Stew in Coconut milk or Ishtoo

This "ishtoo" is typical to Syrian Christian homes in Kerala and I try to make this with Appam whenever family visits, especially for breakfast at Easter or Christmas.Stew with crispy lacey Palappams is an integral part of family gatherings and most definitely on special occasions. It is quite simple to prepare with coconut milk being easily available in tins but incredibly tasty especially if you like coconut milk based curries.

Traditional Syrian Christian Coconut Milk Stew
Recipe source: My mother and mother-in-law

  1. *Mutton 500 gms or Chicken 1/2 Kg ( Omit to make vegetable stew)
  2. Onion-1 (large or 2 medium)
  3. Green chilly- 3-4
  4. Ginger - small piece about half the size of your thumb, smashed with a pestle ( no need to slice)
  5. Curry leaves- a few about 5-6
  6. Thick Coconut milk 1 cup
  7. Cinnamon sticks (patta) 1
  8. Cloves (karayampoo) 4
  9. Cardamom (elakka) 4
  10. Whole Peppercorns 4-5
  11. Diced vegetables likes potatoes-2, carrots-2 are traditional but nowadays people also add beans, peas, corn, mushroom etc. especially if making a vegetable stew
Optional, for my mother in law's spicier variation: ( omit for traditional white coloured stew):
  1. Garlic cloves 3
  2. Coriander powder 1 tsp 
  3. Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
  4. Garam masala powder 1/2 tsp 
Optional for garnish:
2-3 small onions ( shallots) or half a regular onion sliced thin and 4-5 curry leaves fried in a tbsp of ghee or coconut oil

  1. Heat oil (I prefer coconut oil mixed with a little canola oil). Splutter cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and pepper
  2. Fry thinly sliced onion, salt to taste, smashed piece of ginger, curry leaves and slit green chillies until onions turn transluscent ( they should not turn brown)
  3. Now if you want the  spicier yellow coloured stew like my mother in law makes, add and lightly fry the garlic, and then the spices mentioned - coriander, turmeric and garam masala and saute just until till spices no longer smell raw.
  4. Add mutton/chicken and stir fry for about 5-10 mins and then add the chopped vegetables
  5. Add 3 cups water ( can reduce water if you want a thicker gravy) and 1/4 cup coconut milk and cover and cook ( I use a pressure cooker)
  6. When done- (usually for chicken 10 mins after the whistle goes, the meat should be white and cooked through, a fork should go through the potatoes and carrots easily), reduce flame pour first extraction thick coconut milk (or 1 cup thick coconut milk from a tin), and simmer for 10-15 mins on low heat stirring occasionally so that the coconut milk does not curdle
  7. For added flavour you can fry curry leaves and 2 small onions till brown in 1 tbsp ghee/ coconut oil and pour on top.
* - You can choose to leave out the chicken or mutton to make a vegetable stew.

Stew is traditionally served with Appams or Idiappams  but it is also great served with soft warm bread rolls or rice too.

If you like this and coconut milk based curried check out my favourite super quick and easy chicken curry in coconut milk ( which I also make with just veggies)


  1. Looks so good..I am going to try a Veggie version of the same!!

  2. Do let me know how it turns out! And don't forget to send it in to Kerala Kitchen!

  3. Thanks so much for trying it Divya, your pictures are beautiful!

  4. 3 Researches SHOW Why Coconut Oil Kills Waist Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally get rid of fat by consuming Coconut Fat (also coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 researches from large medical magazines are sure to turn the traditional nutrition world upside down!


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