I hope for Pakistan Eats to be a platform where you can share recipes that are most meaningful for you. I'm going to start by sharing my own version of Pakistan's culinary star, 'chicken karhai'.
When you google chicken karhai, the following definition comes up on Wikipedia:
"Chicken karahi (Punjabi: چکن کڑاہی ), also known as gosht karahi (when prepared with goat or lamb meat instead of chicken) and kadai chicken is a Pakistani and North Indian dish noted for its spicy taste and usage of capsicum. It is said that only one utensil is required to cook this dish and that is a karahi (wok)."
I was appalled and confused. Known for its usage of capsicum? What is this guy smoking?
Chicken karhai (karhai meaning wok), in my opinion, deserves a spot in the sub-continent’s culinary top 5. I will also go as far as saying that it’s Pakistan’s national dish. Granted – I was born in Islamabad and went to college in Lahore. My entire family immigrated from Eastern Punjab to Western Punjab. So there is clearly a Punjabi bias here. But that said, you can go to any dhaba (roadside restaurant) in the middle of nowhere Pakistan, and they will be able to serve you a delicious, crackling, blackened wok of tomato-chicken goodness.
While chicken karhai is often termed as Lahore’s culinary attraction, it’s cousin, karahi gosht (literal translation: wok - meat) hails from the Frontier. So maybe the idea that chicken karhai is Pakistan’s national dish is not so far-fetched? I would love to hear your thoughts.
For those missing home, chicken karhai is probably one of the first places to start.
Total Cooking Time: 45 minutes
1.5 lbs of boneless chicken (preferably chicken thighs) diced (if you’re an adult, you will use chicken with bone but I'm not there yet)
3 tbsp of canola or vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 green chili (check for heat and adjust per taste)
1 tsp of ginger paste
1 tbsp of cumin seeds
Salt to taste
6 small plum/roma tomatoes, de-seeded, roughly chopped
1 tsp of black pepper
1 tbsp of red chili flakes (can adjust per taste)
1 tsp of garam masala
1 tbsp of whole milk yogurt
½ cup cilantro roughly chopped
1 ½ inch knob of ginger julienned
Heat oil in a large wok or karhai. After the wok is hot, stir in garlic till it's slightly brown (make sure it doesn't burn).
Lower heat, throw in green chilies, and add ginger paste. Stir quickly to make sure paste doesn't burn. Add cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds.
Turn the heat up high and add chicken, and salt. Stir till it's no longer pink, about 8-10 minutes.
Add chopped tomatoes and stir (with gusto) for about 10 minutes. Add red chili flakes, black pepper and garam masala. Check for salt.
Once the tomatoes have broken down, let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes on high heat till it has reduced in volume. Add 1/3 cup cilantro and 1 tbsp of yogurt to add thickness. Keep stirring till the tomatoes have become jammy.
Garnish with cilantro, green chilies, and julienned ginger. Serve hot, with naan/chapati, preferably in the wok/karhai itself.