Aromatic chicken handi

Though having lived most of my life in Pakistan, I never came across this dish being referred to as balti, in Pakistan a similar dish is served up on food streets and homes known as handi.

The name refers to the simple glazed terracotta pot it is cooked in over a log fire, the smoke of the wood adds to the haunting spice and dry curry sauce. Pakistani curries are not always watery in fact most curries in Pakistan are of the dryish variety. Always eaten with naan or plain basmati rice, handi is either made with meat, poultry or vegetables. This style of cooking celebrates the freshness of seasonal local produce and many styles of Pakistani heritage cooking and flavours from across the country.

My personal favourite way to cook Pakistani food is handi style – it rejoices in good produce, reminds me of wonderfully fragrant street food stalls and the essence of the simple yet uniquely aromatic flavours of Pakistan all rolled into one.



  • 400g of chicken thigh, boneless
  • 3 tbsp of sunflower oil, or corn oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Kasoori methi, dried
  • 1 tsp garam masala, ground
  • 50g of Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp of desiccated coconut


  • 1 handful of coriander leaves
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, julienned


  1. Heat the oil in a wok, karhai, handi or a balti pan, on medium heat and add the cardamom, coriander and cumin seeds. Once they pop, add the onions and stir fry until brown
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until the raw smell of the garlic leaves the pan. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft and oil starts to rise to the top, you may need to add a splash of water to avoid the tomatoes from burning
  3. Next add the chicken, garam masala powder, salt and red chilli. Stir fry until chicken is half cooked. Add the dried methi and yoghurt
  4. Once the chicken is done, add the desiccated coconut and stir through. Serve garnished with chopped coriander, green chillis and ginger

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