Let me start by saying that I have been making cheesesteaks for a LONG time. From the time I was about 14, to until about 23, I helped my parents out at their convenient store, Penn Bantam, a cigarette outlet/deli located in Newport, Delaware. It was one of those neighborhood gems where people stopped in to pick up a pack of cigarettes or a quick overpriced carton of milk if they didn’t feel like going all the way to the grocery store. Mornings were busy with construction workers, who were at nearby sites, stopping in to get our famous “eggs on a roll” before they started their day (our breakfast sandwiches were seriously AMAZING).
Penn Bantam was a neighborhood favorite that had been there for almost 100 years. It is also where I spent almost all of my teenage years and the beginning of my adulthood. I spent countless weekends stocking shelves, handling the register, and my least favorite task: slicing 50 lb. bags of onions. I swear for those 8+ plus years, my hands never stopped smelling like onions. Gross, I know. Anyway, with a busy deli in the back of our shop, from time to time I would have to glove up and help in the kitchen when an employee called out. The thing I made the most? and what brings me back to my opening statement, is cheesesteaks. Hoagies were a VERY close runner up. I spent years frying onions and hacking away at the chicken steaks until they were chopped into the tiniest bite-size pieces. I learned the finesse of melting cheese until it was just gooey enough and how to in one swift motion, without any spillage, pile all of that cheesy chicken goodness onto a perfectly toasted roll.
Penn Bantam holds some of the most dearest & nearest memories of growing up. It taught me about sacrifice, hard work and showed me first hand the lengths parents will go to, to provide a better life for their children. Although I moaned and groaned about having to be there all the time, I am grateful for the lessons that came from all those years of slaving away!
So fast forward a few years we had sold Penn Bantam, and I met my charming husband. One of the first things I learned about him, was his obsession over this spicy chicken cheesesteak being dished out at a local pizza shop in Philly. Little Sicily, packed in the middle of a small strip mall, seems like your regular neighborhood joint where you might stop in to get a slice of pizza or a cheesesteak but it is SO much more than that. Run by an Indian family, you will find Bombay club sandwiches, egg kheema, masala fries, and their VERY famous- Indian chicken cheese steaks on their special “Spicy Menu.” Chances are, if you are Indian & from the tri-state area, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
We can’t get to Philly as often as we like, so I started making my version of these cheesesteaks at home, and they’re delicious! Sometimes I add some chutney into the mayo before I spread it on the roll or add in bell peppers, mushrooms etc. However, my husband is a simple man and the recipe I’m sharing with you today is the way he likes it!
What not to skip in this recipe? The green chilis and the cilantro. These two items really tie all the flavors together. As you will see, there aren’t a ton of spices that go into this so the ingredients really do matter. I used the tiny green chilis sometimes called Thai chilis or desi green chilis because of their flavor, and I love them for this recipe in particular. If you can’t get these, serrano chilis would be the next option!
Also, try to get a good quality roll! I got some dinner club rolls from my local grocery store, so before you buy the pre-packaged rolls try to look for rolls that are baked fresh by the bakery at your grocer. Working in a deli also meant I tried every type of cheese possible with cheesesteaks, and my favorite has always been American or Cooper’s Sharp! Try to get some sliced deli cheese from behind the counter! 🙂
I hope you guys like this recipe, comment below if you have any questions!!
Spicy Chicken Cheesesteaks
Yield 4 Servings
1 lb. ground chicken
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3 green chilis, finely chopped (more or less to taste)
5 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 cheesesteak rolls/dinner rolls
sliced American cheese
Mayo & Cilantro Chutney to spread inside the roll
- In a large skillet heat oil over medium high heat and add the green chilis and let them splutter for a bit. Next add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are translucent and then add the garlic and ginger and stir until they are fragrant for about 2-3 minutes.
- Now Add ground chicken, cumin, garam masala and using a wooden spoon or spatula, break up the chicken into small pieces. Continue to stir and cook until chicken is no longer pick. If there is liquid accumulating in your pan, turn up the heat until the liquid evaporates.
- Once the chicken is cooked, add the chopped cilantro and mix well.
- Turn the heat to low, arrange two slices of cheese on top of the chicken mixture (slightly overlapping) and melt the cheese.
- Transfer the chicken/cheese onto a toasted roll (spread with mayo and cilantro chutney if you like). Serve hot with additional garnish of cilantro.