chicken

Khao Phad Gai (Thai Chicken Fried Rice)

Khao Phad Gai (Chicken Fried Rice)A perennial takeaway favourite in our household, Thai-style Chicken Fried Rice (Khao Phad Gai) is one of the few dishes that both my partner and I enjoy eating, albeit with a few differences in our taste preferences. Naturally I like mine hot and spicy, whereas my partner’s is a somewhat more muted affair without any chilli or garlic. To my mind, the lack either of these elements seems like an affront to Thai cooking, but each to their own, I guess.

Along with an obligatory side order of Tom Yum Goong, Khao Phad Gai has a special place in my recent food history. It may be a simple meal, but this takeaway (along with a lot of red wine) was an absolute Godsend during a particularly stressful house-move – something I will forever be grateful for. Ordered almost every other night, we would sit, wine in hand, in amongst our half-packed boxes watching episodes of “Orange is the New Black”, tucking into our Khao Phad. None of it may have been very classy, but for a short while at least, this became our new normal.

Almost a year later, we don’t order Khao Phad as often as we did back then, but we still enjoy eating it now and again. After a rather disappointing order, though, I decided to try my hand at making it myself. Personally I prefer my own efforts, but my partner thinks otherwise. Apparently my version is “too flavoursome” for his delicate tastes – in my book that can never be a bad thing! As I said before, each to their own.

imageAs with most Asian food, the key to success is preparation…and a hot wok. Typically, 90% of any Asian stir-fry is prep-work, as the actual cooking usually takes just a few minutes – so make sure you have all you ingredients chopped and ready to go. Stir-frying can be fast and furious, and you don’t want to be faffing around with a carrot while your onions burn!

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

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Chikenkatsu チキンカツ (Crumbed Chicken Cutlet)

Almost identical to its porkier cousin, chikenkatsu is, rather unsurprisingly, a chicken version of the Japanese deep-fried delight that is tonkatsu. As part of youshoku cuisine (Japanese-style Western cuisine), chikenkatsu literally means “chicken cutlet”, and is the Japanese interpretation of the chicken schnitzel.

As with tonkatsu, there are a number of ways chikenkatsu can be eaten. It can be served with just rice, shredded cabbage, mustard and the ubiquitous Tonkatsu Sauce, it can be added to Japanese Curry Sauce to make katsu-karē or it can be used as a chicken alternative to the donburi classic, Katsudon.

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Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel & Almond Salad and Sichuan Chilli Oil

Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel Salad and Sichuan Chilli OilInspiration is occasionally born out of apathy and the origins of this tasty meal were no different.

Feeling particularly uninspired one evening, I decided to forgo my usual practice of preparing two completely separate meals for dinner and instead decided to do the unthinkable – eat the same dinner as my partner! Now please bear in mind that this dining-convergence doesn’t happen often in my kitchen, very rarely in fact. We have wildly different tastes and normally I’m happy to make us different dinners every night, but there are occasions when I justifiably just think, “sod it” and we end up with the same meal. At least almost exactly the same, I always have to tart my own meal up, just a little!

So, “Chicken Schnitzel with mash” for two it was then! Now I must confess that the very first time I made this dish it was with some horrendous ready-made Chicken Schnitzels, wrestled from the frozen depths of my freezer. Indeed I had sunk so low, but like I said, “apathy = inspiration”.

But even in this heightened state of disinterest, I still needed something to spruce up this dire meal, so I set about rummaging through the fridge. I was looking for quick fixes and I found some; leftover pickled fennel that I had made for Kimchi Tacos – sorted! Things were starting to look up. It was only then that the inspiration started to kick-in; some toasted almond flakes were added to the fennel and Sichuan Chilli Oil, leftover from when I last made Dan-Dan Noodles, found its way onto the plate! Whilst this was fast turning into an inspired concoction, the addition of these two ingredients turned out to be culinary-dynamite! With just a few simple twists this meal went from turgid to terrific!

Note: The chicken in this dish has since morphed into Japanese Chicken Katsu, but there is nothing wrong with using good old chicken schnitzel instead (homemade or otherwise). For all extents and purposes Chicken Katsu and schnitzel are pretty much the same thing, but my need to complicate things for myself is, sadly, inherent and overwhelming.

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Kari Kapitan (Nyonya Chicken Curry Kapitan)

Kari Kapitan (Nyonya Chicken Curry)This Malaysian Classic was my late father’s favourite curry and with good reason, it is simply delectable!

The überkind of Nyonya cuisine, Kari Kapitan is the prefect confluence of traditional Malay and Chinese flavours. My version of this curry is a loose adaptation of that of the reigning queen of Nyonya food, Pearly Kee. Nyonya cuisine is the epitome of what makes Malaysian food great; inclusivity, and Pearly is a true vanguard of this culinary heritage. The result of a marriage of Malay and Chinese ingredients and flavours, Nyonya style cooking is unique to Malaysia and is, perhaps, one of the most underrated cuisines in the World.

A Malaysian take on a traditional Indian Chicken Curry, Kari Kapitan is the result of a thorough Nyonya makeover. Along with the classic additions of lemongrass, lime and galangal, the chief Nyonya element is belachan. Ubiquitous to Malaysian cuisine, belachan is a fermented shrimp paste and is one of the hallmarks of Nyonya cooking. Whilst best described as ‘pungent’, belachan mellows when added to a curry, imparting a depth of flavour to the finished dish like no other.

One of my happiest childhood memories is going on a family outing to the local waterfalls; virtually the entire Clan was there – grandparents, aunts, uncles and a full gaggle of cousins. After hours of slip-sliding through the falls, it was finally lunchtime! As we gathered for our picnic, my grandmother presented us with a massive white Tupperware, filled to the brim with leftover Kari Kapitan. Armed with anticipation and slices of fresh white bread, we all tucked in; what bliss! Perched on those boulders, surrounded by my army of screaming cousins, with the cool waters rushing between my toes and my fingers stained yellow from the Kari Kapitan; it was the perfect childhood memory, matched with the perfect meal.

Universally, all curries benefit from a day of rest before being served, but this is especially true of Kari Kapitan. Whilst still delicious when eaten on the day of cooking, a bit of patience reaps its own reward. Such is its plethora of flavours, Kari Kapitan needs time to find its balance, to develop and mature. As a result, Kari Kapitan makes for amazing leftovers…and memories.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Kadhai Murgh (Chicken Kadhai)

One of my staple Indian curries, Chicken Kadhai regularly features in almost all Indian meals I make; big or small.

Kadhai ChickenThe key ingredient in this curry is the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) as it adds a distinct flavour that is both delicious and alluring. Although widely available from spice markets, kasoori methi isn’t a flavour many are accustomed to and makes a nice change from the typical curry flavours most people normally encounter.

A personal favourite, to my mind this curry tastes and smells of India herself; a heady blend of fragrant spices, the earthy tones of the kasoori methi – all marry into a potent assault on the senses. Just like India this curry will charm you, its flavours will linger and it will invariably leave you wanting more.

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Classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken

Ceasar Salad with ChickenThe first time I ordered a Caesar Salad I was completely overwhelmed, but not in a good way. It was just too salty, too greasy, too cheesy – it was just too much of everything and yet tasted of nothing in particular. Undeterred by this travesty of a salad, I decided to try making it at home. I told myself that such an iconic salad couldn’t possibly be so bad and I was right, it’s actually tastes bloody incredible! Done right, a Caesar Salad is salty, it is cheesy and yes, it is greasy but it is all a question of balance. The salad should be light but robust, subtle but punchy. In my opinion, the key is the lettuce-to-dressing ratio – get that right and it will make all the difference.

Admittedly the addition of the grilled chicken is an aberration but hey-ho, I’m no Caesar purist! I find the chicken lightens the overall dish and turns the salad into a substantial meal…and whilst I’m owning up to culinary aberrations, I also prefer using baby gem lettuce over the traditional cos! Scandalous I know, but I’m just muddled that way.

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Chicken Congee (Moi) 滑雞粥

Chicken MoiLet me be clear from the start; growing up I simply loathed moi.

Much like chicken noodle soup is the ultimate convalescence food for Americans, throughout Asia moi/jook/congee/budur is a dish that is inextricably associated with being sick. As a child, its characteristic blandness always seemed like an additional punishment to the misery of feeling unwell – especially when it was being forced upon you by an otherwise well-meaning grandmother. The moment you announced you were feeling under the weather, my grandmother (Amah) would invariably say, “You sick, ah? OK so you must eat moi ‘eh. Good for your throat one. Make you better, fast”. There was simply no arguing with Amah on this, you were on the moi diet until you were deemed healthy enough to eat something else. Admittedly, I was an overly dramatic child, but it felt like flavour purgatory!

Now, many years on and much to my surprise, in my most fevered moments I find myself craving a wholesome bowl of chicken moi. It is an irony of a maturing palette, and the fondness of memories, that gives you a renewed appreciation for some unpalatable dishes from the our past.

I’ve always thought the force-feeding of moi was a genius Asian parenting ploy to discourage kids from dragging out their convalescence. The moment I felt better I would immediately pronounce that I was cured and that it was safe for me to once again scoff down some deliciously oily char kway teow! The Moi Diet: Machiavellian parenting at its best or a grandmother’s love? Either way, Amah was right – it DID make me better, faster.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

For more Chinese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Chinese Pantry, please click HERE

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