Our next stop in Lahore is for a dish that you will most probably never forget, once you have relished it – the Lahori Chargha! When food is your priority in life, your tummy is the guide. That is a Lahori’s true calling in life. It is an exhaustive journey, and when you do find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, then as the GPS likes to say “You have arrived at your destination.”
At the intersection of McLeod Road and Nisbat road is Lakshmi Chowk. There are a lot of cinemas there, and the area was known as the hub for studios and production houses. The days of its glory are long gone, and much of Old Lahore is falling apart. All that remains are the memories of its hey days. The area is studded with places to eat. There are places that people go just to eat daal chawal.
Walking down the dusty streets, you will be intrigued by chickens hanging from hooks, a man seated by a jacuzzi size kadahi (wok) busy frying chicken, more people are running to and fro and handing out brown paper bags, stained with oil, and the energy is furious. Back and forth they take orders on little slips of paper with a worn out stub of a pencil. In all this madness, there is a system. Orders are getting filled and it is a constant flow of new customers replacing the old. No one leaves without their precious cargo.
Welcome to the experience of a Lahori Chargha. The specialty of it, is that this chicken is first steamed and then deep fried. It is crispy and it is steaming hot with moisture. They are steamed in huge pots and then hung up on their hooks. When a customer comes, he places his order. The chicken is removed from the hook and deep fried.
It is then liberally doused with chaat masala, placed in a brown paper bag with naan and fries, and that is how you will eat it. Your hands and an appetite would be the only protocol here.
1 whole chicken (about 1-1.2 kg)
Remove skin and cut across
In a bowl mix
5 tblspn hung yoghurt
3-4 tblspn lemon juice
1 tblspn ginger paste
1tblspn garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 tspn coriander powder
2 tspn red chilli powder
1 tspn garam masala
1 tspn roaste ground cumin
2 tspn chaat masala
1 tspn cardamom powder
1/2 a tspn of nutmeg.
Yellow Food colouring optional.
Salt to taste
- Make a paste, and rub liberally all over the chicken, making sure to get into the slits and the cavity. Place in a colander and refrigerate for a few hours.
- In a large pot, pour water half of the way. Place on a high flame for best results. If you do not have a steamer, use a colander.
- Place the chicken (in the colander or steamer) on top of water, making sure that the water does not come into contact with the meat.
- Adjust the water level according to the size of your pot and colander.
- Securely cover with lid and allow the water to boil. A chicken of this size needs about 30-35 minutes to steam.
- In a separate wok/pot/kadahi heat up oil. You will need enough oil to cover half the chicken, but make sure whichever pot you use, the oil will not spill over once you place the chicken in it.
- Remove the chicken from the steam. It is tender and you need to be careful that it does not break apart when you place it in the oil. Use a huge slotted spoon to gentle lower into the hot oil.
Fry 10-12 minutes each side. Check with a fork the thigh area slit – is should be clear of liquid. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Lots of hot oil here, so be careful, and don’t let people in the kitchen, peering over your shoulder, asking when will it be ready!
Serve with french fries, naan, slivers of lime and a good amount of chaat masala.