If you've been the New York City, then you've seen the plethora of street food carts selling pretzels or nuts or bagels that fill the streets with their amazing aromas. But I don't waste my money there. There are only two food carts I happily stood in line for, the two midtown favorites: The Halal Guys' hot off the griddle chicken (and lamb) with rice and Hallo Berlin's German steamy wursts and sauerkraut lunches.
I disclaim upfront that we're not the NYC frequent flyers we used to be, pre-babes, but my husband made a recent stop at The Halal Guys' cart during a business trip and reported that their chicken and lamb mixed plate (his go-to pick there) was as stellar as ever. This meal and blog post was 100% inspired by (my jealousy over) his lunch. But what's the big deal about chicken and rice, you wonder? The Halal Guys' secret white sauce is said to be the reason they have supremacy over all halal food carts across the city. It's a mayo-based sauce that adds a tangy and flavorful dimension to the dish. The recipe is a pretty big deal and a well-kept secret for 25 years. Fortunately, one food writer at Thrillist reverse-engineered their secret white sauce which informed my own version below. I adjusted her recipe by subbing half the mayonnaise with non-fat Greek yogurt (shhhh) to make it a tad less sinful because we like to get quite liberal with that yummy sauce. Even if you've never (or never will) experience The Halal Guy's magic, this homemade rendition makes a killah meal any night of the week.
Recipe serves 4.
For the White Sauce (adapted from Thrillist):
1/2 C mayonnaise, preferably made only with egg yolks
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
For the Chicken (slightly adapted from Tasty):
2 lbs (6-8) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/8 C extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil, plus 2 tbsp for browning
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sumac
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
For the Rice (slightly adapted from Tasty):
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 C uncooked basmati or long grain white rice, washed by rinsing several times under tap water (does not need to run clear)
2 C chicken broth, homemade or store bought low-sodium
salt to taste (depending on salt content of the chicken broth)
Harissa hot sauce (I like this additives-free one by Stonewall Kitchen)
Parsley or cilantro, rough chopped
1. Mix all white sauce ingredients together in bowl and refrigerate until needed.
2. Bag-marinate chicken with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, coriander, oregano, sumac, salt and pepper. Marinade up to 8 hrs (but no more than 8hrs since chicken meat becomes mushy if in contact with lemon juice for more than that).
3. Preheat a large pan or large dutch oven over medium heat.
4. Add a tbsp of oil and cook the chicken in batches until cooked through & golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pan or else the chicken will not brown properly. Remove from pan, set aside and keep warm (i.e. under a lid or inside a low oven set to 150f).
5. If there is more than about 2 tablespoons worth of fat remaining in the pan from browning the chicken, mop some up with a paper towel held with a pair of tongs, leaving about 2 tablespoons worth. Add in the turmeric and cumin first, stirring around in the oil for 10-15 seconds to allow them to bloom and release their aromatic compounds but not so long as to brown and burn them. Then add the uncooked rice. Stir around to coat well.
6. Add chicken broth, cover with lid and bring to a boil.
7. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Do not peek! Fluff with a fork when finished and remove from heat.
8. Dice the rested chicken pieces into ~3/4" cubes.
9. Serve chicken pieces on top of rice, lots and lots of white sauce, Harissa and garnish with chopped cilantro/parsley.