Chicken & Rice (Street Cart Style)
Updated: Mar 27
Chicken and rice is one of those dishes that everyone has tried at the ever so popular location in NYC, The Halal Guys. No one does it quite like the guys do on 53rd & 6th. Often imitated but really hard to duplicate lol!
When I worked in NYC, I had a street cart on my block called “Rafiki’s” this was place was almost as good as The Halal Guys except I’d always get the chicken pita here, they really made it well and for only $5! Can’t beat a $5 lunch in NYC.
After moving to Cali, I often miss both of these places and can’t find anything similar here in LA. There actually is a Halal Guys in here in LA but trust me when I say, it is NOT the same at ALL!! I know it’s the same company and brand but the taste is not. I guess cooking outdoor on a street cart versus an indoor kitchen makes a huge difference! Don’t be fooled by any other Halal Guys location, 53rd & 6th is the one and only!! I tried the one in Vegas as well and it made me sick.
Anyway, after searching around for a recipe that would match what I was craving, I think I have finally concocted what I was missing! With the help of a recipe by Caroline Russock via Serious Eats and Sam Sutton via NYT Cooking, I came up with this mixture from the two. Hope you guys enjoy it! Appreciate any tips and pointers as well!
Chicken & Rice
For the chicken:
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs**
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh oregano (dried will not taste the same)
2 tbsp garlic paste or 6-7 garlic cloves
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 pinch cinnamon powder
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
**I used chicken breast in my recipe because that’s all I had but I think thighs would taste better with this.
For the rice:
1 cup basmati or long grained rice (soaked in cold water for 15 minutes, rinsed and drained)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water
Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
Lettuce & tomato
Warm pita bread
1. For the chicken: Add lemon juice, oregano, garlic, coriander, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and olive oil into a blender and blend until all ingredients are incorporated (garlic and oregano should be minced down). This will be your marinade and cooking sauce. Reserve half of the marinade for later and toss chicken* in the other half, coat well, cover, refrigerate and let it marinate for at least an hour to 3 hours tops - the lemon juice in the marinade can make the chicken soggy after a while.
(*If using chicken breasts then cut 4-5 slits on each side and get the marinade in there as well).
2. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels, set aside on a plate. Heat cast iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pan (not sure how this would work on non-stick) on medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil, let heat until slightly smoky. Place the chicken thighs or breasts in the skillet, do not overcrowd, 3-4 pieces at a time. Let it cook on the first side for about 4-5 minutes undisturbed - this is how you get that nice seary-char on it. Then reduce heat to medium and flip chicken using tongs - personal preference, just easier for me with tongs as I can’t get it to flip as easily with a spatula! Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Flip again if necessary, make sure chicken is cooked all the way through if using thicker pieces.
3. Remove chicken and let it cool for a few minutes then chop into 1/2-1 inch pieces. Add the other half of the reserved marinade over chicken and mix well. Reheat cast iron skillet on medium-high heat (drain any leftover oil from before). Add a sliver of butter - about 1 tbsp and melt. Once melted, add in chopped chicken and sauté until liquid has cooked down. Once most of the liquid has burned out, reduce heat to medium and let chicken sit for a few minutes without stirring - this will help crisp up some of the pieces. Remove from heat and done!
4. Serve over rice with pita and my two sauces! Recipes for both are linked. Garnish with parsley if desired. You can also put this chicken in a pita or wrap of your choice with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onions if you want to omit the rice.
5. For the rice: Heat a pot stovetop on medium heat. Add butter and melt. Then add spices (turmeric, cumin, and paprika) and sauté just for 1-2 minutes - do not let it brown! Add rice and toast for approx. 5-7 minutes. Add salt and water, and bring to boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat all the way low to a simmer. Cover and let cook undisturbed for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and uncover as the rest of the liquid evaporates - about 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Rice is done!
Hope you guys enjoy it! Thanks again for visiting my page! Don't forget to tag @thecurriedcook in your Instagram posts!