This spicy chicken sandwich is influenced by flavors of Ethiopia. Berbere is a spice blend, somewhat like an east African curry powder. It's used as the spice base for a number of dishes in that region, including lentil, chicken, fish, and meat dishes.
I first encountered the spice at a food cart in the Columbus Circle area of New York City. There was this older gentleman who was confident in his "simple" sandwich that featured grilled chicken, lightly seasoned with berbere, served in warmed naan bread, and topped with a yogurt-cottage cheese "mayo". I was hooked on the first bite, and in fact, made my way over to his cart multiple times a week to enjoy a good conversation over his wonderful creation.
Here's my version of chicken sandwich with my southern interpretation.
Spicy Paste - MAKE AHEAD
2 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced (keep some seeds for more heat)
1 TBS smoked paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground fenugreek (Sub: mustard powder)
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sugar
1 TBS sea salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Sandwich Dressing - MAKE AHEAD
4 TBS small curd cottage cheese (sub: sour cream)
4 TBS Greek yogurt
1 TBS Dijon Mustard (Sub: 1 TBS brown mustard + 2 tsp white wine)
2 TBS Mayonnaise
1 TBS Honey
2 tsp lemon juice (Sub: lime)
2 tsp salt, or more to taste
2 tsp ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 TBS green onion (Optional)
2 lbs. chicken breast tenderloin
2 tsp oil for brushing naan bread
4 pieces of naan flat bread
3 cups all purpose flour
1 TBS salt
2 tsp sugar
Vegetable oil for frying
Optional toppings: thinly sliced red peppers, thinly sliced onions, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, other.
Combine all spice blend ingredients. This can be done days in advance. Set aside.
In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk all dressing ingredients together. This can be done 1 or 2 days in advance. It may separate a little. Just whisk it back into submission.
Spoon a generous amount of the spice paste over cleaned, patted dry chicken. Allow to sit for 30 mins. You can do this 1 or 2 days in advance.
In a deep mixing bowl, prepare flour with 1 TBS salt and 2 tsp sugar. Using a fork, mix ingredients well.
Heat cooking oil over medium-high heat in pan deep enough for shallow frying. Be sure to test the temperature of your oil by looking for wavy lines, or using a wooden spoon to see if the oil is hot enough to make tiny bubbles around the wood.
JUST BEFORE FRYING, ONLY toss spiced-seasoned chicken tenders in flour mixture, working in batches. Make sure pieces are covered completely. Immediately add to hot oil. Fry each side 2-3 minutes each, or until golden brown. Drain on a rack, brown paper bags, or paper towels.
In a side-skillet, over medium (low-ish) heat, toast each side of naan bread that has been lightly brushed.
Build your sandwich how you like it, roll it, slice it, enjoy! Jennifer