That’s a wrap!
Juicy, succulent grilled chicken bites coated with a creamy and herby marinade are tucked into soft naan breads, topped with chutneys and enjoyed as a delicious wrap.
Wraps are the exotic cousins of the more popular sandwich or burger. Some sort of protein and vegetables topped with condiments and wrapped in some kind of flat bread is found in almost all cuisines. Think Mediterranean pita pockets, tacos and burritos from Mexico, and even, masala dosas from India! My favorite wrap vehicle though is a soft homemade naan bread.
The best thing to wrap inside naans is some kind of smoky, grilled meat. When we think of Indian style grilled meat, we immediately think of the spicy, red tandoori or tikka chicken. Those are all-time favorites, of course. But a lesser known and often overlooked recipe is that for murgh malai kebabs.
Murgh malai kebabs literally mean creamy chicken kebabs (or creamy grilled chicken). The word creamy refers to the marinade used on the meat. Small bite-sized pieces of chicken are marinated in a mix of yogurt, cream and cheese. A few aromatics and herbs too are added like cilantro, mint, ginger, garlic, cardamom, cumin and garam masala. You will notice that there are no red chilies or coriander, the two pillars of almost all Indian dishes. You may add a ground green chili or some white pepper powder for some heat, but in general, chicken malai kebab is mildly spiced. It is so soft and simply melts in your mouth, thereby giving it another name – reshmi kebabs.
It is absolutely essential to marinate the chicken pieces for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight. The chicken is tenderized and the marinade forms a thick coating all over the chicken at the end of it. The secret ingredient is a couple of tablespoons of finely grated white cheese, which helps the marinade to thicken and cling to the meat better. Chicken malai kebab can be skewered and cooked on a hot grill or roasted in a hot oven. I usually roast them on a wire rack in the oven, broiling them for the last couple of minutes to get the signature char on the kebabs.
Chicken malai kebabs are generally served as appetizers or finger foods before a main meal. A variety of chutneys are served to dip the kebabs in. Usually, you will find restaurants serving them with a green mint chutney. I also cooked down the leftover marinade along with some tomato to make a creamy red chutney.
I make these kebabs for dinner parties and it is so easy to put together. You can marinate the chicken a day before and pop them in the oven right before the guests arrive. Lay them on a bed of crunchy cabbage and onions and serve with chutney.
But one day, while making these kebabs just for ourselves on a lazy weekend, I decided to serve them wrapped in naan for a quick and delicious dinner. I usually use this instant homemade whole wheat naan recipe and if you haven’t tried it, you must do so immediately. It is so easy and so good and goes great with all sorts of meat and vegetarian curries.
These chicken kebab naan wraps turned out so good that I simply had to take some photographs for a quick blog post.
- Chicken thighs - 1 lb, boneless and skinless
- Ginger-garlic paste - 2 tsp
- Lime juice or white vinegar - 1 tbsp
- Green chili - 1, small (or use a small serrano pepper)
- Cilantro leaves - ½ cup
- Mint leaves - 5-6
- Thick yogurt - ¼ cup
- Heavy cream - ¼ cup
- White cheese - 3 tbsp, finely grated (use white cheddar, mozzarella or parmesan)
- Garam masala powder - 1 tsp, heaped
- Cumin powder - ½ tsp
- White pepper powder - ½ tsp
- Cardamom powder - ¼ tsp
- Star anise - a small piece, crushed
- Salt - 1 tsp (or as per taste)
- Butter - 2 tbsp, melted (for basting)
- Mint leaves - ½ cup, roughly chopped
- Cilantro - ½ cup, roughly chopped
- Green chilies - 1-2, small (as per heat desired)
- Ginger - a small piece
- Salt - ¼ tsp
- Water - as needed
- Leftover marinade - around 1 cup (or whatever is leftover)
- Tomato - 1, crushed
- Garam masala powder - ½ tsp
- Milk or heavy cream - 1 cup
- Salt - to taste
- Naan - 6
- Shredded cabbage - 1 cup
- Red onion - 1, thinly sliced
- Cilantro leaves - a few
- Lime or lemon - 1, cut into wedges
- Chicken Malai Kebabs: Cut chicken into small pieces and dump it into a mixing bowl. Add ginger-garlic paste and lime juice (or vinegar). Mix well, cover and set aside for 15- 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make a paste with green chili, cilantro, mint, yogurt, cream, cheese, garam masala, pepper powder, cumin powder, cardamom powder and star anise. Season with salt as per taste.
- Dump this creamy marinade mixture over the chicken pieces. Toss well to coat all the pieces in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 deg.F. Line a large rimmed baking pan with foil and set a wire rack over it.
- Shake off excess marinade from chicken pieces and thread them onto skewers. If you are using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water for half an hour before threading the chicken.
- Set skewers on wire rack and bake in upper half of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Midway through the baking process, baste chicken with melted butter and turn the skewers over so that the chicken browns evenly. Broil for the last 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye so as to not burn the chicken.
- Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Mint Chutney: Blend all the ingredients to make a smooth paste, adding water as needed.
- Red Malai Chutney: Pour the leftover marinade in a saucepan. Add a crushed tomato and ½ tsp of garam masala.
- Cook over medium-high heat till sauce bubbles and starts to reduce. In a few minutes, you will see fat starting to separate at the sides. Remove saucepan from heat and quickly whisk in the milk or cream. Add salt to taste and cook till just heated through and slightly thickened, whisking constantly. It will thicken further as it cools.
- Naan Wraps: Remove chicken pieces from a skewer and line them in a naan bread. Top with some shredded cabbage, red onion slices, cilantro leaves and drizzle generously with green and red chutneys. Wrap and serve with lime or lemon wedges and a cold drink.
2. Traditionally, malt vinegar is used in the first marinade. If you do not have it, simply use white vinegar or lime juice instead as mentioned in my recipe.
3. If cooking kebabs over an outdoor grill, make sure to cook for 10-15 minutes or till chicken is no longer opaque.
4. Prepare the chutneys while the chicken is in the oven to save time and get everything ready to serve while kebabs are still hot and fresh off the oven.
Enjoy these juicy, mildly spiced but extremely flavorful chicken kebabs wrapped in a soft naan bread for your next weekend meal. Go here for the homemade naan recipe.
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Some malai kebab recipes use ground cashews or almonds in the marinade, but I have found the above marinade to be rich and creamy enough. Here’s another chicken malai kebab recipe with cashews and cream from a dear friend, Aditi of Confused Bawarchis.
Have you tried chicken malai kebabs? Do you like eating flatbread wraps? Do try these chicken kebab naan wraps and let me know how you like it!chicken kebab
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