Fry all the spice paste ingredients in 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes. Grind the fried spices with the onion, garlic, and ginger to a paste in a blender.
Heat remaining oil in a heavy pan and add the spice paste, turmeric, and curry leaves and fry for 4–5 minutes. Add chicken; cook until lightly browned. Add salt; stir thoroughly. Add 1 cup water and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender enough to be shredded with a fork.
Garnish with chopped cilantro.