A wedding dish worthy of weeknights

At a wedding in Lahore, Pakistan, shimmering fabrics, vivid colors, maximalist jewelry, and glittering makeup form a dazzling display of aesthetic maximalism. Old grudges are put aside or permanently forgotten in favor of love and blessings. Everyone knows that the newlyweds will need both, and therefore everyone is invited and fed.

The food served is a point of pride for the hosts. Perhaps this is why steam roast chicken is almost always included as a main course. Its presence is so pervasive that it is known as the steam roast shadiyon wala – shadiyon wala means “weddings” in Urdu – and this is perhaps the best thing about a Lahori wedding after the married.

The day before the ceremony, or while elaborate tents are assembled and chandeliers hung, the chickens are quartered, slashed and marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and spices (chili, turmeric, and cumin). , with some variations). Large pieces of chicken are slowly cooked in a large daig, a pomegranate-shaped metal pot the size of a large cauldron.

A night of marinating, then a few hours of slow steaming in the daig, infuses the chicken with strong, warm flavors from the spices and lemony freshness of cilantro, another common seed in Desi cuisine. A weight is placed on the lid of the daig so that nothing is lost, not even a little steam. The result: tender, succulent, delicately but well spiced meat that falls off the bone, making it easy to eat.

The stamina of steam roast chicken is a testament to its affordability and popularity. Perhaps this is the reason home cooks across Pakistan have found ways to breed this tender, juicy, and everyone-friendly chicken. The key: use a deep pot on a tawa (a thin, flat metal pan used for roasting) to moderate the heat long enough for the chicken to cook in its own juices and in the steam that collects in the pot. . Tawa is a surefire way to keep skinless chicken from sticking to the pan or burning during the hour-long steaming process.

This recipe comes from my attempts to recreate the steamed roasts that I grew up eating at my phopho, a paternal aunt. The first few tries were a real test of my patience and my faith. More times than I want to admit, I opened the pot too early just to make sure the chicken was okay, whatever that meant. A cloud of steam escaped in a puff, the pot cooled dramatically, and the chicken took much longer to cook and was almost always overcooked.

Then I remembered what my phopho had done: while the chicken was smoking she peeled and mandolin potatoes to fry crispy round chips, chatting and chatting, completely engrossed in everything she was talking about , almost as if nothing was on the stove. I looked away from the direct contact that my weak burner flame was making with the pot and trusted the process. It worked.

Steamed chicken roast. Food stylist: Simon Andrews. Accessories stylist: Christina Lane. (Johnny Miller / The New York Times)


Steamed Chicken Roast

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 1 hour, plus at least 2 hours of marinade


  • 1/4 cup whole greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons of ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger paste or finely peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic paste or finely grated fresh garlic
  • 6 to 8 Thai green peppers, hulled and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs (3 to 4 pounds), skin removed, meat marked to the bone
  • Ghee or neutral oil, for cooking
  • Chopped cilantro, chili flakes, mint chutney and lemon wedges, for serving

1. Combine yogurt, spices, ginger paste, garlic paste, chopped green peppers and salt in a large bowl to make a pasty marinade. Add the chicken and rub the marinade well into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Place a tawa, hotplate or comal on the stove if you have one and place a large pot or Dutch oven on it. Otherwise, place the pan directly on the stove. The pot or pot should be large enough to hold the chicken pieces in a single layer and deep enough to catch the steam. Add enough ghee to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the chicken in a single layer, meatier side down. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

3. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook, covered, for another 30 minutes. Remove the cover. Cook over medium heat until the water in the pot has almost completely evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and pour the juice from the pan over the chicken. Garnish with cilantro and chili flakes and serve with chutney and lemon wedges for squeezing.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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