Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Yakhni - Pakistani Style Chicken soup

As a kid I was not a big fan of Yakhni. My views on Yakhni have changed over last few years as I started preparing it myself with a technique similar to that of French Onion Soup. There was nothing more comforting than a steaming hot bowl of Yakhni served with lemon in the cold nights of Islamabad and London. Not just that, nothing better helps one recharge while recovering from flu and cold as well. During winter nights Yakhni was served at my mother’s house before dinner. I loved having it with a buttered chappati.  Bukhara at Pearl Continental Rawalpindi particularly served Yakhni just the way I loved it.  

This post was the very first one I did for Gawal Mandi Blog but I never got a chance to actually photograph the process. In the past two weeks, I and the better half have been sick from a pretty vicious flu virus.  Yakhni saved us as we recovered from the fatigue and exhaustion. I have made some changes to my original recipe with two more ingredients which add a gentle balance to the earthy flavor of chicken and onions. 


Chicken (with bones - no skin) – 12 pieces
Onions – 2 medium - sliced
Garlic – 1 whole head 
Ginger – 1 inch long – 1 cm thick
Carrot - 2 Medium - diced
Tomato - 1 Medium - Chopped (I did not use tomato in this batch)
Bay leaves – 3 
Cloves – 7-8
Peppercorns – 1 tsp 
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch long – 2 pieces
Cumin – 1 tsp
Whole dried Coriander - 2 tsps.
Salt – 1 tsp (adjust to taste )
Oil – 3 tbsp
Water – 6 cups

  1. In a stock pot heat the oil, add all the vegetables together and cook till gently brown. 
  2. Add the dry spices and cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Now add the chicken piece and brown them till evenly colored.
  4. Now add salt and 6 cups of water. 
  5. Let it boil over high heat. Once it starts boiling lower the heat and let the liquid simmer for 50 mins with the lid on. You should have about 5 cups of Yakhni. Once done, take it off the stove and let it rest for 20 mins. Check for salt, add more if needed.
  6. Use a strainer to strain the liquid in to a bowl and take out the chicken and shred it in a serving bowl. Set aside.
  7. Let the broth cool down till a layer of fat appears on the top of the bowl. Take a spoon and slowly skim it off. Once done heat it before serving.
  8. Add the hot broth to the bowl containing the shredded chicken pieces. 
  9. Serve it with a squeeze of Lemon Juice.    

  You can freeze it for later use, it tastes better with time. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Thought behind Gawal Mandi

Gawal Mandi quite literally means Milkman's Market. It is a historic and much celebrated food street in the heart of the ancient walled city of Lahore - Pakistan.

To start off with there are plenty of desi food blogs available all over the internet. So why i want to write more about food? The idea came after countless interactions with people while working in London.  I found out that  South Asian curry was the most loved food in Britain. Then i observed that the most loved desi food restaurants belonged to Pakistanis but the food sold there was termed as Indian. Essentially everything which had some hint of spice in it was labeled as Indian food. The food itself had no resemblance to the actual Pakistani  cuisine. I also realized that the "The Indian Food" also had very less resemblance to the original Indian food. The food served there was being customized to a level that bore no resemblance to the original recipes anymore.

That led my thought process in another direction. Food clearly is an extension of a nation's culture. And as i traveled more i realized how Pakistani cuisine is slowly getting absorbed in to a modified version of Indian cuisine even though the two cuisines have their own individual identities. 

Then another thought hit me. The Shan Masalas(Most popular brand name for ready-to-use boxed spices mix from Pakistan sold around the world) have clearly made my generation more comfortable in the kitchen but that has led to the demise of the individuality of the each household's cuisine. Food tastes the same because everyone uses the same standard spices straight out of box. Do you remember the time when your ammi's (mom) food tasted different from your khala's(maternal aunt) food? Both used nani's (maternal grandmother) recipe but used their own proportions of spices which would result in kick-ass food in both households with two delightfully varying tastes. That was the magic of individual's own andazaa and proportions with the spices. This blog by no means is aimed at undermining the admirable service Shan Masalas have provided to my generation ( the brand name here is being used only as an example of discussing any/every standardized boxed spices) but i aim to emphasize the importance of originality and simplicity of our cuisine and understand why it must be preserved in its original form.

The idea is simple. I want to compile and share recipes which represent the depth, simplicity, originality and authenticity of Pakistani cuisine. In my mind it is a way of preserving our heritage and handing it down to   the next generation. I am part of the expatriate Pakistanis clan who live and work away from Pakistan most of their productive adult life. Our kids will never get the chance to experience Pakistan the way we did. Pakistan indeed was a different place back then as well. This is an attempt to document and share a part of our heritage and hand it down. My Google and Amazon research on books about Pakistani Cuisine brought out Madhur Jaffery repeatedly. Do i need to say more as why this should be done?   

I promise that this blog will slowly evolve and improve and cover more things than i am aiming to do at this point in time. I am excited to be finally able to do this.....as i have been contemplating this for a while now. I am glad i overcame the inertia.