This best karahi chicken recipe is a quick and easy version of one of Pakistan's favorite street foods. Spicy, with lots of tomatoes and topped with sharp julienned ginger it's finger licking good. You won't want to miss this one!
Chicken Karahi is a popular street food that originated in the province of Punjab. Per tasteatlas.com it gets its name from the actual pot it is cooked in. A Karahi is a thick semi circular pot traditionally made of iron. It's similar in shape to a Wok, but with steeper sides.
It is commonly used in South Asian Cooking for deep frying things such as pakoras or samosas . It's also used for all Pakistani stir fries such as tawa fry beef keema or beef karahi gosht. Most traditional Pakistani homes have an old favorite one that they cook in.
There are many reasons why using a Karahi is the preferred method of cooking this dish. The shape of the pot allows for an even distribution of heat. This means that less oil is needed and the food cooks quicker and more evenly.
Chicken Karahi takes about 30 minutes to cook and if you're familiar with Pakistani cooking that's a very short time. Also, the traditional Karahi is made of iron and it is believed that when the iron reacts with certain foods it provides many health benefits.
If you don't have a good Karahi but own a cast iron skillet, that would be a good alternate choice. Of course, most Karahi's today are made of sheet metal and as such, a Wok would also be a good substitute.
With all of that being said, I've cooked an awesome Chicken Karahi in a plain and simple pot many a time with no issues, as the picture below will illustrate. So I wouldn't go to extensive trouble searching for hard to find utensils unless you plan on using them frequently.
Although the most most popular version of this entree is made with chicken, it can be made with goat or beef as well. The ingredients in a Karahi are simple and the meat is usually cut into small pieces so that it gets cooked through during the stir frying.
A point to note, as we are using many of the ingredients we normally would in a curry, but without the addition of water, some things can easily get a burnt taste if timing isn't adhered to. It's best to have everything chopped and ready to toss in as directed in this recipe so you have a beautifully cooked and flavorful Karahi.
Best Karahi Chicken Recipe
- 2 lbs chicken
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 onion SEE NOTES
- 2 tsp garlic
- ¼ cup water SEE NOTES
- 6 oz tomato paste SEE NOTES
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 4 green chillies
- 2 inch piece of ginger
- ½ cup cilantro
- Heat the cooking oil and brown the onions in it
- Add and Saute the garlic for 30-45 seconds
- Add the chicken and stir fry till well browned.Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes in it's own juices
- Uncover, turn the flame on high and add the salt, red chili powder and turmeric. Cook for 3-5 minutes
- Add the tomato paste with the ¼ cup water and stir fry for 2-3 minutes
- Add the green chillies and ginger and stir fry for 3-5 minutes. If the tomato paste seems to be sticking to the pan add 2 tablespoons of water
- Garnish with cilantro and serve with fresh hot naan
- Traditionally chicken Karahi doesn't have onions but at my house we like a little something to dip our Naan in so I add some to mine
- Chicken releases a lot of water so usually I don't add any extra. If you feel the need to add some then ¼ cup should be enough.
- Tomato paste is can burn easily so keep some water on hand at this stage. You need enough time to fry and release the flavor of the chilies and ginger so this is a crucial step. But remember to go slow with the water as this is not a curry.
- Traditional Karahi has fresh tomatoes in it and you can definitely use them (I would use 4 Roma Tomatoes) but they will need to be separately sauteed in a little oil and then added as they release a lot of water and adding them directly will ruin the consistency of the chicken Karachi. I personally like the paste as it has a very bold flavor that enhances the dish and is a welcome shortcut on a busy day.