Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bombay Chicken for a Quick Meal

One Saturday several weeks back the DW was without an idea for dinner so I offered to whip something up using my new flat-bottomed, non-stick wok.  Not being a fan of washing LOTS of dishes, I like the ease and convenience of wok cooking and, thus, have an array of cookbooks for such recipes.  In fact, I picked up several books of the HP Book series quite cheaply years ago from a used bookshop and use them quite regularly.

The recipe that I settled upon is called Bombay Chicken Thighs and comes from The Book of Stir-Fry Dishes by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen, and is part of the HP Book series of thin, narrow books made specifically to get one cooking lebih cepat, as the Malays would say.  Here is the recipe as I modified it to fit in with the ingredients that DW and I had on hand:

2 TBS olive oil
2-cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed so as to disappear from view (but not from taste)
several (5-6) dried red chillies, de-seeded and washed
700 gm or so (1.5 lb) of skinless chicken breast or leg/thigh meat cut in 2-cm slices or cubes
1 onion, coarsely chopped (I skip this because I hate onions, and they hate me)
1 chunk of Thai curry paste (I used red), probably about a TBS at least
14-oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp of ground coriander
grated peel and juice of a lemon
2 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup coconut milk (I used a 200-mL box of coconut milk, or about 4/5 cup)

I took pictures of the process, of course, so that anyone can take a look and see how easy it is to do Asian-style cooking even as a last-minute option.

Chopped Limau Purut Leaves and Red Thai Curry Paste
Since we didn't have a lemon on hand, the DW suggested that I obtain some leaves of the limau purut bush (we have two in our yard) and add them in place of the lemon peel.  The photo above also shows the chunk of red thai paste that I added from our freezer.

Ginger and Garlic, of course
Next comes the staples of ginger and garlic.  One can either add these as large chunks, crushed a bit to release their flavours, or else grate/grind them so that they can be eaten without that sudden SURPRISE that comes when we bite into a large chunk of flavour.

De-seeding the Dried Red Chillies
Next comes the dried red chillies, which should be de-seeded first.  I use a pair of scissors to cut lengthwise and then scrape out the seeds.  The heat within a chili (chemical called capsaicin) is contained in thin ribs within the fruit and to which the seeds are attached.  If you want a REALLY HOT dish, then leave some of the seeds.

Canned Tomatoes and Coconut Milk
We have had a hard time growing tomatoes here, so we keep canned tomatoes in the pantry for cooking.  The coconut milk comes in 200-mL boxes which is 4/5 of a "metric cup", so close enough for cooking.  Without a fresh lemon, I used lemon juice from one of those plastic containers shaped like a lemon, which we only recently found in the shops here.

Now the fun began.

I recently bought a new, 26-cm (10-in), flat-bottomed, high-sided (8.5-cm) wok that is just right for cooking for 3-4 people.  It is perfect for our glass-topped electric stove and being non-stick, easy to clean.  I love woks and try to do as much cooking as possible with one.  This one cost only RM25 (~US$8).

The flat bottom makes for a much better transfer of heat from the stove-top to wok bottom than if one were to use a round-bottomed wok with a wok ring.  Of course, for a gas stove, a wok ring and round-bottomed wok make sense.

Frying the Staples

First, the Asian staples (ginger, garlic, chillies) are fried to give flavour to the oil.  The wok should be heated before adding the oil, and then swirled to coat the wok.  I use setting 10/12 or 11/12 on our electric stove (12 in highest setting) because wok cooking should be over high heat, and done quickly.  Stir the staples for 1 minute before the chicken goes in.

Browning the Chicken
Next, the chicken is browned, stirring every few seconds.  I also threw some chopped green beans in at this point because we try to add some vegetables to our fried dishes.

Adding the Limau Perut Leaves and Thai Curry Paste
Once the chicken pieces are browned slightly, throw in the limau purut leaves (or lemon peel) and thai curry paste.  If you are a fan of onions (I am not), you would add them at this point.  Stir to coat the chicken slices so that it looks like the next photo.

Chicken Pieces Seasoned with Thai Curry Paste
At this point, everything else BUT the coconut milk goes in: tomatoes, coriander, lemon juice, lemon peel (if used), bay leaves and pepper.  Stir to mix together and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.  By this time, I turn my heat down to 8/12 or 9/12 as the sauce needs time to thicken (water evaporates).

Tomatoes and Nearly Everything Else Goes In
Finally, the coconut milk gets dumped in and stirred to mix.  Again, the heat can go down a bit, but no lower than 6/12 or 7/12.

In Goes the Coconut Milk
The following two photos shows how after a few minutes (5-6) the sauce level drops as it thickens, meaning that water has evaporated.

High Water

Low Water and Thickened
Once the sauce looks thick enough for one's tastes, serve over rice.  I like to do up a batch of brown rice in our easy-to-use rice cooker, which caramelizes some of the rice on the bottom much as what happens in a Spanish paella pan.  Brown rice and caramelization makes for a nice nutty flavour.

Some Caramelized Rice is Good!

And EAT!!

It's even good as leftovers.

Great microwave meal!!

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