My husband, Michael, grew up on a farm in the Deep South, and he taught me to love fried chicken.
But I learned to make this dish from our dear friend Raina Pearce, who always shakes the chicken (or even shrimp) in small batches in resealable plastic bags to get a uniform coating of flour. Her method has never failed me.
The Approach: Whenever I make popcorn chicken or fry larger serving pieces, I flavor the dish in stages. The whole spices are toasted to activate their oils. These are then blended into buttermilk to create a savory marinade. More seasoning is then added to the flour in the dredging mixture, and finally, the hot little nuggets of chicken are topped with crunchy fried curry leaves and chile peppers. While we often eat this with a hot sauce or ranch dressing, the very best accompaniment is the maple-vinegar syrup or green chutney.