This is a delicious and easy-to-make dish from South Asia. From what I’ve learned online, it originated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northern Pakistan. As with many foods, recipes travel along with people, so alternative versions became rooted in India, as well.
The dish gets is name form the karahi, a heavy wok-like cooking vessel that originated in South Asia. It’s so similar to a wok that I cooked my version on our Chinese carbon-steel wok, with great results.
This version is based on a recipe from Eater magazine, though from what I found online, most of the Pakistani versions are very similar.
What you’ll need (if cooking for two, maybe halve the ingredients)
- 3T any oil with a high smoke-point (grape, vegetable, peanut, etc.)
- 2 lbs. boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 large yellow onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 1t kosher salt
- 1T cumin seeds (not ground cumin)
- 1T ground turmeric
- 1T Kashmiri chili powder (paprika is an acceptable substitute)
- 2t garam masala
- 0.5 cups fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
- *6 peeled Roma tomatoes, cut into a small dice
- Pinch of sugar
- 3T butter
- 1 cup chopped cilantro, as a garnish
*To quickly and easily peel Roma tomatoes, prepare both an ice bath and enough boiling water to accommodate however many tomatoes you’re peeling. Carefully add the whole tomatoes to the boiling water and let them blanch for about 30 seconds or so. After the skins have loosened, immediately remove the tomatoes to the ice bath. Let them cool for a bit before peeling. The skin will come right off.
What to do
Heat the oil in a large wok or saucepan at medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté it for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, cooking them for about 8 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the salt, cumin seeds, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, ginger, and chilis. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.
Now add the tomatoes and sugar, then simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until the tomatoes break down into a thick gravy and the chicken becomes very tender—about 20 minutes. It’s unlikely, but if the tomatoes start to stick to the bottom of the pan while cooking, add a splash or two of water and stir frequently.
When the tomatoes have broken down and the dish looks nearly ready to serve, stir in the butter. If the gravy seems too thick, mix a tablespoon or two of water into it.
To serve, garnish with the cilantro. Chicken karahi goes well with basmati rice and a flatbread, such as naan or chapati.