Hawaij-Spiced Fried Chicken Sandwiches

In these decadent fried chicken sandwiches from Hakim Sulaimani, proprietor of Yafa Cafe in Brooklyn, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are infused with golden color and warming flavors from a buttermilk brine seasoned with hawaij, a Yemeni spice mixture usually consisting of cardamom, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, and coriander. Nutmeg in the crunchy panko coating for the fried chicken further spices up the sandwich, as does the slightly smoky adobo chile and plum sauce. Fresh coleslaw and pickles add a crisp bite and a subtle vinegary punch.

Hawaii-Spiced Fried Chicken Sandwich
Photo: Alex Lau
Marinate Time:
12 hrs
Total Time:
13 hrs 15 mins


Buttermilk Marinade

  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

  • 2 tablespoons hawaij spice blend (such as Sahadi)

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 1.50 teaspoons paprika

  • 4 (7-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts


  • 1 cup shredded brussels sprouts

  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage

  • .50 cup shredded green cabbage

  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon water

  • .50 teaspoon kosher salt

Panko Breading

  • 1.50 cups panko

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • 2 small plums, unpeeled, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

  • ¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

  • 2 teaspoons honey

  • 1.50 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (such as La Morena)

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

  • .50 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • .50 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Additional Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • 4 brioche hamburger buns, split

  • Dill pickles, for serving


Make the buttermilk marinade:

  1. Whisk together buttermilk, hawaij, salt, pepper, and paprika in a large bowl. Using tongs, add chicken, and turn to coat in marinade. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours.

Make the coleslaw:

  1. Stir together brussels sprouts, cabbage, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon water, and salt in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the panko breading:

  1. Pulse panko in a food processor until texture resembles grated cheese, about 5 pulses. Transfer panko to a wide, shallow bowl. Stir in salt, pepper, oregano, and nutmeg; set aside.

Make the sauce:

  1. Process plums, cilantro, honey, adobo sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth, about 40 seconds. Set aside.

  2. Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 3/4 inch in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet; heat oil over medium-high to 325°F. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Remove chicken from refrigerator. Working with 1 chicken breast at a time, scrape excess marinade off chicken. Dredge chicken in panko breading to coat, pressing to adhere. Shake off excess breading. Place chicken on a plate.

  3. Working in 2 batches, fry chicken in hot oil until panko is browned and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 160°F, 11 to 14 minutes, gently turning chicken every 2 to 3 minutes and adjusting heat as needed to maintain oil temperature of 320°F to 325°F. Transfer chicken to prepared rack on baking sheet.

  4. Spread 2 tablespoons sauce onto cut sides of each bun bottom. Place 1 chicken breast on each bun bottom; top with heaping 1/4 cup coleslaw and desired amount of pickles. Cover with bun tops.


Find hawaij at Middle Eastern markets or online at kalustyans.com.

Suggested Pairing

Bright, light-bodied red: Tilia Bonarda

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