Monday, April 1, 2013

NYC Halal Cart Chicken and Rice

Let me begin this post with an apology.  I have been away from the blog for almost a month.  In my defense, I have been very busy traveling and taking care of some things around the house (3 chicks to be exact) which I will blog about in a post very soon.  In the meantime, that has meant that a lot of the food being produced in this little house of mine has been go-to things that I have either already posted about or aren't really worth posting in the first place.  Now that spring break has started and I am home (hallelujah), I thought it was time to get back at it.  

So, here is a very good dish for anyone who has ever eaten chicken and rice from a Halal food cart like the ones you find in New York City.  You know, the carts you see on practically every corner in the city with smokey goodness wafting in all directions as you pass.  My husband and I especially love the Halal Guys at 53rd and 6th because they don't put too many other things in with the meat and the sauces are spot on.  The white sauce is a creamy blend of who-knows-what that tastes dynamite, and the red sauce gives everything a good kick.  

After a trip a while back, we wanted to try to recreate this dish at home.  After researching and looking at different recipes online, the closest one we found was over at Serious Eats.  After tweaking it to make it even easier to make at home, I have a dish pretty darn close to the NYC favorite.  Of course, I would still prefer to this chicken and rice straight from the cart standing on the corner in New York City, but (sadly) I usually don't have that option. 

NYC Halal Cart Chicken and Rice- serves 3-4

I am unable to find harissa-style hot sauce in my area, so I use sriracha instead.  It does taste slightly different, but in the scheme of things it is in no way a deal breaker.  Use harissa if available, if you prefer.  Also, this dish is in no way prepared according to Halal standards.  I am simply calling it that to make it recognizable to anyone who has eaten at one of these ubiquitous carts.    

For the Chicken: 
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6 thighs)

For the Rice: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed to remove excess starch
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1/4 tsp black pepper 

For the White Sauce: 
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (regular, plain yogurt will do in a pinch)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt 
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Additional Ingredients: 
1/4 head iceberg lettuce, sliced into thin strips
1/2 pita per person, warmed, and sliced into wedges
Sriracha sauce to serve (use Harissa-style hot sauce if available)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

To make the chicken:  
Mix the first seven chicken ingredients in a bowl.  Place the chicken thighs in a large zipper bag, and pour 1/2 the marinade over the thighs, reserving the remaining marinade for later.  

Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Add three thighs to the skillet, and cook 4 minutes until browned on one side.  Turn the chicken, reduce heat to medium, and cook 6 more minutes, until cooked through.  Remove the thighs to a small bowl (you will use this bowl again later), and repeat with the remaining chicken.  Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, chop it into small pieces and place it back in the bowl.  Pour the reserved marinade over the chicken and let stand while preparing the other ingredients (you are not finished with the chicken just yet).    

To make the rice:  
While the cooked chicken marinates, place all rice ingredients in a small pot, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the rice to a simmer, and cook on low until done, about 15 minutes.  Set aside. 

To make the white sauce: 
Mix all white sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk to combine well.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  

To finish and serve:  
To finish the chicken, heat the cast iron skillet on medium heat.  Add the chicken bits along with any marinade.  Cook, stirring the chicken in the skillet to loosen any brown bits from the pan.  Once heated, serve chicken on top of the rice with a drizzle of white sauce and hot sauce and lettuce and pita on the side.  Garnish with chopped parsley.       


  1. Oh man, this is definitely making me miss all the food carts of NYC! Even the totally ordinary hot dog carts. :) This looks amazing! :)

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