Tunisian Chicken by Way of Burma

By • February 11, 2014 • 12 Comments

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Author Notes: Naomi Duguid's Burma has an intriguing and delicious recipe for Aromatic Chicken from the Shan Hills. She chops a whole chicken into “small pieces,” quickly stir fries the pieces, adds aromatics, and stir fries a bit more before simmering to finish. It is a great weeknight meal -- one pot and quick-cooking.

While I love southeast Asian flavors, I also love to experiment. I figured as long as the skeleton of the recipe (chicken, tomatoes, onion, and garlic) remained intact, it would be perfect for taking to another part of the world. My mind headed to northern Africa, so I swapped the ginger, lemongrass, and turmeric for cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. With harissa for heat and pomegranate molasses for tang, the dish came together nicely. Remaining true to its inspiration, it is quick and flavorful. Served over couscous, it makes a very satisfying weeknight main dish that is tasty enough to serve to guests.
hardlikearmour

Food52 Review: This chicken dish came together quickly. It's an easy weeknight dinner, and the leftovers even appealed to my 15 year old -- whom I would call discriminating (but not picky). I tweaked the spices a bit to make them sing.JudyH

Serves 6

  • Two 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in chicken breast or thighs, or boneless thighs
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste, plus additional to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut or other high smoke point oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  1. Drain diced tomatoes over a bowl while preparing other ingredients.
  2. Remove skin and excess fat from chicken. Use kitchen shears and/or a sturdy knife to cut the chicken into small pieces (breasts into 4 pieces and thighs into 3 pieces). Rinse well, making certain to remove any stray bone shards. Pat dry with paper towels, then set aside.
  3. Cut stem and root ends from onion. Cut onion in half lengthwise (pole to pole). Remove skins, then cut onion halves lengthwise into thin slices. Transfer to a bowl, or push to one side of cutting board. Peel and mince garlic cloves. Add to sliced onion. Dump 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon harissa, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves atop onion. Set aside.
  4. Heat peanut oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken. Wait about 30 seconds to allow sputtering to decrease, then stir and turn chicken pieces for about 3 minutes, until chicken has very little pink flesh visible. Add the onion mixture and stir to combine, then add the drained tomatoes. Stir and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion strips have become flexible. Add about half of the strained tomato juice (just eyeball it). Reduce the heat to medium, then cover the pot and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the thyme. Taste a small amount of the “juice” and add salt or harissa if needed. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in the pomegranate molasses and cilantro. If you prefer a “juicier” dish, stir in more of the remaining tomato juice Taste, then add salt, harissa, or pomegranate molasses as needed. Serve over couscous, noodles, or rice.
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3 months ago Transcendancing

Wow, what an awesome recipe! Also adaptable! Supermarket only had thigh fillets but this worked beautifully with those. Couscous was perfect for serving too. Love this and will definitely do it again!

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3 months ago healthierkitchen

This sounds great! Glad to see it featured on FB as I had missed it when you first posted!

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3 months ago canoodle

I wonder how this might be adapted for a slow cooker? Hmmmm. Do you think the flavor would suffer if I seared the chicken pieces then dumped everything else in and set it on low for the day? My slow cooker is one of those multifunction rice cooker gizmos so I don't have to worry about losing liquid over a six hour cook.

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3 months ago stephanieRD

I would think the chicken could get stringy....honestly it came together pretty quickly on a weeknight for me.

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3 months ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'm not experienced with slow-cookers, so don't know if it would work. If you decide to try it, please report back.

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3 months ago Emilie

Is there a subsitute to pomgrenate molasses? I don'T know where I cna find this

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3 months ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Pomegranate molasses is tart and a little sweet, so I'd just use lemon or lime juice and honey to taste.

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3 months ago Emilie

Thank you!! I will do just that. Mmm, this is going in my week 2 menu.

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4 months ago Marie Weber

Delicious! And easy too. Thank you for a great recipe.

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4 months ago stephanieRD

Loved this recipe! I didn't have any harissa so I just added some sriracha and tapatio, also subbed honey for pom molasses- still turned out great! Will make this again.

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over 1 year ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

These are a few of my faaaavorite thiiings :-) Yes, I am singing. Then I am making this.

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over 1 year ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Raindrops on roses.... Thanks Abbie!