Arif Chatkhara House is one of the most prominent names when it comes to tawa chicken in Lahore. Located in the Shahi Mohalla, Texali Gate area, the restaurant has a loyal following; their loyalties are not only limited to Lahore for people from all over Pakistan and abroad come to try their take on tawa chicken.
But what’s so special about it?
The tawa chicken is mainly a chicken piece with a yogurt-spice coating and plenty of green chilli garnish. It, without exaggeration, is one succulent, juicy and spicy AF piece of chicken that although is tasty also leaves people in tears. It’s sort of like your desi Nando’s since you can tell them your spice level – you either go super, atomic level spicy or you go home. Just kidding, don’t kill yourselves. Go for mild if you can’t handle your spices well, we don’t want you to have a case of the shits for no good reason.
It also has a certain nostalgic value attached to it
Long before upscale restaurants existed, many families visited these restaurants for dinners. Talking to my father, he explained to me how these were the only places Lahoris knew. So for many people, as they grew older and had children of their own, they would take them to eateries such as Arif Chatkhara because of its connection to their past, and essentially establishing the restaurant as a bridge between two generations – that’s how I became familiar with many authentic Lahori eateries, places like Waris Nihari, Bashir Dar ul Mahi, Phajjay ke Paaye and of course Arif Chatkhara House’ tawa chicken.
So it’s only fitting that people from multiple generations are aware of these eateries, think of them fondly and keep going back to them no matter how many exciting cuisines spring up around the city.
So, what goes on the tawa?
Chicken in ghee, yogurt-spice mix, lemons and green chillis sizzle and dance atop the tawa (large pan). If you move in closer to the tawa, chances are you’ll catch a whiff of the spice powders and the chillis.
The tawa chicken pieces being prepared to serve, are brought into the center of the tawa
The others are set aside in anticipation of customers and in the meanwhile slathered generously with the yogurt-spice masala mix. They keep cooking on the side slowly where the heat is low so they take in all the spicy marinade.
Bright green chilis are then thrown over the chicken
These chilils go on to get cooked with the oil and become more chewy, in a way. It’s a slow process as mentioned before, but it really helps the chicken absorb the spice and not be overwhelmingly bland.
Some people do not like the addition of chilis. According to them, the chilis overwhelm their palette and cancel out the taste of the meat and masalam leaving nothing special to it apart from being just insanely spicy. So, to them, this isn’t the best tawa chicken in Lahore and that’s alright.
It’s then plated up, not very neatly but that’s the true essence of it
Garnished very generously with chilis, the tawa chicken is served along with roti or naan and raita. Naan has been the choice at food festivals, but when you’re at Arif Chatkhara House, ask for the rumali roti. The tawa chicken and that rumali roti complement each other perfectly. Naan is just meh, you won’t be getting the real experience by getting a naan.
For years Arif Chatkhara House has been serving the best tawa chicken in Lahore. That was the verdict at the beginning and even more so in the end. The flavors, texture, taste of the chicken paired with the roti and raita come through when you have a bite out of it. So my recommendation would be to gather your friends, sit in a car, drive to Texali Gate and give these bad boys a try. And take a tissue box along – you’ll be needing it 😉
Cover image via Flickr/603sabre