My older sister lived in NYC for two years while she was getting her Masters. I remember that while she was there she told me about the halal carts that she bought food from in the street. She raved about the Halal Chicken, and was so positive that I would rave about it too, if I were there to try it.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t made it out to New York to try street Halal Chicken. But today’s post, I think, is a decent substitute to tide me over until I do–because that day is coming. I’m sure of it.
When food in general is called ‘halal’, it refers to food that is processed or prepared in a certain way as to be permissible under Islamic dietary laws. Halal meat is supposed to be slaughtered and cleaned in a specific way. When you refer to Halal chicken in another context, such as street food, most people (especially in the US) are going to think of it as a chicken and rice dish with primarily Mediterranean flavors.
My take on Halal Chicken starts with a yogurt marinade. I learned a few years ago when I made Chicken Shawarma that marinading chicken in yogurt is an excellent way to keep it from drying out while cooking. I wouldn’t leave the chicken in it overnight though, as the marinade does have lemon juice. Sometimes if chicken sits too long in an acidic marinade, the acid in the lemon could begin to break down the proteins in the meat, and it will end up cooking mushy. A few hours is all this one needs.
I used my electric griddle to cook the chicken, but if it’s a bit warmer where you are and you’ve got one, I think that grilling it would give even better flavor. If you’ve got neither one of those, a cast iron or regular skillet will work fine as well. When the chicken seared on my griddle, I found that the residual yogurt created a blackened crust on the outside of it that is often associated with halal chicken. It smelled soooo good while it was cooking.
The rice and white sauce come together easily and quickly. The turmeric and cumin are a must to give the rice that warm, smoky taste. I also cook mine in chicken broth to give added flavor. I’m so proud that when my sister tried this, she announced that it tasted JUST like the halal chicken she used to buy on the streets of New York. High praise indeed. If you’re like me and have never been to NYC and still want to find out what the fuss is about the halal chicken, maybe you’d like to try this out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Halal Style Chicken and Rice
For the Chicken:
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- salt and pepper
- 4-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole fat plain yogurt
- 2 1/2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
For the Rice:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 cups long grain Basmati rice
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- salt and pepper
For White Sauce:
- 1 cup of whole fat, plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper
Place the chicken breast in gallon size resealable plastic bags, or in one large container.
Combine the lemon juice, herbs, spices, garlic, olive oil and yogurt together in a blender. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then pour over the chicken breast.
Turn the sealed bags over a few times to make sure marinade throughly covers chicken. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat in a skillet, or you can use a griddle, like I did.
Cook chicken until browned on its sides, about 4 minutes per side. If need be, you can finish it in the oven; place a wire rack over a foil lined sheet pan and bake chicken for about an additional 5-10 minutes. (The inner temp should read about 165 degrees Fahrenheit)
Keep chicken loosely covered with foil while you make the rice.
Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium size pot. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not quite browned, about 1 minute.
Add the rice and stir. Add the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring the heat the high and allow to come to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing.
Remove from the heat and allow to sit for an additional 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
For the sauce: combine all of the ingredients together and taste and adjust for seasoning.
Serve with pita bread, lettuce and tomatoes and hummus.