 27, 2012 3:34 pm

    Sabera, the pictures make my mouth water, I live in New Jersey, do you know of any place I can buy the masala from?

    • July 6, 2012 12:34 pm

      Hi Shabnam – I am not familiar with the New Jersey area but given that there are so many Indians and bohras living there, you should check with your local Indian grocery store. Another idea is to search for Bohra community websites online and ask someone where you could find Kaari masala.

      • July 6, 2012 1:52 pm


      • Ashi permalink
        February 16, 2015 2:50 am

        Hi Sabera.. I made Kaari for the first time using your recipe and it turned out great. I made the masala at home using 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/4 cup almonds, 1/4 cup Bengal Gram (Chana) and 1/2 cup raw cashews.. I ground them and then in the curry, I added 1 tsp full of corriander powder and 1 tsp red chilli powder.. Turned out great. For all those who cant find masala, you can try making this masala home

        • March 1, 2015 12:11 am

          That’s a great tip, Ashi! Thanks so much!

  8. Tasneem permalink
    February 24, 2013 2:27 pm

    The best way is to make this with mutton with the bone in ( which has been boiled with green chilies, ginger and salt ) and then use the stock in the Kari. Ghee is best as it gives it a distinctive flavour. The rice can be made with peas and after its done decorated with birista ( fried onions ). Mom makes it the best….always 🙂

  9. July 25, 2014 3:15 pm

    this looks soo yummy. will try it. can you pls post a recipe for coriander paratha. i remember eating in my friends house. parathas stuffed with coriander leaves and onions but not sure of the correct recipe.Thanks!

  10. Fatema permalink
    February 19, 2015 6:23 am

    Tried ur recipe. Turned out really good. Thanks very much..

  11. Munira permalink
    October 1, 2017 9:42 am

    I came across your site last year and since then I use your receipe for Kari chawal. I really like it with lamb. I also boil the meat first and use the stoke in frying masala. Thanks for this receipe. God bless you and your family.

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