Karahi – one of the hallmarks of Pakistani cuisine is a traditional spicy curry comprising of meat stewed in a tomato yogurt base. The dish is named after the steep sided, wok-shaped pot it is usually cooked in. Karhai recipes vary from one region to another. Peshawari Karhai, Lahori Karhai, White Karhai, Koila Karhai, Balochi Karhai, and many more, are all unique versions of the same humble Karhai. Some Karhai recipes call for onions, some don’t. Some use yogurt, others don’t. However, one element that is used in almost all Karhai recipes are tomatoes.
I have no shame in admitting I cannot make a decent Karahi. My karahi would either be too dry or too runny. No matter how hard I tried I failed to replicate the Karachi Highway ‘Dhaba’ taste. Dhabas are roadside restaurants located on Pakistani highways that serve mouthwatering local cuisines and double as truck stops.
My husband however makes a finger licking good Karhai. When he moved to England for his studies, he had a difficult time surviving on takeouts and dearly missed home cooked meals. Pangs of nostalgia for Pakistani food coupled with hunger pangs lead him to start experimenting in the kitchen. Chicken Karhai is something he made often, as both the cooking time and ingredients required for this recipe matched his limited student budget. Over the years he has perfected this recipe and managed to give it a crowd pleasing Dhaba touch. Every time I have his Chicken Karhai, I’m transported to a dhaba on the highways of Karachi, sitting crossed legged on a jute roped charpai, breaking off a piece of steaming hot Naan, dipping it in this aromatic spicy curry, directly from the charred Karhai pot it was served in. Life is too short to plate your food and a piping hot Karhai shared amongst desis doesn’t survive long. Get in while you can!
Coming back to my husband’s recipe, its very simple to follow and requires only a few easily available ingredients. Do try it and give me your feedback! 🙂
- Oil 2 cups
- Bone-in Chicken 1 kg
- Salt 1 tsp
- Ginger paste 1 tsp
- Garlic paste 1 tsp
- Tomatoes 4; cut into quarters
- Water 1 cup
- Coriander Powder 1 tsp
- Cumin Powder 1 tsp
- Crushed Chili Flakes 1 tsp
- Black Pepper 1 tsp; coarsely grounded
- Turmeric 1 tsp
- Green Chillies 2; deseeded and halved
- Ginger 2 inch piece; julienned
- Greek yogurt 1-2 tbsp
In a ‘Karhai’ or wok heat oil and deep fry the chicken pieces. Season chicken with salt as it fries and remove from heat once chicken is light golden. Strain out almost all the oil leaving behind only 2-3 tbsp of oil along with chicken in the wok. Return wok to stove and add ginger and garlic paste and saute for 3 minutes. Turn flame on high and add tomatoes along with 1 cup of water. Keep stirring on high flame for around 8-9 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated and tomatoes are soft. Break down the tomatoes into a puree with the help of your cooking spoon and discard the skins. Add coriander, cumin, black pepper, turmeric and chilli flakes. Reduce the heat to low and add green chillies and ginger, cook for another 5 minutes stirring at regular intervals. Add greek yogurt, give it a good mix so that the yogurt is incorporated into the gravy and cook for another four minutes. Once the oil begins to separate switch off the flame. You can garnish with fresh coriander and sliced green chillies. Serve with warm Naan, Chapati or Rice.