Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bringing Balinese Paradise To The Table With Chicken in a Spicy Coconut Milk

Have you ever been to Bali? If you’ve answered yes to this question, then you’re part of the lucky ones who can easily say they’ve been to paradise on earth. Who can deny that this place has something magical with its breathtaking scenery, its generous and warm people and its laid back Buddhist approach to life? Not to brag, but I answered yes to the question. And I really feel privileged to have done so.

Some friends of mine had the chance to visit Bali not long ago and these people are true foodies! They went out of their way to find the best food on the island and made sure they sent me some pictures of what they ate to relate their experiences. I can tell you that the mouthwatering pictures they sent me made me dream of my personal food experience on the island. They made me reminisce of the tasty plates I devoured while I was there.

Which is why I was reminded of the one souvenir I brought back from my trip. This one and only souvenir is a cookbook written by one of Bali’s renowned chefs. Although I’m not proud to admit this, I had never gotten around to making one of its recipes. So last week I took matters into hand and headed over the Kim Phat (see the list of places I like to shop) with a long list of ingredients and bought everything I needed for an exotic Balinese dinner. The trip to the South Shore was well worth it. This chicken was so tasty it really reminds me of what I ate in Bali. If you’ve never been there but want to bring a piece of the island to your plate, this is really worth a try. Don’t be afraid of all the ingredients you might not have heard of before. You can find them in Asian stores. Ask if you don’t know what they look like!

Makes 4 servings

4 chicken thighs (or breasts, if preferred)
3 lemongrass branches
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 salam leaves (also called lemon leaves)
400ml thick coconut milk
1 tbsp palm sugar

Spice paste
9 candlenuts (if you can find some)
½ tsp white peppercorns
½ tsp black peppercorns
5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
5 bird’s eye chilies, sliced
3 cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
4cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat your oven at 375˚F.

To make the spice paste, use a pestle and mortar to pound the candlenuts and peppercorns to a fine paste. Add the shallots, garlic, chilies, lesser galangal, turmeric and galangal and pound again to paste.

Cut the lemongrass in half, and bruise the stalk.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the spice paste for about 3 minutes. Add the lemongrass, salam leaves, coconut milk and palm sugar. Add some salt. Take off the heat.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof cooking plate and cover with the hot paste. Put in the oven and cook for about 45-50 minutes (less if you’re using chicken breasts).

Serve the chicken in the sauce with white rice.

Notes: Candlenuts are used in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking to thicken recipes. They look similar to a large hazelnut but don’t taste the same. If you can find them, great, if not, don’t worry; you’ll still get a great taste from this recipe.

You can use gloves when dealing with fresh Turmeric, as it stains. If you don’t, there’s nothing to worry about. The color on your hands will go away in a day or two. Just be careful with your clothes!

If you live in the Montreal area, I highly suggest visiting Kim Phat in Brossard, the biggest Asian supermarket in the city area. You’ll find absolutely everything you need in this one store. The best day to visit is Wednesday when they put out all their newly arrived products.

Salam Leaves



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