Presenting to you, the mighty colorful Shahi Chicken Pulao, a Pakistani fusion style recipe, a main course created by yours truly! You can’t go wrong when you have layers of aromatic rice, spicy chicken curry, some potato toppings and a mild but delicious yogurt sauce to go on top of it. You don’t need sides with this! Just a big platter to showcase this beauty, and Voila! You have yourself a crowd pleaser! I dedicate this one to all you bored homechefs out there, tired of the same ol’ weekly rotations and same ol’ daawat menu.
What is Shahi chicken pulao
This isn’t a traditional recipe. Shahi Chicken Pulao is purely a dish that came together by inspiration, trial and error, and by serving it to a LOT of test subjects, (and I mean A LOT) who agreed to indulge me, and came over every weekend to be fed the same food, over and over again.
This is a layered rice dish, (think Lasagna), where you prepare the components seperately and then assemble it together when you are ready to eat. It has cumin infused rice at the bottom, ladden with a thick dry delicious chicken curry, topped off with crispy spicy potato chunks and herbs, with a nice complimentary yogurt sauce to add the final drizzle. Its almost like a deconstructed Biryani, but mild tasting like a pulao. I’ve made it with as much precision, and meticulous screening as I did when I created the Nauratan Chicken, or malai chicken koftey (which have become a thing on their own too).
Let’s face it, we all get bored of the mundane and want to step out of the rutt to feel fresh again. Cooking is no different. For me, I am the happiest when I am trying a new recipe in the kitchen, experimenting or trying out something new from the internet. Whether they make it into my permanent diary, (or permanent folder of recipes on my phone) is secondary. Just the thrill of it is enough for me to be trying something new. If you are here, than know that This is YOUR sign to try something new today!
DID YOU KNOW? Most unique Pakistani recipes that we know come out of the Wedding industry in Pakistan, due to the high demand of “innovative and new food items” at events. Singaporean rice, Doodh dulari, Balochi tikka and balochi tikka karahi are all products of Caterers trying to come up with something new for their lavish wedding spread.
Why this recipe is for you
- You want to make something with left over pulao rice (yes you can do that!)
- You don’t follow recipes exactly. While this is every food blogger’s major pet peeve, this recipe is super forgiving, you can use substitutes, shortcuts and overall make mistakes with this recipe, and still end up with a delicious meal
- If you are a newbie to cooking, then try this before you try making biryani.
- You can prepare it a day before and assembled on the day of.
- You don’t need sides. This is a stand Alone dish, so doesn’t require anything to support it, just hungry humans
Notes on Ingredients and substitutions
When you see the ingredient list in the recipe card, pleaseeee don’t jump off your seat. I know the list looks long and daunting, but I PROMISE, it is basic and the way they are used is also super simple.
- Whole Spices: The pulao rice uses whole spices to infuse aroma and flavor to it. BUT, since this is a layered dish, you can easily skip them and use only cumin seeds instead.
- Fried onions: This recipe calls for pre-fried brown onions. You can also brown the onions yourself and then use it in the recipe. If you are a fan of doing neither, than simply chop some onions and caramelize it before adding chicken to it.
- Boneless Chicken: We need small or medium sized chunks of meat so that it is equally distributed while layering. I would not recommend bone-in chicken for this recipe.
- Rice: Long grain Basmati rice is always the first choice for any kind of pulao. You can find them at any Asian/South Asian grocery store. The best part about this recipe is that you can also use left-over pulao rice! YES! Let’s say you made a big batch of Matar Pulao and froze some, you can simply defrost and use it! Or use last night’s pulao too!
Cooking Instructions And Notes
Layer 1 – Pulao Rice
The rice are cooked fairly similar to regular pulao. For an in-depth pulao-know-how, visit the matar pulao recipe. Otherwise this is pretty straightforward.
Oil and whole spices go in the pot, along with garlic ginger paste. Saute saute saute, and then add rice, salt and water.
Your water level should be 1/2 an inch above the rice. You can use the index finger method to check the water level. (In this method, you dip your index finger in the water and touch the rice. The water level should be touching your index finger’s first joint, when you touch the rice) You can also use the wooden spoon method. (Here, you mark the handle of your wooden spoon at 1/2 an inch mark and insert it in your water to touch the rice, while water level touches the 1/2 inch mark)
Let the rice cook for 5 to 6 mins, and then reduce the flame to low, and let it steam for another 5 to 6 mins. Use a fork to fluff up the rice! And they are ready!
Layer 2 – Chicken Curry
For the curry preparation, you only need to make the curry paste. Put all the curry ingredients in a blender to make paste and start cooking.
NOTE: The curry paste uses green chilies as an ingredient also. It doesn’t make the recipe very spicy or anything, but if your spice tolerance level is low, than you should skip it.
In a medium pot, add oil, chicken, garlic paste and spices and simply stir fry the chicken at high flame. This helps to get rid of all the water from the chicken and temper the spices to take the “rawness” out of it.
Then go ahead and add the curry paste along with some water. Let the curry cook for 5 to 8 mins or until you see oil seperating on the sides of the pot.
NOTE: This curry is going to be towards the drier side, so shouldn’t be too liquidy. Dry out any excess water if its too runny.
Layer 3 – Toppings
Now for the fun part. The toppings include oven roasted spicy potatoes, chopped tomato and chopped cilantro/coriander for garnish.
The toppings are completely open to your own choices and taste. Since this is “Shahi Pulao“, you can also add roasted nuts and raisins as a topping too, or really get creative and add roasted flax seeds, pumpkin seeds or roasted chickpeas too! I kept it fairly simple so that its open to your personal interpretation! Go crazy!
I par-boil potatoes with salt and vinegar which reduces the baking/roasting time considerably.
You can cook these potatoes any of the following ways
- Deep fry or shallow fry them on grill pan on the stove.
- Air fry them in an airfryer.
- Oven bake / roast them with the broiler on for that nice golden color.
HACK: As a short cut, you could use frozen tater tots, wedges or any other form of frozen potatoes from the grocery store and simply deep fry/air fry/oven-bake them at home
Once done, I simply sprinkle chaat masala all over my potatoes to give them a nice kick. IF you don’t have any chaat masala at hand, simply season with black pepper and red chili flakes.
Layer 4 – Sauce
The sauce only require that you mix up all the ingredients, thats it!
The sauce quantity mentioned in the recipe is to give you ample amount of sauce. Some for drizzle over and some to serve on the side. If you are not too keen on sauces, reduce the quantity to half.
HACK: If you have any ranch dressing or garlic mayo at home, use that as the sauce. ( Truly a lazy girls hack my friends)
Assembling the Shahi Pulao
Assembling the pulao is pretty straightforward, you layer the dish first with rice, than the curry, the toppings and finally the sauce. I usually serve the left over sauce on the side incase anyone wants extra.
Expert Tips and notes
- I usually make Singaporean Rice and Shahi chicken pulao with left over pulao rice. Makes for perfect layering and less work
- You can also use boxed spice masala mix to make the basic chicken curry masala
- Use a wider platter to showcase the assembled dish beautifully.
- IF you feel like you’ve messed up any one of the layers by adding too much or too little seasoning or spices, don’t worry. Compensate by reducing or adding spices in other layers to balance the overall taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I skip the toppinngs or the sauce from the recipe?
I mean I wouldn’t recommend it, but lets say you are pressed for time and need a quick win, sure! Use garlic mayo as sauce and tater tots as toppings.
Can I make the pulao with beef or mutton?
Boneless beef and mutton both can be used for this recipe. However, they take longer to cook. After sauteeing the beef/mutton in spices, you will have to add 2 cups of water and let the meat cook for atleast 20 mins before you can add the curry paste.
How to store the pulao?
Once the pulao has been dished out, simply keep it as is in the fridge to have later. The only thing drawback is your potatoes will lose their crispiness.
What if I am left with one or 2 of the layers?
The measurements given are right on the money, and if you layer it right, you shouldn’t be left with anything other than a little sauce, which you can use later to make wraps, salads or as a dip for fried food!
Here are some more fusion style recipes for you to try
- 500 gm boneless chicken cut in small cubes
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 whole onion fried until golden brown
- 2 large tomato
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 5 whole serrano green chilies
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- 3 to 4 tablespoon oil for cooking
- 500 gm long grain basmati rice soaked in water for 20 mins
- 4 bayleaves
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 cloves
- 2 black cardamom
- 4 green cardamom
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 chicken bouillon cube optional
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoon black cumin seeds (shah zeera)
- 2 cup potato cut in 1/2 in cubes, parboiled in water seasoned with salt and vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon chat masala optional
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped tomato for garnish
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro (coriander) for garnish
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
- chaat masala to taste optional
Layer 1 – Pulao Rice (if not using left over pulao rice)
- Add oil, whole spices, cumin seeds and garlic paste in oil in a medium pot. Saute at medium heat till garlic paste turns slightly golden brown.
- Add soaked rice and salt to the pot. Add enough water that your rice are atleast 1/2 an inch below the water level. Mark the end of a spoon at 1/2 an inch mark and insert it to see your rice is below the 1/2 inch mark or not. You can also use your index finger to do this, your 1 part of index finger should be submerged in water when it touches the rice.
- Do a salt taste test of the water, it should taste balanced, not salty or underseasoned.
- Cover with a lid and cook at high heat for 5 mins or until all the water has visibly evaporated.
- Reduce the flame to low and steam rice for another 5 minutes
- Use a flat spoon and toss and turn the rice upside down. You can also use a fork to fluff up your rice.
Layer 2 – Dry Chicken Curry
- In a medium sized pot, add oil, chicken, garglic ginger paste, all the powdered spices and salt. Saute at medium heat until chicken changes color from pink to white or brown.
- Add all remaining ingredients listed for chicken curry in a blender to make a curry paste.
- Add curry paste to the chicken pot along with 1 cup water. Cover the pot and cook the chicken at medium high heat for 10 mins.
- Your chicken curry should be towards the dry side and not be very saucy.
Layer 3 – Toppings
- To cook the potatoes, you can either bake them in the oven or grill them on the stove.
- To bake: Preheat oven at 450°F (230°C). Layer potatoes on a parchment paper in a baking tray and spray with cooking oil. Turn on the broiler for quick resultsBake for 20 mins or until roasted golden brown, flipping halfway through
- To Grill: Simply toss the potatoes on a grill pan with some oil and grill at high heat until they become golden and crispy on the outside.
- Toss the potatoes in some chat masala and salt to complete.
- Chop coriander and tomato for garnish
Layer 4 – Sauce
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large wide dish, start layering with rice at the bottom.
- Add chicken curry on the top of the rice.
- Sprinkle potatoes, chopped tomatoes and coriander over the curry
- Drizzle the sauce on the toppings and serve.
- You can use left over pulao rice for the rice layer. All pulao rice work with this recipe, eg, matar pulao, zeera pulao or simple baghare chawal (tempered rice)
- For the toppings, you can add other vegetables of your liking as well.
- Since pulaos are generally, mild tasting and not very spicy, the flavor profile of this dish overall is similar to that. You can add chili flakes or hot sauce to the sauce and curry if you want to bring more heat to the dish
- To serve the dish for a get together, you can prepare the curry, sauce and boil potatoes a day before. On the day of, simply cook the rice and grill the potatoes, while reheating the curry.