Food trucks and carts have become increasingly popular around the country with large cities boasting cuisines such as Korean, Mexican, Asian, and Middle Eastern, among the more traditional American fare.
New York City may once have been famous for its hot dog carts but, increasingly, the lunch crowd heads to the halal carts for the popular lunch-favorite, halal chicken, roasting on the grill.
The aroma of the spices and seared meat is hard to resist. And when you order it, you're handed a large aluminum container filled with a generous amount of yellow rice, the heavily spiced chicken, tomatoes, and greens all drizzled with a white sauce.
Fortunately, those flavors are not hard to recreate at home, so you can have halal cart-style chicken even when there are no carts around.
- For the Chicken:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for cooking)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into 1/2-inch chunks)
- For the Rice:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2 1/4 cups water or chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- For the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup sesame paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt (to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Gather the ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Stir in the cubed chicken, cover, and refrigerate for about an hour, but no more than 4 hours. You can also place the chicken and marinade mixture inside a zip lock plastic baggie and then in a bowl in the fridge.
Heat the canola oil in a large heavy bottom skillet or cast iron pan. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and add them to the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, work in batches so as not to overcrowd the chicken which will keep it from browning. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on high heat, flip the chicken pieces and continue cooking on medium heat until cooked through. Season with additional salt, if needed.
To cook the rice, melt the butter in a pot and stir in the basmati rice and ground turmeric. Sauté for a couple of minutes on high heat.
Then add the chicken stock or water and salt. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been fully absorbed. Fluff the rice with fork.
In a small bowl, make the sauce by whisking together the sesame paste, water, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until smooth.
Serve the chicken on a bed of the turmeric rice along with chopped tomatoes, lettuce or baby spinach, warm pita bread, and a drizzle of the sauce.