Months before I moved into my new house, I already knew I wanted to start making roast chickens and grills more often. With two children always wanting some sort of food entertainment, it felt like it would be a good move in a meal-prep sense, to always cook a bit extra and have some leftover meats hanging around, ready to be transformed into a pasta bake, a sandwich, a burger, a tikki, a stuffed paratha – y’know how it is.
So, immediately upon moving in I sent my husband to the butchers to bring home some goods. And he brought home 3 whole chickens. Lol.
I’ve already made Lahori Chargha 3 times in my new house. And it’s not even been a full month.
And you know why I’ve made it 3 times – it’s just soooooooo good! The kids wolf it down, it comes handy the next day, it’s so good to prepare half in advance and know the rest can be done on the spot before serving. You see, I could have easily just made Jamie Oliver’s roast chicken (which btw is also delicious) after having made that first Lahori Chargha, but nope, this bombshell chicken needed more time in the limelight.
So here I am, sharing this recipe with you.
What is Lahori Chargha?
Chargha comes from the Pashto language and means chicken.
What we know today as Lahori Chargha is essentially a whole chicken steam cooked until it is tender, and then fried so the outside becomes crisp. It’s marinated in an array of spices which come together to create a tangy, chat-patta taste. I have tried to keep the spice list for this recipe as simple as possible without compromising on any of that chat-patta flavour that is so so enticing!
What does it have to do with Lahore? Well, I’ve tried to do some reading on this and honestly, all I managed to conclude was this recipe and everything it stands for originates from Lahore, but I couldn’t crack the code as to whether it also somehow relates to the Peshawar side of Pakistan since it uses the Pashta word for chicken in it. If you know whether there is some link, please let me know in the comments!
How do you make Lahori Chargha?
I have a video and a written and pictorial step-by-step for this recipe to help you get the BEST Lahori Chargha out there.
We start off by gathering the ingredients for the marination – yogurt, white vinegar (can be substituted for lemon juice too!), egg, gram flour and a small selection of spices (all listed in the recipe card). Whisk or grind those together and set aside.
Grab a chicken. No skin for this recipe! Something that weighs within the region of 800g is good for this recipe, but if you get something larger or smaller don’t worry too much about it – just increase or decrease the spice amounts by a bit. You’ll want to slice a few deep cuts onto the breast and leg of the chicken, to help allow the marination to really get into the meat. Sometimes the butcher can do this for you if you ask them.
Place the chicken into a bowl and use your hands to rub on the marination. Really get into all the cuts and all around everything. There’s plenty of marination for it to be spread around liberally. Once you’ve got everything on the chicken, cover it and place it in the fridge, ideally overnight, but a few hours is OK too. I really don’t recommend skipping the marination time – I’ve done this before and honestly there is a marked difference in how flavoursome things are. Chicken is inherently quite bland and doesn’t take much time to cook, therefore to allow the flavours to really get into the chicken meat, the marination time is really important.
When you’re ready to start cooking, we’ll be starting off by steaming the chicken.
Grab a pot that’s wide enough to hold the chicken with extra room. The way I did this was I cut up some potatoes to place at the bottom of the pot and gently put the chicken on top of it, careful to ensure the chicken didn’t touch the bottom of the pot. You can use carrots or onions for this, or any kind of trivet, even foil bunched into balls. Alternately, a steamer basket is a very sensible solution too 🙂 Anything that allows the chicken to be suspended from the bottom of the pot. Add in about a half a cup of water to the pot, bring to a boil, then cover with a tightly fitted lid and bring the heat down to low. Allow this to steam for about 25 minutes.
At this point, you can set aside the chicken until it is almost time to serve it. This makes Lahori Chargha a really good ‘prep in advance’ sort of dish – you just need to fry it before serving.
Once you are ready to go ahead to the final part of this, grab a pan and add a few cms worth of oil. We aren’t fully deep-frying the chicken (I mean, you CAN, but you’d need A LOT of oil and a HUGE pot), just enough to fry one side at a time is fine.
Heat the oil up and add the chicken.
Fry the chicken, turning it around and ensuring it browns evenly. Don’t forget the sides!
The chicken is going to be very tender and may be difficult to handle gently, so be prepared to use a pair of tongs and a spatula to ensure you can flip the chicken without breaking it or scraping the spice mix off. Also, be careful to not splatter oil onto yourself! Frying a whole chicken is no joke, friends.
Once the chicken has been fried, remove it and allow the excess oil to drain. I let the chicken rest over a tissue-lined colander.
It’s ready to be inhaled immediately. If you’re feeling fancy, you can sprinkle over some chaat masala too before serving!
Bonus recipe… Lahori Chargha gravy!
Oh yes, I went there. It only made sense to!
After steaming your chicken, you may notice there’s some liquid left behind at the bottom of the pan. You may also have some masala left on whatever vessel you used to hold up your bird. All that stuff is gold! I could not sleep well at night knowing I’ve let all that good stuff go to waste.
So what do you do?
You make a gravy out of it, duh!
It’s really simple. All you do is gather all the liquid and masala, whatever is left over and put it into a small pot. Heat it up and add some water if it isn’t much. Once it’s hot, add in about 1-2tbsp of white flour and whisk, whisk, whisk! Add some more water if it feels like it’s looking too thick. There isn’t an exact recipe for this, take it as more of an idea to run with if you’re so inclined to. Once it’s looking like a sauce capable of being served alongside your meal, set aside till it’s needed.
Please note, you may not get this liquid – it depends on how much water you add to the pot when steaming the chicken. If you really want to make sure you can have some drippings for a gravy, I’d say add more water and maybe even times the marination ingredients by 1.5, so there’s plenty to go around.
Honestly, this gravy is SO good to serve alongside the chicken if you aren’t serving it alongside some sort of chutney/raita. It helps keep the meal from being dry whilst also not distracting you from the original flavour. In fact, here’s another top tip too.
Another bonus recipe… Lahori Chargha flavoured chips!
Man, I’m sorry. I know I’m going overboard with this whole thing. But HONESTLY, this is what I did and my family LOVED it, so I’m just paving it forward! I served my Lahori Chargha with chips as shown and being the resourceful (lazy) person I am, I decided to fry the chips in the same oil I fried my chicken in.
I mean, it was already hot, so why not?! And oh my Lord, what a good decision that was! The chips took on the flavours of the spices and it was absolutely divine! Like, to the extent that I had to fry another emergency batch of chips because we all finished the single batch I fried so quickly!
My daughter requested the same chips again the next day – ‘the spicy ones, mama’ – and man, I had to be resourceful – again! So what I did was I mixed up the spice powders from the marination mix to create a Lahori Chargha spice mix and sprinkled that over the chips. And it worked – phew!
I’m thinking this mix would go so good over roast veggies too. Add that desi, tangy, chat-patta flavour to all the things!
For easier reference, here’s what you’d need to make the Lahori Chargha spice mix. This makes a really small batch, so double/triple as needed
Lahori Chargha spice powder mix:
1-2tsp red chilli powder (adjust as per your preference)
1tsp salt (or to taste)
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp garam masala
2tsp coriander powder
0.5 tsp turmeric
How to make Lahori Chargha in the oven
If you don’t feel comfortable frying your chicken, I totally understand. Lahori Chargha is very adaptable to most peoples needs. If you would prefer to bake or grill your chicken, then after the steaming process, instead of frying, instead place your bird onto a foil-lined baking tray and broil/grill your chicken for about 10 minutes on each side, checking intermittently to ensure it isn’t getting too dark
Can I make Lahori Chargha in the airfryer?
Hell yeah! Lahori Chargha will get super crispy and awesome in the airfryer too! And you won’t even need to bother with flipping it over. Around 20 minutes should suffice in the airfryer, however you will need to check and adjust the times according to your airfryer.
How can I serve Lahori Chargha?
One of my favourite things about Lahori Chargha is it’s a very versatile dish. It’s great served with most carbohydrates (naan, roti, rice, chips, potatoes, you name it!) and alongside a good salad and sauces. My favourite way is alongside some sort of simple, vegetarian Pilau (like Matar Pilau), salad and chips! Achari Aloo are also something that would pair well with this.
Other recipes you may like
Enjoy, with love! x
- 1 whole chicken, about 800g (if your bird is larger, please adjust the rest of the ingredients with the same ratio)
- 2tbsp full fat yogurt
- 1.5tsp red chilli (less if you prefer a more mild flavour)
- 1tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1tsp cumin powder or seeds
- 1tsp garam masala
- 0.5tsp turmeric
- 2tsp coriander powder
- 1tbsp ghee
- 3tbsp vinegar
- 2tbsp gram flour
- 1 egg
- 7 cloves of garlic, minced
- A small chunk of ginger, minced
- Oil, as needed for frying
- Chat masala, optional
- Whisk or grind all the ingredients except the chicken and the oil. Spread this mixture all over the chicken, being sure to get into the deep cuts. Marinate this for a minimum of 4 hours, but ideally overnight
- Prepare a pot - use either some vegetables such as potatoes or onions, a trivet, bunched up foil or a steamer basket to help suspend the chicken above the base of the pan as shown in the images in this blogpost. Add half a cup of water to the pot, then carefully place the chicken over whatever you've used to suspend it. Ensure the chicken does NOT touch the bottom of the pot, otherwise it may burn. Cover with a tight lid, and steam on a low heat for 25-35 minutes. You'll know the chicken is done when the juices run clear when you stick a skewer or knife through the meatiest part of the leg
- Allow the chicken to rest for 15 or so minutes before frying
- Prepare a pan/wok with a few centimetres of oil. Heat the oil and once it is hot, add the chicken. Carefully fry the chicken, turning once one side is crispy and coloured. Avoid overhandling the chicken, as the marinade may scrape off. Use tongs and/or a spatula to help you.
- Once the chicken has been fried all over, remove it from the oil and allow it to drain on a tissue before serving. Sprinkle with chat masala before serving if you like!
If you like a more fierce red colour, you can use paprika or kashmiri red chilli powder.
If spicy is not your thing, just use 0.5tsp of red chilli powder in this recipe