Before we moved, there was an amaazing Indo-Pak restaurant by the name of Kabobeesh. From the outside it looked like an all-American diner, but once you stepped in, you saw a case of hot foods and a short man with a mustache and slicked back hair, the owner. Kabobeesh, located just a few blocks from a college campus, was the perfect place to go for a quick, tasty, and budget meal. Tim and I do not believe in eating like birds, and happily eat a hearty meal. Kabobeesh was one of the only places where we would each order an entree plate, and NOT finish our food.

I have a propensity for looking (i.e. staring) around the dining area to see what other patrons ordered, because you never know what gem you may have missed when you ordered! One day as we were walking out after dinner, we saw a table of four seemingly south Asian college/grad school friends, gathered around a big wok-looking thing, filled with chunks of saucy chicken that were covered in flecks of cilantro, and garnished with ginger and jalapeño slices.  They were dipping their blistered naan into the sauce, and I realized that I was once again hungry. One of the girls caught me staring, and offered to let me try some! She put some chicken on a plate, and I did my best to share with Tim, who loved it even despite the cilantro. Now, if that in itself were not impressive enough, (he recoils at the smell of a 1/16 inch piece of cilantro), the chicken was tender, sauce was spicy hot, bursting with flavor and just overall delicious.

The next time we went to Kabobeesh, we ordered the chicken karahi, then told all our friends about it, too!

I know it’s not polite to stare, but in this case, it payed off :O. Girl from Kabobeesh, if you ever read this, thank you for sharing your food with a stranger! I will never forget it.

I was on the search for chicken karahi recipes that would take me back to Kabobeesh, but none of them had the sprinkle of masala at the end, nor the ginger and hot pepper slices…until I was browsing on YouTube one day. This lady Seema seems super legit, and I made her recipe and almost followed it to a T!

If you like an explosion of flavor, tender bone-in chicken, a dash of heat, and sauce so good you almost don’t need any chicken with it, look no further! I must warn you that you will probably require 4278685 naan or roti, or bottomless bowls of basmati rice to ensure no sauce is left behind.

Side note: I made upwards of 3 dozen roti, in attempts to make perfect ones that puffed up. Last night, on batch 4, I finally made ones that puffed tremendously-4 out of 4 were successful! In any case, I am still far from qualified to instruct anyone for roti making, but you should check out Bhavna or Manjula’s channels to see A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in action! kadai karahi chicken

Chicken Karahi (Kadai Chicken)

Barely adapted from Seema

Makes 5-6 servings


2 Tbsp oil

2 red onions, chopped

3 bay leaves

2 Tbsp each of: crushed ginger, crushed garlic (or finely minced)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cayenne powder or Indian chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp garam masala + 1/2 tsp garam masala

2 Tbsp tomato paste

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

2 lb bone-in chicken, cut-up

Masala for this recipe (grind up all 3):

3 Tbsp cumin seeds

3 Tbsp coriander seeds

9 black peppercorns

For garnish (optional):

Some sort of green pepper (bell pepper, jalapeño, long hots, etc)

Slices of ginger

Remaining cilantro


1) Add oil to a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2) Add onions, and stir-fry until the onions start to change color and the tips turn brown. You are not caramelizing the onions here; just aggressively cooking them and semi-frying them.

3) Add the bay leaves, ginger, and garlic. Saute well and let the ginger and garlic cook and release their flavors.

4) Add salt, cayenne, turmeric, 1/2 tsp garam masala, and about 1/2 of the masala. Stir well and constantly, lowering the flame to make sure nothing burns, but heat enough to wake up the spices.

5) Add the tomato paste, and continue to stir to somewhat caramelize the sugars in the tomato paste. The mixture should be quite dry- make sure not to walk away or use too high of heat!

6) Add chopped tomatoes and some of the cilantro, then continue to stir to evaporate some of the water from the tomatoes.

7) Add the pieces of chicken, and stir to coat the chicken with the spicy tomato mixture.

8) Once the chicken is well coated with the spices, add enough water (~1 1/2 cups) to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for about 25-30 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and you see the meat pull away from the bones. Obviously, the smaller pieces of chicken you have, the sooner they will be done, so check periodically (say, every 15 minutes). If you feel the sauce is too thin, let the chicken cook without a lid, until it reaches your desired consistency.

9) Add the remaining garam masala, part of the remaining masala mix, remaining cilantro, and mix together. Scatter the rest of your masala mix and any garnishes (green pepper, ginger)on top, then serve with bread like roti or naan, and rice.


-This is inherently a spicy dish-if you can’t handle the heat, it may not be the dish for you. If you daring to try it anyway, cut back on the cayenne powder.

-Yes, in the picture you don’t see 1) masala sprinkled on top 2) cilantro. Firstly, the picture is actually of our leftovers (day 2!) Secondly, the husband is anti-cilantro, so no cilantro in our ‘main’ dish. I usually have a side stash that is bombarded with the magical green herb.

-The chicken will taste less spicy on day 2, but still good!!

-You can also puree 4 roma tomatoes (or 2 ‘regular’ tomatoes) instead of the 2 Tbsp tomato paste. I just wanted to save some of my tomatoes, hence the tomato paste substitution =p.

-Don’t omit the cilantro if you can help it! It’s an important part of the flavor profile in this dish.


kadai karahi chicken