Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chicken Karhai - Lahore Style


It has been a few weeks since I last posted and to the readers that kept coming back, I appreciate your support very much. It feels amazing when you see the map on blogger, lit up in green all over; countries like England, Saudi, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Pakistan, India and so many more. I love writing this blog because I have realized that it focuses my unpolished creativity and my need to share stories in one place. 

I am very blessed to have been born in a beautiful country like Pakistan. I am more fortunate to have visited different towns and have tasted countless dishes, prepared differently in every region of Pakistan. The following recipe is called Chicken Karhai. It is a staple dish that is prepared in Pakistan to Welcome guests, to show appreciation to family and friends and to feed hungry Travelers on the road (Yes I am talking about those roadside restaurants that serve dishes like ghee loaded chana daal to an amazing karhai with soft and fluffy naans).

Now the name of this dish comes from the pot that this dish is usually cooked in. It is the same as a wok and is called Karhai in Urdu. At restaurants, the chicken karhai is cooked at high heat with variety of spices and herbs and is served in the same karhai it was cooked in. The consistent use of a wok blackens the surface and adds the blackened look of a restaurant karhai.  At home, my mum’s chicken karhai looks bright red with the use of extra tomatoes, no garam masala and a completely clean karhai ;)

I follow my mum’s recipe but add garam masala because I like the extra toasty spices in the karhai.


Oil                         3 tbsp if using non-stick wok, 5 tbsp if using stainless steel
Chicken               1 kg
Garlic                   2 tbsp minced
Cumin                  ½ tsp
Salt                        1 tsp and then according to taste add more
Cayenne:             1 ½  tsp
Black pepper      ½ tsp
Turmeric:           ½  tsp
Garam Masala:  1 tsp
Yogurt                  1tbsp
Tomatoes:           3 large
Ginger:                 1 tsp (julienne)
Cilantro:               2 tbsp
Green Chile         3-4

  •  Heat oil in a wok, add garlic and let it heat for 15 seconds on medium-high heat.
  •   Then add chicken, salt and cumin and fry the chicken on medium-high heat.
  •  Let the chicken get light brown from one side then flip it in the pan.
  • Once both sides of chicken are browned, add cayenne, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric and yogurt and Sautee everything together. The yogurt lets the spices, mix well without being burnt on the medium-high heat. 
  • Then turn the heat on medium-low. Cover and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes cook the chicken thoroughly. Turn heat back on medium high, this time to get rid of excess water. The more you cook karhai the better it gets.·    
  • Puree two tomatoes and add that to the wok, reduce the masala to half.
  • Chop the last tomato and add that to the wok. From this point you will need to stir so the beautiful masala does not stick to the pan.
  •  Let it cook and stir it until you see a layer of oil forming and the water reducing from the karhai. (Approx. 10-15 mins).
  •  Once it is ready, turn the heat off and add ginger, cilantro and green chile. Serve with naan or rice pilaf.

  •     If you eat mild spices, you can use less cayenne, green chile and black pepper.
  •    Garama masala and cumin add to the taste and shouldn’t make the dish spicy.
  •   Add more tomatoes for more sauce.(masala)
  •  Taste the salt before you add the garnish. Add more if you want to and cook and stir for two more minutes.
  •  Use any pan as long as the chicken can be fried with its masala.
  •  chop all the tomatoes if you want more of a body to their dish.
  •    If you don’t like cilantro add parsley :) 

Let me know, how it turns out for you. I would appreciate feedback, questions and comments.


Sautee Garlic 15 seconds

Add cumin with the chicken

Add spices and yogurt.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 min on medium-low heat.
Add Tomato Puree
Reduce the masala to half
Add chopped tomatoes
Reduce more if you want a roasted look

This looks ready, notice the oil on the top sides.