Karahi Chicken

I fear that I may have the “karahi chicken connoisseurs” after me with pitchforks when they find out that this is not an authentic karahi chicken. But, if you search on the internet for karahi chicken, a million different variations show up. Everybody has their own idea of what this dish should be. I have made, what is considered the traditional karahi chicken; the stir fried chicken with fresh tomatoes and chillies and I like it, but my kids aren’t too fond of the chunkiness of the fresh tomatoes. They love rice and they love to have masala (gravy) to mix into their rice. So, I adjusted the tomato and chicken curry to suit my needs. It probably can’t be called karahi chicken, but I do cook it in a karahi so I am not too far off the mark… OK…maybe I am way off, I actually use a Le Creuset braiser (best pans ever!) but its shaped like a karahi, will that do? 

Karahi chicken is a speciality of North Pakistan. It’s supposed to be a quick, stir fried dish made in a wok like, iron vessel called a karahi. It’s comprised of chicken, tomatoes, chillies, garlic and ginger. Very simple, fresh and flavourful. Unfortunately, I don’t always care for the combination of chicken and tomatoes. I feel the gaminess of chicken comes out with fresh tomatoes, so I feel the need to add spices and onions to mask that smell and taste. Yes, I am weird but I can’t eat it if I can taste the gaminess. Of course, it could just be my inherent, Hyderabadi need to make everything into a “nawabi” (stately or royal) dish! I probably just made many North Pakistanis furious, but it’s cooking, we change recipes and adapt to our needs. 

I don’t remember eating karahi chicken growing up, probably because we ate mainly Hyderabadi food. However, I don’t remember eating karahi chicken even when we would visit Pakistan. I think my first experience with this dish was at Pakistani restaurants in Houston and, even here, each restaurant had their take on it…none very authentic. So, put your pitchforks away, I am going to give you my version of karahi chicken and if it helps, I’ll even call it “Le Creuset Chicken” instead.

To make matters worse, my karahi chicken, has onions and bell peppers. Like I said, my kids like masala, and that is easily achieved by onions. I just like the flavour of the green bell peppers with the tomato masala and that’s why I add them. I also, like my chicken to have some colour, so I brown it first. You can caramelise the onions in a bit of oil and then blend them or just let them disintegrate into the sauce as it cooks. I use fresh tomatoes if I have them and if it’s summer and they are juicy and ripe. Most of the time, I am not impressed at the quality of fresh tomatoes on the market. I always keep tinned, organic or other high quality tomatoes in my pantry. Tinned tomatoes are always picked ripe and are a perfectly good substitution for fresh, sometimes they are better than fresh. I like to buy the petite diced tomatoes if they are available and if not, the crushed tomatoes. My kids don’t like the chunky tomato bits and honestly, I don’t care for them either. You can always whiz up whole tomatoes in the blender if you can’t find petite diced or crushed. But, if you don’t mind chunky tomatoes then it’s not an issue at all. 

I, usually serve this with rice with vermicelli (roz bil she’reya). Yes, this is fusion cooking! Not only have I changed a recipe, I am serving it with Arabic rice. I like the buttery, vermicelli and rice along with the slow cooked, rich masala, and it’s a big favourite of my kids. I love parathas (flaky, Indian flat breads) or rotis with my chicken karahi. Of course, it’s not easy rolling out a dozen or so parathas, so most of the time I take the easy route of making the rice. I did make parathas yesterday, only because I was craving them, and even though I had to roll out quite a few, it was so worth it.  

So, I hope you try my version of the karahi chicken and decide it’s not so bad after all. This dish does have some fans; my kids and apparently, my sister Naureen. I guess I made this for her on one of her trips to Houston and she hasn’t forgotten how wonderful it was!
This makes 6 servings.

Karahi Chicken….my way

2lbs/ 1kg boneless chicken breast, medium cube or small pieces with bone
1 large onion, diced finely
1 14.5 oz tin/411g crushed tomatoes
2 green bell peppers, in large pieces
1/4 cup/59ml neutral flavoured oil like canola or vegetable
1 tablespoon/15ml garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoon/10ml ginger, finely minced
2 teaspoon/10ml cumin(zeera) powder
2 teaspoon/10ml coriander(dhania)powder
1 teaspoon/5ml turmeric(haldi) powder
1 teaspoon/5ml red chilli powder 
1/2 teaspoon/2ml fenugreek(methi) powder
3 or more green chillies, depending how spicy you want it
handful of fresh cilantro/coriander
fresh ginger, thinly julienned (optional)

Mix the chicken with the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric and red chilli powder and put aside to marinate.
Meanwhile, put the oil in a wok, or karahi or braiser and fry the onions on medium heat.
Cook till they are turning golden and caramelising.
Add the chicken pieces and coat with the onions and let the chicken 
saute and brown (for boneless pieces, about 5 minutes)
Once the chicken has some colour, add the green bell peppers and saute 
for a couple of minutes, till they are just softened.
Add the crushed tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes and onions 
begin to make a masala/gravy and the oil separates.
Add the green chillies and the fenugreek powder and mix through.
Once the liquid has evaporated and the gravy is thick, add the fresh
cilantro and take off the heat.
Before serving, garnish with thinly, julienned ginger.