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Call it Dalia or Daliya. This cracked wheat cooked with chicken is not just nutritionally rich but oh so easy to make. This ultimate comfort food is perfect for easy dinner nights. Or when you want to give your taste buds and stomach a break but still feel satisfied.
Pakistani Style Dalia with Chicken (Cracked Wheat with Chicken)
Ever notice why comfort foods always.... well, bring comfort to us? It is amazing how depending on what region of the world you are in or what ethnicity you belong to, comfort food can change completely. In taste, in texture, and the amount & effort it takes to make it. For me Dalia wali Chicken or Chicken with Dalia is just that. Comfort food. Ever since I could remember, if we ever needed a break from our regular spice laden foods, or if someone fell sick in the family and my Ammi Jaan (dear mom) didn’t want to cook separate meals. She would almost always serve us Chicken with Dalia. It helped in digestion. It was easy to swallow for times when someone had a sore throat. Meat lovers still got their meat, and whoever did not want to eat meat could just eat the Dalia.
It was always a special treat. Moving forward to when I became a mother for the first time, and Ammi Jaan came to stay with us postpartum. If there was one food on repeat. It was Dalia with Chicken. Because of its nutritional value, it makes a perfect meal for a healing & often nursing mom. She did not just make it during her other two visits during my postpartum days that eventually followed in the coming years. But, also in 2018, when I had a major surgery with 4 procedures. Yes, my sweet Ammi Jaan was here to help, and when I could not digest a lot. This Dalia with Chicken was one food that helped me transition to regular food.
Another fun fact, my father-in-law who is a great cook himself but also a picky eater loves this Dalia with Chicken. Both him & my daughter Ms. "I" seem to enjoy this as much as they enjoy my Sindhi Biryani. So, when it came to sharing a new healthy recipe just like my previously shared Extremely Easy Broiled Moroccan Salmon . This one had to top the list.
So What is Pakistani Style Dalia with Chicken?
It is basically cracked wheat slow cooked with bone-in chicken. When I called Ammi Jaan last evening to ask when was the first time she tasted Dalia with Chicken. She said it was right after I was born & during her postpartum days. My Nani (maternal grandmother) who was visiting from Pakistan to help Ammi Jaan with me who was her first born, served her this nutritional deliciousness stating that it will help with postpartum healing. The difference, she mostly made it using mutton (goat meat) and use Ghee instead of oil. That is how my late Nana (maternal grandfather) preferred it.
But, since my Baba (father) preferred white meat with Dalia. Ammi Jaan almost always made it with chicken. And that is the recipe I am sharing with you.
This is one of the easiest yet nutritionally rich recipes you will ever make.
The best part is that with a slight variation. You can make this recipe vegetarian too.
Red Meat: Make it with mutton (goat meat) for a deeper flavor of meat. To cook with mutton, you will follow the recipe exactly. Just increase the cooking time till meat is tender.
Vegetarian: For my friends who are having a meatless day, or just do not eat meat in general. You can make it with Moong Daal (Yellow split lentil). Simply soak the Daal with the cracked wheat, omit the chicken. And follow the recipe as is.
What Goes in Dalia With Chicken?
Here are the ingredients required to make Chicken with Dalia
- Cracked wheat (Dalia) Not to be confused with Bulgur is easily available in South Asian or Middle Eastern grocery stores. It is an excellent source of fiber, and contains iron, calcium, folate, and other vitamins as well. You will usually find it prepackaged. Sometimes labeled in numerals ranging from 1-4. The higher the number the courser the texture. I usually go with 2 because in my family we prefer Dalia with a smoother texture. Since this is a type of grain, it cooks best when soaked in advance.
- Cinnamon Stick (Dalchini) Oh what I can say about this beautiful spice. As if its earthy and slightly sweet aroma is not good enough to add in practically most dishes. Its benefits include antioxidants which help reduce inflammation. It can also help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
- Cloves (laung) From Biryani to Haleem to the basic Kichri (rice & lentil pilaf) pronounced Kitch-Ree , this spice has to grace almost all food items in South Asian & Middle Eastern cooking. This immune booster which is also high in antioxidants can help reduce blood sugar. The best part is how it aids in digestion and can potentially heal mouth ulcers. I kid you not, as a child whenever we would get any mouth sores. Our Ammi Jaan would instantly rush to the kitchen and bring us a piece of clove to put in our mouth making sure it directly touches the sore. As painful as the first few seconds used to be, we would always wake up next morning with the sore gone. Magic? Me thinks not.
- Whole Black Pepper (Sabut Kali Mirch) Forget the fact that the versatility of black pepper, whether it be ground, whole, or cracked makes it the second most needed item in the pantry after salt. If you have not already guessed by the theme up here. This is yet another spice that does not just add the slight (hotness) needed in Dalia besides the green chilies. But is also rich in antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties as well as lowers cholesterol levels and even aids in better blood sugar control.
- Mint leaves Although the only herb used, they don’t just add a much-needed pop of color but a ton of flavor to the Dalia as well. Plus, they help with digestion too. Especially important if you are feeding a sick person or a child. Or recovering from some major weekend gluttony. Yeah, you. I am looking at you.
- Green Chilies I use serrano peppers since they are easily available at my local grocery stores. You can use those, or Pakistani green chilies commonly known as Thai green chilies at the American grocery stores. Simply increase the number from 2 to 4.
- Salt I use Himalayan salt which has more than 80 kinds of trace minerals in it contains less amount of sodium per serving and is easily available at South Asian Grocery stores. If you are using regular iodized salt, then feel free to lower/adjust the amount to your liking.
- Chicken Unless until specified, you will always find that the Pakistani recipes I share require bone in chicken without skin. Now, this does not mean you cannot use boneless chicken. Bones just add more depth to Dalia’s flavor, and make it nutritionally richer by adding trace minerals like calcium and phosphorus as well as sodium and magnesium. Slow cooked chicken bones also add a concentrated amount of collagen, glycine, and gelatin in our food. These nutrients play an important role in reducing inflammation in our body and are necessary for good gut health which in turns make our immune system stronger. As always, while eating, separate the meat from the bones. As far as skin goes, traditionally unless you are in the tribal areas, skin is not used in Pakistani cooking)
- Avocado Oil I have been successfully cooking South Asian food in Avocado oil since 2019. For those of you wondering, there is no taste difference. Besides being healthy for us, it has a high smoke point which means that avocado oil can retain its nutritional value at high temperatures, making it ideal for South Asian cooking. Like most food items, the more oil you add, the more flavorful it will be. Since we watch our fat intake in the house, this recipe has a reduced amount of oil in it. If you are not trying to lose weight or have not been instructed by your health care provider to watch your fat intake. Then by all means add double the amount & enjoy the flavors even more.
- Onion I have been using red onions for a while now. You can use yellow onions too. But I find their taste to be a little too sweet for South Asian cooking. Plus, anthocyanins, the special plant pigment that gives them the red color is good to help reduce reduce the risk of heart disease. The browned onions add a great caramelized almost sweet but not too sweet aftertaste in the occasional bite.
- Cumin seeds (Zeera) Yet again, we are here with our last spice but a much-needed pantry staple if you cook South Asian food a lot and more than that add Tarka (tempered oil) to everything. Yes, Tarka can literally mean tempered oil, or the act of tempering that is cooking the oil or adding that oil. Lessons in Urdu/Hindi language at a later time : ) On a serious note, this earthy spice also has antioxidants, helps reduce inflammation and lowers cholesterol. And, the best, helps in digestion.
How Do We Make It
Unlike other recipes, where you must fry onions or make a Masala first. This is more of a dump & watch kind of recipe. You simply bring cracked wheat, chicken, mint, green chilies, and all spices to boil. Let them cook on medium heat till the chicken cooks through & the cracked wheat swells. Then add Tarka (oil tempered with sliced onions and cumin seeds) to round off the flavors.
“As a busy mom who likes to manage time better. Often, I just soak everything except salt, mint, green chilies, & chicken in the same pot the night before, and simply start the cooking process from there the next day.”
If you are serving someone who is completely avoiding fats. You can skip the Tarka (tempering) altogether and add cumin seeds with the other spices at the start of cooking.
Serrano Peppers can be replaced by 4 Thai chilies.
Avocado oil can be replaced by an equal amount of Ghee.
Commonly Asked Questions
Do I have to use a heavy bottom pot?
If you can, then yes. Because grains release starch when cooked & then tend to stick to the bottom of the pot. While you can cook in a regular pot, with a heavy bottom pot, the heat is distributed evenly & there is less chance of the cracked wheat (Dalia) sticking to the bottom of the pot. Hence, less food wastage and easy cleaning.
Do I have to soak the cracked wheat overnight?
Not necessarily. Ammi Jaan almost always soaks it 1-2 hours prior to cooking. Since when it comes to cooking, most of us are rushed these days. I find that soaking overnight helps reduce the cooking time.
Can I make this with boneless chicken or chicken breast?
You absolutely can. In fact, adding chicken breast will slightly increase the protein amount while decreasing the fat amount per serving. Simply add the chicken breast pieces 20 minutes after the Dalia has already been cooking.
How long can I refrigerate this?
This can easily be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Remember to always use a clean spoon to get the Dalia out, and never double dip a spoon in a serving dish that has your saliva on it. It is not just bad manners. There is science behind it that suggests food goes bad quicker.
Can I freeze this?
Yes, you can for 2 months. Best way to freeze would be to cook, freeze and then add Tarka (temper) right before serving.
To serve, simply thaw in the fridge overnight and heat it on the stove at medium - medium low heat.
Can I multiply the recipe?
Yes. Cooking time will remain the same. Just remember that when Dalia cooks, it expands. So, make sure that you cook it in an even larger pot.
Accompaniments: What To Serve With Chicken & Dalia?
What can I say? It is Chicken with Dalia. A complete meal on its own. In our house it comes remarkably close to the Kichri or Daal Chawal (Basmati rice and lentils) league. I prefer to serve it as is. And that is how I recommend you do too. Just like how Kichri or Daal Chawal are often eaten with Achar (Pakistani pickle), Papar (crunchy thin South Asian Flatbread), Kachumber Salad, but can be enjoyed on their own too.
“It’s about those simple pleasures in life people!”
If you like, to add more oomph to the Dalia, you can sprinkle freshly squeezed lemon juice & Chaat Masala after plating it. Either way, I can almost guarantee that you will be blown away by its simple yet satisfying flavor.
Pakistani Style Chicken with Dalia
- Large heavy bottom pot
- Chopping Board
- Small frying pan
- 2 cups cracked wheat soaked overnight in 12 cups water
- 1 large cinnamon stick Dalchini
- ½ teaspoon cloves laung
- ½ teaspoon whole black pepper sabut kali mirch
- 2 sprigs mint leaves
- 2 green chilies cut the edges
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1, 2.2 lbs whole bone in chicken skin off, cut into 16 pcs
- ¼ cup Avocado Oil*
- ½ medium red onion thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds Zeera
- In a large heavy bottom pot, bring cracked wheat (including the water used for soaking), chicken, cinnamon stick, cloves, black pepper, mint leaves, chilies, and salt to boil.**
- Once everything comes to a boil, partially cover the pot, and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, or till the cracked wheat swells and gets thick in consistency, and the chicken cooks through. Stir every 10 minutes to avoid clumping.
- Once Dalia is done cooking, bring the heat to low, and cover the pot. Stir every now and then to make sure that the cooked Dalia does not stick to the bottom. Be careful to stir the chicken gently as it can break and disintegrate in the Dalia.
- Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Add oil, then fry onions till they turn golden brown. After that add cumin seeds and stir fry for 5 seconds.
- Now, add the tempered oil on Dalia. Stir gently. Cover and cook on low heat for additional 10 minutes.
- Your Dalia with Chicken is done. Serve warm as is, or with Chaat Masala and lemon wedges.
Note: The nutritional info is based on ingredients used in The UnModern Woman’s kitchen. Depending on the brand of ingredients used, nutritional count may or may not be approximate.
HAVE A QUESTION OR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS RECIPE?
I love getting feedback. Please let me know in the comment section below : )
Sana aka The UnModern Woman