The Kadhai cooking is actually originated much earlier in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) with ‘kadhai gosht’ and ‘kadhai murgh.’ What we find today in most of the restaurant as ‘kadhai’ dishes is entirely different, and even the basic concept of this particular style is lost.
The ‘kadhai cooking’ was started for the meats, lambs, and chicken. The fresh lamb or chicken was cut into pieces. The sliced onions and meat pieces were put together in a kadhai on a slow fire, with a little salt added. Stirred continuously and gradually the water/juices from the onions and meat were released and by the time, the same was evaporated the meat was cooked by almost three-fourth and the onions thoroughly mashed up. Then a little ‘ghee’ was put in the center of the kadhai. When heated, pastes of ginger, garlic, and chopped green chilies were added. After a few minutes, coriander powder, red chili powder, and turmeric were added, stirred, and cooked until the ghee separated. Then the finely chopped tomatoes were added. Some whisked curd was also added after the tomatoes got thoroughly mashed up. It was simmered until the meat was tender. Finally, seasoned with garam masala powder and kasoori methi.
During cooking the masala used to stick on sides of the kadhai while stirring. To prevent it from burning, the sides of the kadhai were scraped in between. The whole process actually concentrated the masala by way of reducing, and this resulted in yielding the typical flavor and aroma, different from when the meat was cooked in the gravy.
To summarize, the main features of ‘Kadhai Cooking’ are:
- The fat used in ghee and its quantity is much less.
- The meat is almost cooked in the juices of its own and those of the onions.
- No water is usually added.
- The dish is generally spicier.
- The repetitive process of scraping the masala from the sides of the kadhai throughout is the essence of ‘Kadhai cooking.’
- Most of the cooking is carried out on slow fire. This helps in less shrinkage of meat and keeps it tender and juicy.
Nowadays, there have been more innovations in kadhai dishes, but generally, it is found that the basic concepts of kadhai cooking is neglected.
Since the meat has to be cooked in its own juices along with the onions, there is no shortcut for actual ‘kadhai cooking.’ However, a kadhai masala can be prepared for dishes like kadhai paneer, etc.