Flavours from Afar

mailife - - Contents - By PRIYA DARSNI Shar­ing recipes learned from lo­cals in far­away places, with a twist here and there!

FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: CHICKEN REN­DANG

I had stormed in­doors, seek­ing shel­ter from tor­ren­tial rain which Kuala Lumpur was serv­ing up that evening. I was in the cap­i­tal city of Malaysia to do three things — ex­plore the lime­stone cave en­crusted Hindu Tem­ple called Batu Caves; shop up a storm at the Petronas Twin Tow­ers; and re­con­nect with an old friend from Fiji. The Batu Caves were far more mag­nif­i­cent than I had imag­ined, with an enor­mous golden statue of Lord Mu­ru­gan at the en­trance of the 400-mil­lion year old lime­stone hill. I was for­tu­nate that the caves were lo­cated more than 10kms out of Kuala Lumpur which meant that my day at there was canopied by blue skies and sparse dusty clouds. As I dried my hair and walked into my friend Leila’s kitchen that evening, I could not stop pes­ter­ing her about de­tails of the Thai­pusam fes­ti­val which brings a huge, colour­ful con­gre­ga­tion of devo­tees to Batu Caves each year. Af­ter pa­tiently di­vulging de­tails of her ex­pe­ri­ence at the fes­ti­val ear­lier that year, she pushed a bowl of steam­ing hot food to­wards me. “Try this, it’s Chicken Ren­dang”, she said. The bold flavour of galan­gal and le­mon­grass hit me ini­tially, with a toasted co­conut aroma swirling into my nos­trils. The dish looked so sim­ple but came packed with a com­plex flavours that in­tro­duced them­selves one af­ter the other — chill­ies, gar­lic, co­rian­der, cumin, lime, they all rolled in slowlyas if they were po­litely wait­ing their turn to reach my taste buds. “This is so much bet­ter than the ren­dang I ate for lunch at Petronas yes­ter­day!”, I said. “I know, I add ta­marind chut­ney and make it into a curry, rather than a dry paste they do here — you know, have to bring a bit of Fiji into ev­ery­thing,” Leila laughed and replied. This Chicken Ren­dang recipe is straight from Leila’s kitchen — au­then­tic Malay food with a nod to our child­hood eat­ing bean and ta­marind from the cart out­side school.

In­gre­di­ents (serves 4 peo­ple)

500 g chicken breast (cubed) 2 red onions (quar­tered and sep­a­rated) 1 tbsp corn­starch 2/3 cup co­conut milk 1/4 cup co­conut wa­ter

Paste 3 ta­ble­spoon toasted co­conut (shred­ded) 2 tbsp turmeric pow­der 1 tbsp cumin pow­der 1 tbsp co­rian­der pow­der 1 tsp mus­tard seeds 4 cloves gar­lic (crushed) 1 inch ginger (crushed) 2 bongo chill­ies 3 stalks le­mon­grass (white part only) 3 kaf­fir lime leaves 2 cm galan­gal 1 tbsp sugar 1 tsp salt

METHOD

Mak­ing this Chicken Ren­dang recipe is sur­pris­ingly sim­ple, es­pe­cially for a dish which dances de­light­fully on your taste-buds! 1.) Put all your ‘paste’ in­gre­di­ents into a mixer, along with a dash of wa­ter be­fore blitz­ing to­gether to form a thick paste 2.) Heat up 3 tbsp of oil in a curry pot. Add the paste when oil is ready and fry on medium heat un­til the room is filled with a rich aroma of spices — this should take about 5-7 min­utes. 3.) Add the onions and fry un­til brown be­fore adding the chicken pieces. Fry the chicken un­til al­most cooked — an easy in­di­ca­tion of this is when the chicken has stopped giv­ing off wa­ter. 4.) Add in the co­conut milk and co­conut wa­ter to the pot, turn the heat low and put the lid on with a lit­tle space left to let out steam. Let the dish sim­mer on low heat for ap­prox. 30mins, check­ing and mix­ing oc­ca­sion­ally. 5.) Check the flavour bal­ance of your dish and add salt and chill­ies as needed to taste. Once ready, mix the corn­starch in a small glass of cold wa­ter and pour into the dish. Turn the heat up and swiftly mix the Ren­dang un­til it thick­ens. Your Chicken Ren­dang is ready to eat with steamed rice or roti. The dish is ex­cel­lent paired in light fruity wines such as a Rosé or a Pinot Gris.

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