Sunday, 5 August 2012

Cambodian-style Chicken in Coconut-milk Curry

I can never ever be a food-blogger, unlike our resident Rimilet, because I have not the patience to take and upload pictures et al, especially where cooking is concerned. I'm more of an impulse cook, relying on improvisations above all else -- sometimes these kitchen experiments turn out well, and at other times, heh. :)

Tonight, at about 10 pm, I decided to cook a chicken curry with a coconut-milk broth base, vaguely inspired by Cambodian style fresh ground-spice-mixture cooking. The recipe here is totally improvised, based on my cooking common sense, and I used what I have in my kitchen for the most part. This one was decidedly a success, yess. For a change, I had my camera around, and so, voila!

The recipe here is approximate in terms of amounts of ingredients, etc. Go by your general cooking instincts, people. It works well.

Disclaimer: this was done in an American kitchen, plus I sourced a lot of the ingredients from my friendly neighbourhood pan-Asian grocery store (thank you Chun Ching!), so I have a bunch of ingredients not readily available in the usual Calcutta rannaghor. Just substitute them as you see fit :)


1) Marinating the chicken:

I used skinless, boneless chicken thigh pieces, roughly cubed. I have about 830gms (1.8 lbs) of chicken in here.

Then added salt, ground black pepper, 3 tablespoons (approx) of rice wine vinegar, and some Korean red chilly paste.

Note: You can substitute plain vinegar/lime juice for the rice wine vinegar, or even use an unripe papaya for this -- the idea is to tenderise and flavour the meat. And you can substitute red chilly powder for the Korean chilly paste.

All mixed together, now :)

2) Making the spice paste/chopping veggies:

Garlic, ginger (chopped into long, thin, julienned strips), onions -- the base to any good curry, mamah. I chanced upon a giant mutant conjoined-twin onion, and it made pretty patterns when cut, yess.

Next, making the spice-paste! It should be uber-simple for anyone with a mixie/grinder/food processor. But I had only a grater available, so grated everything by hand -- ah well.

Zesting a lemon -- the tangy smell is bloody heavenly.

PS Lime (i.e., paati lebu) is better, folks, but I had only lemons handy. If you have lime leaves/lebu pata too, nothing like it --- just add it to the mixie!

Adding citrusy leaves to ground-spice-mixtures is a hallmark of Cambodian cooking, I learnt last summer. (As is adding galangal and chopped bamboo shoot, but alas, I didn't have these on me.)

To the lemon zest, add a paste of basil leaves (tulshi pata).

Shilnora works for this. Rimi assures me, however, that tulshi in a mixie/grinder becomes bitter, so maybe paste the tulshi by hand, even if you have a grinder?

(The smell brought back memories of my granddad, who used to have tulshi pata paste with Chawan Prash every single evening. )

Next, add lemongrass paste. I added approx 2 tablespoons. Fresh trumps out-of-a-tube any day, but the problem with impulse-cooking at 10pm is that stores are closed by then :(

Above, you see the lemongrass paste added to the basil-lemon zest mixture.

Grated ginger and 3 green chillies join the fray! Aaand the spice-paste is done :)


I used sesame seed oil (about 2 tablespoons), because I love the smell and the flavour it brings, but any vegetable oil should do, really.

PS that is Honu in the background, playing my swing music Pandora station while I cook <3

Fry the onions, adding a bit of turmeric and a shake of dried ground basil leaves.

After the onions have become somewhat translucent, add the chopped ginger and garlic, saute a bit, and then add the spice-paste.

Saute, like so :)

Depending on how hot you like your curry, now is the time to ponder adding some split dried red chillies to the saute-mix in the pan. I put them in, because the wee smidgen of Korean red chilly paste (called gochujung, as Panu informs me) and 3 chilles pasted into the spice mixture isn't hot enough for me. 

The chicken goes into the pan next.

Fold it in prettily, so that the onions-spicemixture-garlicky-gingery heavenliness coats the chicken pieces thoroughly. Fry this for a few minutes until the chicken pieces get browned.

Add the coconut milk once the chicken is somewhat koshaofied.

PS Lookit me sneakily promoting brand of coconut milk in this shot, heh :P I am clever like that.

Check the salt/sugar balance (I added a pinch of sugar to the broth at this point), stir the whole mixture, and bring to a boil.

Once the gravy starts bubbling, turn flame to the lowest setting, cover pan with a lid and let simmer until chicken is done.

Just before taking off the heat, garnish with fresh basil leaves to prettify and also to add a burst of full-bodied flavour to the already delicious broth.

Serve over steamed rice (I have jeera rice in here), and enjoy :)


poorna banerjee said...

I want the gochujung. Its not available ANYWHERE here. KAICHoooooooooooooooo.

kaichu said...

I didn't even realise that the Korean chilly paste is called gochujung, huh. Panu, sorry boss, I highly doubt customs would let me bring erom foodstuffs from the US. Dried ba canned hole alada kotha, kintu eita toh akta moist paste types :(

Bob said...

This sounds delicious. And happy making. :)
And hurrah for giant mutant onion that made pretty patterns when cut!!
I have been in a rare non-cooking mood lately and have just been either eating stuff that does not need to be cooked (gajor, phol, pauruti, etc) or simply boiling potatoes and eggs. This, though, is making me want to come out of that rut.

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious.
Honu is your laptop?
And 'koshaofied', lol.

kaichu said...

Bobby, I was in that mood too, until last week. It comes and goes in phases :(

But I have decided to not eat out this last week or so in town, and cook a lot, since I'll pretty much not cook really once I'm back home, unless I'm in the mood or something. And also, certain ingredients are not so readily available in Cal, so I'm gonna cook to my heart's content this last week in town.

Last night I made the coconut milk chicken broth, and this week I'm gonna make a ground pork/fried tofu basil stirfry (with this basil paste I got from Chun Chin), some fish (basa fillets) with dried shittake and spring onions, and some old home style dimer dalna with alu. :-))

Sankho, thank you! It *was* delicious, as my roomie can also vouch for. :) I like cooking -- it destresses me and makes me happy, and the improv stuff is basically me getting creative in the kitchen.

Honu (short for honumaan) is my Mac, yes. His sister, my Dell, was called Binu.

Bob said...

Ooh! All of that sounds yum. I wish I could transport myself to Gainesville, since right now, I'd rather be cooked to, than cook. :P

poorna banerjee said...

:( ki dukkho, but yeah, I guess you cant bring it, which is quite sad.

Magically Bored said...

I must try this - absolutely love the flavour of coconut milk. :D