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Kay's House of Treats: Chicken & Rice with White Sauce - Halal Food Cart Style

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chicken & Rice with White Sauce - Halal Food Cart Style

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Anyone who has been to New York would have seen the many street food carts with signs marking them as 'Halal' serving what is known as Chicken/Gyro over Rice; Basically this platter of food consists of either chicken or lamb (also known as gyro) piled on top of a bed of rice alongside some salad & pita bread, and then drizzled with lots of white sauce and based on how much heat you can take, a dash or more of hot sauce; its all served together in a platter which you then combine and eat. 

It's quite interesting to find out that this street food which is like so popular there is linked simultaneously with "Halal Food"; It all started off when this street food vendor (probably middle eastern) opened a cart at the corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave, basically walking distance from Times Square & Central Park and right in the middle of one of Manhattan's busiest streets. For about $4-$5, the Halal Cart Guy would serve Shredded Chicken and/or Lamb Gyro on a bed of Basmati Rice along with Salad & Pita all smothered in this top secret white sauce, drizzled with fiery red hot sauce and crammed together in this aluminum tray. He started off with catering to the Muslim population, the cabbies and the like but the food was so good that it ended up getting major popularity among the rest of the population from residents to tourists; the original street cart has a line which can lead upto like two blocks, but it has also led to the mushrooming of Halal Food Carts across the city. 

Every vendor has their own style of making this combination of meat, salad & rice, with their own secret recipes for marination & sauces; but the best part about this street food is that its Halal so its convenient for Muslims and then its delicious, affordable and available almost everywhere in the city. Having been craving this for a while, I found a recipe on making this from the website Serious Eats and tried it out yesterday; it had a lot of different components and after mixing it all up it tasted exactly like the ones that I used to have from the vendors; absolutely delicious and again one of this one-dish meals that can be just served  up together; the sauce just needed a bit more work, and I would probably add a bit less vinegar and mayo but still absolutely delicious. 
Chicken & Rice with White Sauce - Halal Food Cart Style (Serves 3-4 people; 3 guys and 4 girls)
For the chicken:
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon red chili pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • salt – ½ tsp in marinade and ½ tsp in chicken; black pepper – ½ tsp in marinade & 1.5 tsp in chicken
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken, chopped in cubes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the rice:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise; though I would suggest using less because the sauce tasted too much of mayo
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (strain it for a few hours in muslin cloth so it becomes more thick)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (I think there was just a bit too much vinegar, next time will add less and then adjust after tasting)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (substituted few pinches dried parsley)
  • 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  • Chopped Garlic – 1 clove
To serve:
  • Salad (Make a salad of either of the following vegetables based on personal preference seasoned with a bit of salt & pepper – that’s the way that most street vendors serve it; I used cabbage, carrot & capsicum based on what I had at my place)
    • Lettuce, shredded
    • 1/4th head cabbage – shredded
    •  1 carrot – sliced
    • 1 capsicum – sliced
    • Corn, chickpeas, olives (these are new options being given by street vendors and definitely something that I’d love to add next time I make this)
    • 1-2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • Pita bread, brushed in butter or olive oil, lightly toasted, and cut into 1 × 3-inch strips

For the chicken: Combine the lemon juice, oregano, coriander, garlic, and olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season the marinade to taste with salt and black pepper. Place the chicken in a bowl or a zip-lock bag and add half of the marinade & reserve the remaining marinade in the refrigerator. Make sure the marinade is mixed with the chicken properly, and then put it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
Remove the chicken from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, going heavy on the pepper. Heat the oil in a stainless steel pan (don’t use non-stick because the chicken might stick) over medium-high heat until it is lightly smoking. Add the chicken pieces and cook without disturbing until they are lightly browned on one side, then flip the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the water from the chicken evaporates and the chicken is cooked through (4-5 minutes). The idea is to slightly crisp up the chicken in the same way that the street food vendors. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Roughly chop the chicken into 1/2- to 1/4-inch chunks. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the remaining marinade, cover loosely with plastic, and refrigerate while you cook the rice and prepare the sauce.
For the rice: Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing. Remove from the heat and allow to rest until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Fluff it up a bit and garnish with coriander.
For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt.
To serve: Return the entire contents of the chicken bowl (chicken, marinade, and all juices) to the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. 
To serve, divide the rice, salad, tomato, and toasted pita bread evenly among 3-4 plates. Pile the chicken on top of the rice. Top with the white sauce and hot sauce. Serve immediately, passing extra sauce at the table. To eat, mix it all up together.

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At January 19, 2014 at 2:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellow transplanted NYr who LOVES the halal carts....i have to say that either they're different downtown the in queens or this is a bit wrong. The white sauce is thin, mild....the salad is lettuce tomato & either white onion or cuke & the meat is chopped while its cooking on the flat top


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