Do you smell that aroma? The spiced chicken frying on a hot griddle inside a tiny cart while everyone around moves at a blistering speed, now that’s Halal Chicken over rice in New York. It doesn’t matter if you love it, or hate it, or if you never tried it, it’s hard to not notice that aroma. In matter a fact a busy street in Manhattan can have up to 4 carts per corner meaning you can never get away. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Halal carts in Manhattan that there are Starbucks, and that’s saying a lot. It’s no wonder that the wait time to receive a mobile food vendor permit can reach 10 years, they’re everywhere!
You’re probably are wondering why would you want to make a Chicken over Rice. After all the one from the carts is tasty, cheap, and conveniently available. Well for one you’ll get to show off you culinary skills with a simple, yet delicious recipe. Second is that you’ll be using a lot less oil than a typical Halal chicken. And last but definitely not least is that you’ll know exactly what’s in it and what’s not. Let’s be honest Halal carts are not exactly the most healthy and cleanest places you can get your food from. Plus you can always tweak it to your preference!
Now let’s start with the meat. You’ll need 4 chicken tights, or more precisely boneless chicken tights, which are the cut choice for Halal chicken. You can either buy boneless chicken tights and pay double, or remove the bones and skin yourself and save some money. For example in my local supermarket the boneless chicken tights cost $3.99 per pound, while regular tights are $1.29. This means even after you remove the bones and skin the tights would come out to roughly $1.60 – $1.70 per pound. It’s a great bargain, and you feel like a real chef when you debone those tights.
Deboning chicken tights is simple as all you have to do is remove excess fat, pull off the skin, and make a cut along the bone to remove it. If you’re having problem, there are tons of YouTube videos about the topic.
Now it’s time to make a quick marinade. I’m using a mortar and pestle for this but if you don’t have one it’s okay, all you have to do is grind your spices and mince the garlic. If you do, roughly chop up a garlic clove or two and throw it into the mortar. Add some salt and go to work, after it becomes a bit pasty add juice from half a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander, 1/2 of cumin, and 1/2 thyme and continue. I’m using whole coriander, and cumin and just mash it up in the mortar but it’s okay to use ground spices.
The sauce is actually quite simple, and like with everything you can adjust it to your preference. From what I am aware the basic white sauce, and in this case I don’t mean béchamel sauce, consists of mayo, water, vinegar, salt and pepper. Of course each cart or chain makes it a bit different by adding other ingredients such as horseradish, yogurt, lemon juice, spices, and etc. I created my sauce by mimicking one of my favorite carts except I made it creamier and tangier at the same time.
Let’s get started. Take a medium size bowl, a soup bowl works fine, and put in 5 tablespoons of mayo, 2 teaspoons of sour cream, which I prefer as it make it creamier then Greek yogurt, but you can still use yogurt if you want. To that add 1/4 teaspoon of prepared horseradish (you can skip this, but it does give a nice kick to the sauce) and mix or whisk. Now add 1/3 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, mix or whisk until all blends together. Salt and pepper to taste and put it in the fridge so the flavors can combine, or like some say marry.
Now you either relax or do something else until the chicken is ready, or if you’re in a hurry start cooking the rice. It’s a good idea to start cooking the rice about 20 minutes before your chicken is ready or cooking. What you do first is grab a pan or a pot and melt a tablespoon of butter in it. Then add a cup of basmati rice and mix so each of the rice grain becomes covered in oil and starts to shine. You can use oil instead of the butter as I believe that’s what most carts use, but butter makes it more flavorful. Turn the heat to medium low and toast the rice for about 5 minutes or until you smell a nutty aroma. Once that’s done it’s time to add a teaspoon of turmeric, and 1/3 teaspoon of cumin, or if you want extra flavor 1/2 of garam masala. Cook for an additional minute. Then pour 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock into the pan, but be careful to not burn yourself. Bring it to boil, turn the heat to the lowest and cover. Cook it for 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat and leave it to rest for at least 10 minutes without picking up the lid.
It’s time to cook that chicken, and the first thing you do is preheat the biggest pan or skillet you have, preferably cast iron. Once it’s nice and hot turn the heat to medium-high and place the chicken in the pan.
As the chicken is cooking you can chop up some iceberg lettuce, and tomato. How much is really up to you as most carts will give just a bit, and it’s more about the visual aspect than the taste. Still considering you’re making it for yourself extra veggies is a good thing, plus you can always put it on the side everyone can take how much they want. A tomato and a half head of iceberg is a good estimate.
Once the 10 minutes passes your chicken will probably still be undercooked so don’t try it yet. Now you can either add the onion and chop it up right in the pan like they do in carts, or take it out and do it the long way. Note if you going to do it in the pan make sure it’s either cast iron or aluminum, and if you don’t have a metal spatula or putty knives like they use in the carts, pizza roller works great as you can cut and chop at the same time. If not just put the meat and half of an onion on a board.
As you see on this picture the chicken is not thoroughly cooked yet, but that’s okay because it’s going right back inside the pan with the onion. Cook for additional 5 minutes or until the chicken and onion is ready. Once it’s done turn off the heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the white sauce you prepared earlier. This will flavor it up, and help to deglaze the pan a little, releasing additional flavor.
4 chicken thighs (buy boneless or debone yourself)
Lemon juice from half of a lemon
Clove of garlic, or two
1/2 teaspoon if coriander
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of oil
Half an onion
5 tablespoons of mayo
1/4 teaspoon of prepared horseradish (can skip it)
2 teaspoons of our cream (can use Greek yogurt)
1/3 cup of water
2 tablespoons of vinegar
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 cup of rice
1 tablespoon of butter or oil
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 of cumin, or you can add 1/2 of garam masala for extra flavor
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
- Debone the tights or prepare the boneless ones.
- Combine garlic, pinch of salt, lemon juice, coriander, thyme, cumin, paprika and oil into a paste, and put in on the chicken.
- Marinate the chicken for at least half an hour or all the way up to 4 hours.
- To make the white sauce combine mayo, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), horseradish, water, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper and mix or whisk.
- For the rice melt the butter in a pan, add rice, stir fry for 5 minutes. Add turmeric and cumin and cook for additional minute. After that add the chicken stock, cover and simmer for 20 minutes on the lowest setting. Turn off the heat and rest for 10 minutes.
- Chop up the tomato and lettuce.
- Fry the chicken in a large pan on medium high for a minute, flip, cover with foil, and cook for five-minute, then flip again and cook for 5 minutes.
- Chop up the chicken and the onion in the pan or on the board and return to the pan. Cook for additional 5 minutes or until chicken and onion is ready.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the white sauce to the chicken, mix and start putting it over rice.
- Add tomato and lettuce drizzle with white sauce, and enjoy.