Tuesday, September 07, 2010
What? It’s less than three days to Eid? Before the first of Syawal knocks on my our door (yes we have a sliding glass door everyone who comes to our flat likes), I’d better get my act together. The semperit is yet to be baked and the plan to make nasi minyak and rendang ayam pedas for the first day of Raya would require military-precision planning. I’m in awe of those who can pull off entire meals for the family and guest plus bake all sorts of kuih raya to complete the celebration package. How do they do it when I’m losing sleep over a meager two dishes? Someone give me some tips.
In conjunction with my wannabe spirit to cook and bake at the speed of lightning like Mrs Incredible (not as slim as her, obviously), last weekend’s itinerary was adjusted somewhat due to the man of the house (not Mr Incredible, a bit small compared to the superhero) leaving for Kuala Lumpur (his mother’s birthday) and a last minute Iftar buffet arranged Sunday evening (thanks Rina!). While the ayam percik and nasi goreng kerabu came out well, there was simply no time to make the semperit after arranging for the air-conditioning to be serviced, overseeing a friend move out and muscling up my right biceps to scrub off the burnt sugar from my baking dish (note to self – line the dish with foil the next time ayam percik comes to mind).
This Kelantanese sweet and spicy specialty has always been my Ramadhan favorite. I have missed it for about seven years (seriously) since I started working and had no one to share my enthusiasm to score the bazaars for breaking fast goodies. In Singapore the situation got worse, Ramadhan bazaars are few to begin with and those which exist are hardly worth visiting. After spending a few days lamenting and sighing over my Twitter timeline flooded with photos of smoking ayam percik stalls back in Malaysia, I promptly googled (no, this is not a word) the recipe and decided to make my own, albeit without a woven fan over a charcoal grill. A girl’s got to count her blessings and use whatever means she has right?
Should you be tempted enough to give this a try, I would suggest really hunting down the bunga kantan and fresh coconut milk (both of which were out of my reach and crazy schedule). I added the banana leaf to give it that fragrant aroma released with it is heated up. The next time I do this I’d use the upper part of the chicken thigh deboned and skew the meat with thinly cut stalks of lemongrass, just like the way it’s done at the bazaars. The recipe is quite flexible - adjust the chilies, sugar and assam to your whim.
A better way would be to grill it on the stove if you have a grill pan (mind you this way messier and harder, I didn’t want to smoke the flat with the air-con guy running around). The grill marks will help char the skin beautifully and give it that unmistakable seared flavor which can never be provided by baking. I might just sear it on the grill pan and finish it in the oven the next time.
Judging from the rate the chicken legs went down our stomachs - man of the house approved and finished the last two portions this morning despite his spice-adverse belly – that time shall come soon enough.
Ayam Percik (Percik Chicken)
Adapted generously from Mas's Foodilicious Malaysia
The word percik means splashing in Malay. The gravy splashes as the chicken cooks traditionally over a charcoal pit. You can find all the spice ingredients at Asian stores.
- 8 chicken thighs
- 1 cup fresh thick coconut milk (or plain yogurt or whole milk)
- 2 tablespoons tamarind juice (or 1 tablespon lemon juice)
- a piece of banana leave cut to the size of your baking dish
To be blended into a paste:
- 10 shallots
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 centimeters fresh ginger
- 2 cm fresh galangal (lengkuas) (optional)
- 4 cm fresh ginger flower (bunga kantan) (optional)
- 2 lemongrass (serai) stalks (use the bottom part)
- 6 dried chilies, soaked in warm water (optional to remove seeds for less heat)
- 6 bird chilies (cili padi) (optional for less heat)
- 4 centimeters fresh turmeric
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste (belacan) (optional)
- 1 cup water
Preheat oven to 220°C.
Cut the ginger, galangal, ginger flower, turmeric and lemongrass into small pieces (to ease the blending process) and blend all the paste ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Marinate the meat with the blended paste, coconut milk and tamarind juice overnight or for a few hours. Heat a large wok and cook the chicken with the paste over a medium heat until the gravy thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Separate the meat from the percik gravy.
Heat the banana leaf right side up over a low flame until its natural oil is released on the surface. Line a foiled baking dish with the banana leaf, arrange the chicken with some gravy over the meat and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes, turning and basting the chicken in between for even browning.
Serve fresh from the heat and have a little extra gravy on the side for dipping. The chicken goes well with nasi goreng kerabu or nasi ulam.
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