Life is Great

The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chicken Kicap

This is another guest post by Vijay. I'm always excited when he wants to cook. Nothing beats having love put on a plate for you by your other half. Since I've taken up another new job which brings me out of the country (and therefore my kitchen) most of the time, I'm gunning for more meals made for me, especially something like this, a recipe from home, which we both miss. Next time I'll do the dishes baby!

Most people would swear by their mother's cooking. This is hardly surprising, it's what we grew up with and from infancy; our minds, bodies and perhaps even souls have come to accept our mum's efforts as 'goodness'. This is the case not only with home cooking, but also with food from our locality. Perhaps having to eat something of a certain flavor profile over a significant period of time encourages our palate to adapt to it.

Either way, this sort of signature in a certain style or taste gets etched into our systems. We won't realize this at first. Only when we move away from home, or have lost access to the fruits of labor of those who used to feed us, or perhaps when we start working and have our meals out that we realize "Hey, I kinda miss that good old [insert your favorite home cooked dish here]." or "Boy, I sure do miss that Hokkien noodle from that shop behind my house right now."

When it comes to mum-styled-home-cooked food, sometimes the simplest of dishes are missed the most. After all it's the simplest of dishes that we normally can't get at restaurants. So we all (or at least most of us) love our mum's (or even dad's) cooking. But if all mothers are created equal, then the world would be pretty filled with lots of good cooks. This, however, isn't the case. Sometimes it's not so much that they’re good or even great cooks, it's just that we’ve conditioned ourselves and gotten so used to the palate, we would regard whatever our mothers whip up as good.

Then there are mothers who can cook so well, they can convert a non-eater of a certain something into one. My mother is one such mum. Her food has fed hundreds of craving mouths during our Diwali open house sessions. Testimonies would come from a good number of people who have sworn off mutton yet now would keep coming back wanting more. My friend Joel comes year after year well armed with food containers to pack mutton varuval back for his wife if she's not able to visit (Joel, if you're reading this, don't blame Emilianie). The labors of love that Mum puts in, coupled with her natural gift that brings life and depth to the flavors she so skillfully put together makes her dishes shine. Cook from your heart, that's Mum's philosophy. Dad can also cook and helps Mum whenever needed. He may not be as patient or consistent as Mum, but on most occasions gets the job done. Sometimes they would each cook their own versions of, say, fried noodles and then put my brother and I in a spot to decide whose version was tastier. My paternal granddad whom I never met apparently was a real cook. Mum confirmed that he cooked really well, so did my paternal grandma.

With a family history of such track record, I guess it's only natural that I love cooking too but between you and me, I really hate the rigorous cleanup jobs after the mess I tend to make and many a times, that stops me going into the kitchen altogether. In my younger days, I watched and (tried to) help Mum in the kitchen whenever I could. These were also our chitchat sessions where we shared quality times heart-to-heart. It's been 17 years now I've lived away from home. You can imagine my cravings and for Mum's cooking – healthy, tasty and full of love. Whenever I'm back home, which is never often enough or long enough, Dad would ask what I'd like to eat, then get Mum's advise on what to buy and head off to the market shopping. I'd have a fiesta on Saturdays, then a siesta afterwards, belly swollen like a python. Another feast would ensue the next day before I depart, sometimes with containers of goodies for Pick Yin.

I've never managed to seriously pick up complete recipes from Mum. Whatever lessons I've gotten were during those times in the kitchen with her. Honestly, I don't know how much skills I've managed to get from her during those times but I think it did help me form some basic understanding of working with ingredients, tastes and textures. Recently though, I've decided to improve on what I got so when I was back home during the New Year, I got Mum to give me two of my favorite chicken recipes that I know I can pull off.

I told a very excited Pick Yin that I wanted to attempt my first of Mum's recipe, got my chicken and other stuffs from supermarket and got busy in what would normally be Pick Yin's territory (which she guards fiercely). The end result though, didn't meet my expectations although Pick Yin liked it. I was quite disappointed at not being able to replicate a dish as simple as this to how Mum's tasted. The texture, consistency and everything else were spot on but somehow the taste didn't quite match Mum's. However, my other half pushed me on and suggested that it might be quality of the soy sauce since not all are born equal. So I decided to attempt it again. This time I had on hand a different brand of soy sauce - courtesy of Pick Yin's mum (we are so lucky to have our mothers!). All the way from KL, the Malaysian soy sauce was used for our Lunar New Year dishes and many more after that. This time the result was about 95 percent close to how Mum does it - that 5 percent difference would require another session with her to see what I missed. Pick Yin, of course, loved it.

Thanks Mum for the recipe and all the wonders you’ve given me my entire life. You've inspired me in so many ways, cooking with love is one of them.
Chicken Kicap (Soy Sauce Chicken)
A simple recipe from home
Serves 4


Wok versus Pot: You can always use a well-sized pot (big enough to hold the chicken and allow for stirring) instead of a wok. I use the wok, as it is what Mum usually uses and I find it easier to see if I’ve coated everything well. However, bear in mind the heat distribution of both wok and pots are different. Woks heat up faster and can cause your chicken to stick and damage the skin if it’s left too long without being moved around.

Type of soy sauce: Without doubt this is the single most important ingredient (other than the chicken) so the quality will most definitely play a role in the final taste.

Balance of salt and soy sauce: This dish is not an exact science. You can always put in an additional dash of soy sauce, but remember that light soy sauce is salty. If you put in more of it, you may want to reduce the salt a little.

Stir, stir, and stir: This dish has very little sauce and most of what you end up with at end comes from the juices of the chicken and the caramelized onions so do make sure you stir well to ensure an evened out coating of sauce and other ingredients.

  • 1 kilogram chicken, cut into portion pieces

  • 2 onions, chopped finely

  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 3-5 cloves garlic, whole

  • 1 inch ginger, sliced thinly

  • 2 tablespoons thick soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

  • 2-3 dry chilies chopped (discard seeds for less heat)

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • ½-¾ teaspoon salt

  • 1 stalk coriander, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons oil

Heat the oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add the garlic, followed almost immediately by the chopped dry chilies. Wait for the aroma to develop from the chili. Avoid burning them. Add the onion and ginger. Give it a quick toss.

Add the chicken and mix well, coating the chicken pieces with the oil and all the ingredients. This is especially important if you’re using a wok, so that you don’t end up burning the skin of the chicken from direct dry contact with the wok.

Add both the thick and light soy sauce. Once again, stir, stir and stir, making sure the sauce is evenly spread and all the chicken pieces have a slight color from the soy sauce. Add in the salt and pepper. Mix well.

Cover on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. If you took a long time to get here from the time you put in the chicken, then use very low heat while allowing the chicken to cook covered. During this period open the cover every now and then to give it a toss. After 15 minutes, test a piece of thigh for doneness.

Add in the coriander just before serving. Best with steaming warm rice, sauce and all.

18 Comments on Chicken Kicap

The chicken looks just heavenly with the sweet dark gooey sauce! Lovely story of home :)

Posted by Anonymous Min {Honest Vanilla}, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:00:00 PM  

Loved the story from home too - like you, my fear of washing up made me evade the kitchen for most of my life until I had to stay alone and learn how to cook myself :X in fact, this chicken kicap recipe looks really similar to the one I asked my mom to teach me over skype, because I was so desperate for a taste of home too!

oh and i love the pink bowl you used to put rice - i have the same one, but in blue ;p

Posted by Anonymous Janine, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:00:00 PM  

That is so true! Very often, these homely flavours are only missed when we are away - they may not even taste good to others who have not grown up with them- but the sense of taste is intimately connected to emotions and memories... elements so important to a great gastronomical experience! Great job, Vijay! Pickyin is a lucky girl!

Posted by Anonymous shirley@kokken69, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:00:00 PM  

What a sweet post that tugs at one's heartstrings! And that looks like an awesome and simple homecooked fare!

Posted by Anonymous Mrs Ergül, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:01:00 PM  

Min: This dish is not sweet as we don't use kicap manis or any sugar. We like our ayam kicap salty.

Janine: Recipe sharing over Skype huh? I do it through email with my mother. The bowls are from Daiso, I love their pink stuff!

Shirley: Yes, I'm a very, very lucky girl! * Beams * Reading this post makes me miss my mother's and late father's cooking.

Mrs Ergül: Yes, homecooking should be just that, simple and yummy!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:01:00 PM  

wonderful job! such a simple but hearty dish, in flavour and quite literally as well, passed down from from one generation to another. :)

Thanks for sharing once again.

Posted by Anonymous Alan (travellingfoodies), at Feb 2, 2012, 3:02:00 PM  

Life is great with such a nice plate of delicious chicken dish! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Anonymous Ellie (Almost Bourdain), at Feb 2, 2012, 3:03:00 PM  

Alan: Thanks, recipes from home and mothers are always the best!

Ellie: You're welcome. Looking forward to your version of Singapore fried meehoon.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:03:00 PM  

as i am the lazy type, i would make this in the crockpot in the morning, allow it to simmer all day and then tuck into it after a grueling day of work.

i love childhook mom recipes like this.

Posted by Anonymous Lan, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:03:00 PM  

Lan: My parents love to cook with the crockpot too, if not for my tiny kitchen I'd get one. More childhood recipes to come, we're working on it!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 3:03:00 PM  

I just tried your recipe for lunch and enjoyed it. but some how my other half said it didnt quite match the actual kicap chicken.. I agree I think it couldve been the kinda kicap.. if you dont mind me asking can I know whats the name of the kicap you used? thanks a lot :)

Posted by Blogger Dawn, at Feb 12, 2013, 3:06:00 PM  

Dawn: I use Kicap Cap Angel (from Bidor, Perak) when I can get my hands on it. Yes, the brand of soy sauce you use is the key factor.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 14, 2013, 10:41:00 AM  

How wonderful that you cook too and fill in on the days Pik Yin can't!

My mom cooked most of our food but she wasn't at all adventurous. I don't ever remember garlic in the kitchen and the only spices I remember were all purpose ppoultry seasoning (for stuffing) and a pumpkin pie spice mix. She did make awesome butter tarts and peach cobbler though. She cooked for my father's tastes and he liked vegetables cooked till limp and very well-done meat.

Could you explain what makes a good soy sauce, please? I have 4 kinds - thick mushroom soy sauce, Japanese fermented soy sauce, Vietnamese soy sauce and regular dark Chinese soy sauce (all bought in Asian grocery stores). Maybe I wouldn't notice a difference like you would as you've got the taste of your mom's chicken to compare to.

Posted by Blogger Isom, at Aug 20, 2014, 5:08:00 AM  

Isom: Try to get regular light Chinese soy sauce from the same place you get you regular dark Chinese soy sauce.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 1, 2014, 9:19:00 AM  

Thanks. I'll do that as I'm out of some other Asian foods that I can purchase only there. It's the only place for MANY miles around that sells fresh Vietnamese herbs and Asian vegetables.

Posted by Blogger Isom, at Sep 1, 2014, 1:42:00 PM  

Excited to try this! Any tips on how to convert it into a crockpot recipe? With ingredients / steps?

Posted by Anonymous Hana, at Jan 26, 2015, 2:14:00 AM  

Hana: I reckon just put everything into the pot and go slow. Chicken doesn't take long to cook so the crock-pot method may be underwhelming.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jan 27, 2015, 9:41:00 AM  

Thanks for this recipe! I've used it many times and my guest really enjoyed it every time. 😄

Posted by Blogger Unknown, at Aug 20, 2017, 4:53:00 AM  

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