HOMEMADE EASY CHICKEN KARAHI
Fragrant and delicious Pakistani style Chicken Karahi that is made right in the comfort of your home! This is a very popular dish originating from South Asian cuisine. This delicious chicken dish is made using bone-in chicken, thick luscious gravy is made from onions and lots of tomatoes and some basic South Asian spices.
WHAT IS CHICKEN KARAHI?
Chicken Karahi is a very popular dish famous and loved across the South Asian regions. It can be prepared with different variations across the region, restaurants and households. Chicken karahi is a thick masala curry made from bone-in chicken and lots of fresh ginger and garlic. The gravy is made from onions and lots of tomatoes. The spices are pretty basic Pakistani flavors. This dish is traditionally prepared in a karahi which is a type of cooking vessel similar to a wok. It is served along with naan, roti or rice.
INGREDIENTS FOR THIS CHICKEN KARAHI
CHICKEN: When I am making this dish for our family, I always use 1 small whole chicken. Pieces can be cut into medium sizes. My preference is always bone-in chicken because that will add so much flavor and the meat on the bone is tender. Make sure not to cook cold chicken, always let the chicken come to room temperature before cooking. This ensures the meat will not be tough and will cook evenly.
OIL: A neutral oil like vegetable, canola, ghee or light olive oil works just fine for this recipe. Please don’t skimp on the oil. You need to have enough oil to sear the chicken in. If you don’t use enough oil the dish will not have that authentic concentrated flavor from the sauteing step.
TOMATOES & ONIONS: This is how you make the delicious thick gravy for chicken karahi. We don’t need a lot of onions in this dish. The slight tangy flavor is from tomatoes. Please make sure you are using fresh tomatoes. You can dice the tomatoes, so they cook down quickly and avoid large pieces of tomato skin. I have added 5 medium vine tomatoes. But you can use up to 7 to have a little more gravy. If you use more than 5 tomatoes add more oil. You want to make sure the tomatoes are ripe and juicy. I have also used a little tomato paste. Tomato paste adds a nice color and consistency to the curry but is purely optional.
GINGER & GARLIC: I can honestly say using fresh ingredients makes a big difference in home cooking. These two ingredients are so important in mostly all South Asian dishes. They bring flavor and a healthy fresh aroma that makes South Asian cuisine very unique.
SPICES: The spices are rather simple for this dish. This dish heavily relies on fresh ingredients like onion, tomatoes, ginger and garlic and the cooking technique to bring out the flavor.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE COOKING TECHNIQUE bhuna
If your curries have a boiled, steamed or stew like flavor this is the cooking step you may be missing.
If you are just learning how to cook South Asian cuisines, you may have heard this term in many recipes. Bhuna is referring to a cooking technique. In this technique your flavor base is fried briefly over high heat. This technique forms a delicious thick paste or masala (thick gravy). This term can also be used to describe a dish.
In this chicken karahi recipe, having enough oil and cooking on a higher flame and not adding extra water is key. The oil will sear the spices, onion and tomato gravy as the water evaporates. Tomatoes and chicken will release enough water, so try not to add extra water. When you properly cook with this technique the spices, onion and tomatoes will look like a thick concentrated masala. You should be able to see the oil kind of separated from the masala once it’s done cooking. This ensures the ingredients have seared and no extra water is left.
You will be constantly stirring to make sure it doesn’t catch the bottom of the pan.
TOP TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND
- Try to use fresh ingredients
- Use bone-in chicken
- Don’t cook cold meat. Leave it out covered to take the chill off. Chicken will cook tender & evenly
- Do allow chicken to sear. Searing any meat adds flavor
- Finely dice onion and tomatoes for a smooth gravy
- Try not to add extra water. Chicken and tomatoes will release a lot of water
- Cook on a higher flame & with enough oil
- Make Sure to really use the bhuna technique.
WHAT SHOULD YOU SERVE CHICKEN KARAHI WITH?
Because chicken karahi has a thick gravy it’s usually preferred to be paired with fluffy naan or roti. Thinly sliced red onions or a salad goes great alongside.
HOMEMADE EASY CHICKEN KARAHI
- 1 whole chicken cut into medium size pieces (about 2.5-3lbs)
- 1/2-3/4 cup neutral oil
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 green chili, diced
- 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (optional or adjust to taste)
- 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely minced
- 6 medium vine tomatoes, diced or pureed
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 1 1/2 salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 tsp. red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp. Kashmiri red chili (optional, adds vibrant color)
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 tsp. roasted cumin powder
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp. dry fenugreek leaves
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- fresh julienned ginger
- fresh chopped cilantro
- fresh lemon juice
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of oil. Once the oil is hot added cumin seeds. Let these sizzle for about 10 seconds. Then add onions and green chili. Sauté till light golden brown about 5-6 minutes. Add chili flakes and ginger and garlic and sauté for about 15 seconds.
- Add chicken, mix and make sure all sides sear for about 5 minutes, it should get some color on it. Add tomatoes and powder spices, mix well. Keep heat on medium and let it cook for about 15 minutes, stirring in between. If the chicken pieces are large, you can give another 10 minutes or so. Keep stirring so it doesn't catch the bottom of pan. If you feel like it's sticking to pan you can add little water. But there should be enough water from the tomatoes.
- Towards end of cooking time, you want to make sure excess water has evaporated and oil is separated. If this has not happened, you can add little more oil at this stage and turn up the heat to get reduce excess water. The masala will be thick, and you should see the oil kind of separating from the mixture.
- Garnish with fenugreek leaves, small bunch of chopped cilantro, just a squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. black pepper & some julienned ginger.
- Serve hot with naan, roti or rice