When the Popeyes fried chicken sandwich came out, the hype over the sandwich had me curious as to what this phenomenon was all about. Once I tried it, I was surprised at the experience, as it surpassed my expectations of a fast food offering and became my favorite fast food chicken sandwich.
I used to take for granted many of the cultural traditions I grew up with, and now that I'm married in a multicultural household, I realize the necessity of carrying on these traditions I cherish are on my shoulders as the Afghan in the home. With Nawroz approaching, I wanted to create a new and lively experience for my family, maintaining classic traditions and adding a flair of fusion to create variety. In so doing, I hope to inspire my fellow Afghan American peers to continue carrying on the beautiful traditions from Afghan culture, while we continue to create our own traditions.
As such, the Afghan Turmeric spiced chicken sandwich is one of many fusion dishes I've created for Nawroz. Putting an Afghan twist on the Popeye's chicken sandwich, this memorable dish brings in the familiar nostalgic flavors of Afghan cooking to the relatable crunch of fried chicken, introducing non-Afghans to Afghan cuisine and taking Afghans back to traditional components of our foods in American cuisine.
I utilize buttermilk in this recipe, as its acidic properties act as a meat tenderizer, breaking down proteins to create a juicy taste in each bite. Unlike traditional fried chicken sandwiches, I use chicken thighs instead of chicken breast, turning to the juicer meat instead of the dryer cut, drawing upon the Afghan use of chicken thighs to create juicier, rich meals full of flavor.
Finally, I top the sandwich with a saffron aioli (recipe can be found here). Saffron from Afghanistan is the highest grade of saffron available, a spice abundant in the country, which is frequently utilized across the country in cuisine. I hope you enjoy this fusion of both sides of my heart as I continue to celebrate and uplift the cultures that have fueled my culinary creativity.
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tbsp baking powder
1.5 tbsp paprika
1.5 tbsp turmeric
1.5 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp salt
4 potato buns
4 tbsp salted butter, softened
Cut chicken thighs to fit on a bun
Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl with a whisk, add chicken pieces and mix. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1-4 hours minimum, overnight ideally if possible (the longer the marination process, the better).
After marinating is complete, remove some of the liquid of the marinade into a new bowl. Add egg to ½-1 cup of marinade liquid. Can alternatively use ½ cup of fresh buttermilk with egg instead if you prefer.
In a large pan, heat 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low to allow even cooking.
Mix together breading ingredients in a flat wide dish.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess liquid. Dip the chicken into the breading mix, pressing it until the flour sticks to all sides.
Dunk the now breaded chicken into the egg buttermilk mixture we made in step 3. Now dip this chicken back into breading mix from step 5, pressing it into the flour. Toss the chicken in the flour mixture a bit to create a bumpy coating.
Carefully drop the chicken into hot oil in pan, I use an oven glove when doing this to avoid burns on my arm from oil splashing. Be careful not to overcrowd the frying surface.
Fry the chicken on medium to medium-low, so as to not cook too quickly, until it's golden brown and crispy on all sides, approximately 8 -10 minutes.
Place cooked chicken on a plate lined with paper towel
On a separate pan, turn heat on to medium-high heat until pan is well heated. Butter the insides of top and bottom bun and place buttered side of buns onto pan for 45 seconds-1.5minute, until they're golden brown
Assemble the sandwiches with your preferred vegetables and saffron aioli. Noshejaan!