Middle Eastern Chili Fry

"Chili Fry" is the name for a Middle Eastern/South Asian dish that is very much like a chili without beans, the sort of western American chili that has sauteed chunks of meat simmered in salsa.

This is a quick and simple dish that takes a short time to prepare if the meat is already cut up into chunks (I order it that way at the meat market), but will take a bit more time if you have to dice the meat. Otherwise, it doesn't take long to dice the onions, tomatoes and chilies, then sautee with spices. We often make this for a quick week night meal, served with flat bread and salad. It would also be delicious with tortillas. In parts of the middle east it is also commonly eaten for a late breakfast or brunch type meal.

1 - 2 lbs. "Steak", Cubed (I just order whatever tender cut of beef is on sale)
1-2 Large Onions, Diced
3-4 Large Tomatoes, Diced
1-2 Chilies, Any Type, Diced (Any kind. I usually have serrano, jalapeno or Hungarian on hand)
2-3 T. Cooking Oil
Spices: Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Paprika, Cumin, Chili Powder, Red Pepper
Optional Spices: Allspice, Coriander, Ginger
Optional: Minced Garlic

  • Heat a large skillet or sautee pan with oil. Add the beef cubes and cook until browned, adding spices to taste. 
  • Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Parika, Cumin & Chili Powder are the ones I commonly use. If my chilies aren't very spice, I may add a pinch of red pepper for a little extra heat. Allspice gives a more middle eastern flavor, coriander adds a bit of lemony flavor and ginger also adds a little heat. Use any combination to taste. I just start adding a few sprinkles of this and a pinch of that, then taste the meat. 
  • Cook the meat in a couple of batches if necessary.
  • Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onions to the pan and cook until they begin to soften.
  • Add the chilies and minced garlic, if using, and sautee a couple more minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until they are starting to soften and cook down until they start to form a sauce, leaving some tomatoes in chunks.
  • Season the tomatoes with salt & pepper and any of the other desired spices.
  • Return the meat to the pan with the onions and tomatoes and heat through.
1. You can make this without fresh chilies using just the spices. I often do that if all I have on hand is tomatoes and onions. It's still delicious, I just add a bit of red pepper and ginger along with the chili powder for heat.

2. Ditto for the garlic. If I have fresh garlic AND I have the time or energy to dice it, I'll add it. Having some already minced in a jar is really handy. If not, just use garlic powder.

3. If the tomatoes seem a bit anemic, I add a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to add flavor and depth to the sauce.

4. I haven't tried it, but I think this would be even quicker and easier -- and cheaper in some locations -- to just use canned diced tomatoes. I'm lucky to live in an area with several nice produce markets nearby, and most of them all have big sales on Wednesdays, as well as an Aldi just down the street, so I can usually get tomatoes fairly inexpensively, and we buy lots because Baba will eat them in just about everything. In the summer, we can get them from the garden and farmer's markets. The farmer's markets are more expensive than the produce markets, but they are locally grown. Otherwise, I understand that in some places tomatoes can be pricey and people often buy the fresh only for sandwiches and salads, and wait until garden season.

Brown meat and season as desired.

Sautee onions, tomatoes, chilies & garlic.

Return the meat to the pan and simmer until heated through.

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