I don’t think I’d ever made fried chicken in my life, before this. I’m not a deep-fry type of cook, really, but flicking through my copy of The Best of Chef Wan: A Taste of Malaysia (Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, 2011), I got a bit of a craving on and had to give this one a whirl. I had to tweak the recipe a little bit according to the contents of my pantry. I didn’t have candlenuts, for example, which would have just given the marinade-cum-sauce more texture, and I had to use dried red chilli in place of fresh. So here’s my adapted version of Chef Wan’s dish, which turned out deliciously.
– In a processor or mortar and pestle, mix a spice paste with 2-4 red chillis, 2tsp coriander seeds, a few shallots, 1-2 stalks lemongrass (finely chop first), 1 inch piece each peeled galangal and yellow turmeric, 2tsp grated palm sugar. I find a processor doesn’t do a great job of crushing the coriander seeds, so my preference is for the old-fashioned mortar and pestle.
– Combine about 1.5kilos chicken pieces, 1.5 cups coconut milk, 1/3 cup tamarind juice, 1tsp salt and the spice paste in a pot and simmer over medium heat until chicken is cooked through. Cover the pot and let the chicken marinate in the coconut gravy for at least 4 hours in the fridge.
– Separate the chicken pieces from the solidified gravy, scraping it off gently. Coat all the chicken pieces well in rice flour, heat rice bran oil in a large wok and deep fry the chicken pieces until crisp and golden. Drain well. Do this in small batches so the chicken can fry well, otherwise it will just go gluey if the wok is crammed.
– Meanwhile, steam jasmine rice and reheat the coconut gravy on the stovetop. Serve the chicken with steamed rice and let guests spoon gravy over their own rice. This fried chicken is great with something crunchy and green on the side, like this no-fuss cucumber salad.
– Tamarind juice can be procured either by straining tamarind pulp through a sieve and mixing with a bit of water, or you can buy the strained pulp ready to use, which I prefer.
– Rice flour (usually labelled glutinous rice flour) can be found at any good Asian grocer’s, as can whole pieces of galangal and yellow turmeric, frozen.
– Candlenuts are essentially flavourless and used in Malaysian cuisine to add a crunchy texture. They can be bought at Asian grocers’ or you could substitute macadamia nuts or water chestnuts.
– The Best of Chef of Wan: A Taste of Malaysia is filled with ridiculously good-looking recipes, all of which are really quite simple to make.
– Oh yeah, Java’s not in Malaysia, and I’m not sure what exactly is Javanese about this recipe, but that’s for Chef Wan to say.