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What Is Kadai Chicken?

By Andrea Cross
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kadai chicken is chicken that is cooked in, and usually served from, a type of cooking utensil called a kadai. Kadais are commonly used in Pakistani and Indian cuisine, and they have a number of name variations, the most common of which are kadai, karahi and kadhai. Other names or spellings include karai, kadahi, kadhi, karai and korai.

A kadai is a round, deep cooking pot that is similar to a Chinese wok but with a tighter diameter and steeper, taller sides. Thick, and with a heavy rounded bottom, a kadai traditionally is made from cast iron, but stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminum and enamel versions also have become popular, as are flat-bottomed versions that are more sturdy on North American-style stoves. A kadai has two looped handles, one on either side, to allow ease of transportation from the place of cooking to where it will be served.

This type of pot is used for frying foods. Its shape allows deep frying with the minimum amount of oil while containing any hot splatter. This type of pot also routinely is used for stir fries and stews, especially curries.

Kadai chicken has many variations in terms of spicing, but there are common elements in virtually all recipes. Among these elements are onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and chilies. These ingredients and oil or ghee serve as a base to which different combinations of spices are added.

The spices that are added might include cardamom, turmeric, coriander, cumin and peppercorns. Others include bay leaves, cinnamon, fenugreek, cloves and garam masala. Capsicum also is commonly added to this dish. Kadai chicken is relatively quick to cook and produces a drier, thick, spicy red curry that typically is eaten with roti, paratha, rice or bread.

A common way to make kadai chicken is to heat the oil or ghee in the kadai. If whole spices are being used, they are added to the oil and allowed to cook briefly, until they are sizzling and aromatic. Chopped onion is then added and sautéed until it is soft and golden brown. Garlic, ginger and chili, are blended to a paste, added to the pan and sautéed for several minutes.

The chicken, which might be in parts or boneless and cut into bite-sized pieces, is then placed in the kadai and browned all over. Other spices that are going to be included are then added and cooked for a short time so that they lose their rawness. Tomatoes and salt are then added, and the mixture is simmered until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the gravy is thick and fairly dry. Capsicum are stirred in and allowed to cook for several minutes until they begin to soften. The kadai chicken is then garnished with fresh coriander and served.

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