Friday, September 25, 2009

Malaysian Chicken Curry (Updated)

Malaysian Chicken Curry with naan (front) and chipati (back)
and ice cold Tiger Beer (from Singapore.)

Well, I tried to give a Curry Class but none of the kitchen showrooms wanted to host me and I understand why. Tumeric (description I shot at Spice Garden, Penang and will blog about soon) makes everything turn yellow, the showrooms have very expensive marble countertops or quartz. Plus they mentioned the "smell" would permeate for days, I personally love the smell of food. So, this is the next best thing.

I don't necessarily agree with Wikipedia's explanation of "curry"! I kept shaking my head in disagreement as I was reading it. Curries differ in spices used in India, Malaysia and Thailand. As far as I'm concerned these are the 3 main countries that I associate curry with.
I love leafing through my mom's favorite Malaysian cookbooks.
I use them as reference but never follow any recipes completely,
usually because I can't get the strange sounding ingredients!

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, my sisters and I had to pound all the spices by hand in a stone mortar and pestle. I am the proud owner of this same mortar and pestle. Thank goodness I brought it over years ago when they weren't charging for weight or suitcases cause it weighed a TON!

This is one of my mom's original stone mortar and pestle I lugged back from Hong Kong!

My mom came to visit years ago and of course we used it everyday. One day, a grumpy old man from the apartment below banged on our door and complained it was too noisy and gave him a headache. But instead of giving us a hint the first day, he let it build and then couldn't take it anymore (guys, do you recognize this trait?) My sisters used to laugh hysterically (I could hear them in the hallway) because you could smell the waft of blachan (concentrated block of dried shrimp) toasting 3 floors down! They kept saying things like, "you're going to get evicted because the smells are so pungent!"

Years later with grumpy neighbor gone, I had fantasies of how wonderful it would be to have freshly pounded spices instead of using a food processor. Well, it didn't last more than a week before I packed it away again. It's just not very practical for a small person to haul around a 60 pound mortar. But, I love all these associations of food and my family, brings back such good memories.

Anyway, where was I? So, I don't grind curry spices from scratch anymore. I'm a busy entrepreneur myself so I understand what it's like after a hard day of work and not wanting to spend hours slaving in the kitchen. You can get good curry powder from Indian stores or Asian Market 365 (my wonderful Malaysian architect friend, Amy told me about this site, you can get Baba's brand of curry powder, it's my favorite and most popular in Penang.)

Curry powder is the answer. It's all mixed and ready to go
There are curry powders for meat and poultry,
another for fish, rendang (dry curry) etc.
I store mine in the freezer.

I absolutely love the smell of curry powder when it hits the hot wok. Yes, I cook curry in my cast iron wok. It's the perfect shape and size, makes it easy to turn food around. If you're worried about the acid hurting your wok, I can assure you that once you wash it out and cure with a bit of oil, start using it, your patina will build up IMMEDIATELY.

Here are some wonderful ways to use curry powder:

I put curry powder inside a chili shaker (see above photo), the ones you see in Italian restaurants! It's so easy to sprinkle onto any dish even stir frys. Spices it up and gives it another flavor dimension.

1. Great in stir frys. Stir fry your veg, then meat, when you combine back, sprinkle in curry powder liberally. Yummy.

2. Other uses: soups, salads, grill meats like lamp chops, salmon steaks, satay skewers, the list goes on and on.

If you don't want the hassle of making curry from scratch, just use CurrySimple! It is a Thai curry sauce with coconut milk and curry paste, all-in-one pouch. It's fantastic, very authentic, just open and pour. I personally chose CurrySimple to be included in my Kit. You can find stores nationwide or order other delicious combo packs, cute t-shirts and lots of other goodies directly from their site.

I made an easy CurrySimple Thai Salmon and used the leftovers in a CurrySimple Salmon Salad the next day. I will be adding more posts using CurrySimple.

I always serve a small cold pickle as a side dish to "cool off" the spicy heat from the curry. Usually a simple cucumber and tomato, onion pickle. Watch out for post on Pickles soon.

So, finally here's a very simple Malaysian Chicken Curry based on my mom's "recipe". I used to teach this when I had my Key West cooking school and give out recipes. What I love about this curry is that you never get tired of it. It's just delicious, serve with basmati or jasmine white rice. I prefer brown jasmine rice.

You can find chipati, naan or paratha in the frozen compartment at Indian stores.
If you fancy making paratha from scratch, my Twitter buddy, Kamran,
a talented teenager gives a step-by-step on his blog, The Sophisticated Gourmet.

Your wok is PERFECT for heating up frozen paratha, takes just a minute.
Dip in curry sauce, the Indian way. YUM.

Malaysian Chicken Curry
You can HALVE this recipe if you just want to cook one tray of chicken (6 thighs) but curry is always better the next day. So, I like making a BIG batch since I'm doing the work already.

Just a word of warning, curry powder has tumeric, the dreaded spice that turns everything yellow! So, cover your countertops if you don't want any spillage.

Fresh ingredients:
2 trays of skinless chicken thighs or/and drumsticks or quarters
1 large onion, cubed
1 large beefsteak tomato, sliced into wedges (or 4-6 plum or round smaller tomatoes)
1 large potato, cut into large chunks (precooked but not mushy)
3/4 lb okra (lady's fingers)

2 tblsp. canola or vegetable oil for frying
enough water to just cover chicken

Dry Spices:
1 small stick cinnamon
4-6 cloves

Curry sauce, mixed into paste:
5 tblsp. curry powder
5 tblsp. cold water

Malaysian curries usually start with "rempah", a spice paste to kickstart the dish. Rempah can include spices like coriander, tumeric, chili powder, galangal(yellow ginger), blachan (dried shrimp paste). My personal preference is NOT to add the spicy stuff in the rempah because when you fry it, it's extremely pungent and makes you cough and sputter.

Blend rempah in food processor:
4-6 cloves garlic
4-6 slices fresh ginger
4-6 shallots (if you can't get these, don't worry)

1. You know the stir fry drill, heat your cast iron wok, squirt oil, fry onions. Set aside.

2. Clean wok, always start with a clean wok otherwise you'll get a hard fond forming at the bottom of your wok and you won't be able to "brown" anything. Same stir fry process as no.1, fry chicken in batches, set aside with onions.

3. Clean wok, same stir fry process again on medium heat. Fry rempah and dry spices (cinnamon stick and cloves) for a bit. Don't let it burn. Add the curry paste and immediately add the chicken. Coat chicken and onions with the paste as best you can, don't worry if it's not completely all over.

2. Add just enough water to cover the chicken. Once the curry starts to boil, turn down heat to simmer. Time it takes to cook depends on quantity. Add in tomato wedges and cook till chicken is tender. Add the potatoes so they have time to absorb the curry flavor before you serve.

This Chicken Curry never fails to please me.

Keep coming back for more Curry variations. I'm also working on my food journeys to Singapore and Penang.

Next blog is Pickles, a lovely cooling side to go with spicy foods, Yin and Yang.

Here are more ways to use your versatile wok:

WokStar on PlumTV

Wok Star Eleanor Hoh appeared on The Juice, Plum TV Miami. Guest host Katrina Campins (The Apprentice contender) laugh it up while The Juice host, Hardy Hill (cast in Miami Social) frys up a delicious, easy, sizzling shrimp dish using Eleanor's NO-recipe technique and Wok Star Kit! Produced by Emmy award winner Michael Honablue and shot and edited by Marlon Johnson of Plum TV.

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