Chicken karahi as comfort food

My dad is a big fan of making chicken karahi. It’s a distinctly Pakistani take on sauteed chicken, with a heavy dose of green chilis, tomatoes and ginger providing the flavor. I am home sick today with a sore throat, and I found myself craving the foods I often smelled wafting from my parents’ kitchen. Most often, it was lentils and chicken karahi, so that’s what I made.

What I realized after scoping out some karahi recipes is that it is a deceptively simple dish. That makes sense, since my dad isn’t into complicated recipes. “Karahi” is a reference to the pot in which this dish is made, basically a wok.

My suspicion is the chicken karahi is street food, made in giant boiling woks on the open streets of Lahore. I could see it being served on Food Street, a famous food destination in the Punjabi city. The reason I say this is because the recipe is entirely made with an open wok, and it is cooked over a high flame — much like the high-heat fires you might find in outdoor cooking.

Most Indian subcontinent curries require carefully cooked onions and long cooking periods with the pot sealed tight to develop the sauce. But this karahi simply requires a few chopped up ingredients cooked over a strong flame. It’s typically served with naan, which is bread cooked in clay ovens called tandoors — a common accompaniment to Pakistani street food.

Now, I know this isn’t chicken noodle soup, and I admit that with my throat’s current condition, I probably won’t be enjoying much of this spicy meat dish. But the smells alone took me home at a time when that’s where I want to be transported. And B is a big fan of chicken karahi, so I’m hoping he’ll approve!

Recipe after the jump.

Start by prepping your ingredients:
1 whole chicken, cut up into 3″ pieces and washed
4 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (or any other variety will do, as long as they are the best you can find)
5 garlic cloves, sliced thinly into discs
a 3″ knob of ginger, julienned into thin matchsticks
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, depending on your spice tolerance, sliced into round discs
one bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil

1. Heat up the oil in a wok or saute pan, and add the garlic. Let it cook for 1 minute, then add 1/3 of the ginger. Give that a minute and add the tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Cook them over medium-high heat until they become saucy and the liquid thickens, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the chicken and green chilis. Cook over high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to avoid burning and to cook the chicken throughout.

3. Add another third of ginger and half the cilantro. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce has mostly dried up and the chicken is completely cooked.

4. Top with leftover ginger and cilantro and serve with bread or rice of choice. Yum!

(In case you’re wondering about those lentils, I followed this recipe from an amazing blog I found during my karahi explorations.)

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