Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cluckety, cluckety, cluck, cluck...

I made this for a barbecue last year. It was Elsa's birthday. Although she didn't end up enjoying this, of course, she did have a can of tuna in water courtesy of grandma and grandpa (the human grandparents, of course). 

Let me back track a little. This recipe is something I made up to approximate what I used to have. The real recipe for the spicy version is something called "Bumbu Bali" (literally "Balinese-style seasoning"). For the sweet version, it's my take on "Bumbu Kalasan" (literally, "Kalasan-style seasoning"). 

A little culinary geographical lesson: Balinese cuisine is known for being spicy, whereas Kalasan, which is in Java, is a bit more on the sweeter side but served with spicy sauce. The difference between Balinese style is that the dish is cooked in the sambal, whereas most Javanese style cooking involves cooking the dish in something else then serving it with sambal on the side. They achieve the same spicy end, of course, but that makes for quite distinct flavors in the end. 

"Are all Indonesian food spicy?" Nope. As we go on, you'll see different styles of Indonesian cooking spicy/not spicy. However, I will tell you that I've never had Indonesian food without "sambal" (spicy sauce). 

So, back to the recipes... What's wrong with the real recipe? Nothing, of course, nothing's wrong. These are just my short hand versions of it. I have to warn you though, that these are quite different from the real recipe, so don't expect them to be real Balinese/Kalasan-style chicken.

Anyways, these recipes sort of go hand-in-hand, simply because there's quite a few shared ingredients. 

Chicken two-ways

1 whole chicken, divided into two halves
1 yellow onion (small, or 5 - 6 pearl onions)
4 - 5 cloves of garlic
1 - 2 jalapeno peppers
4 - 5 candlenuts
2 tbs oil, divided

For sweet chicken:
1/3 cup sweet soy sauce
1 tbs coriander seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 - 4 kaffir lime leaves (if you don't have this, don't worry, just use key lime zest or lime zest)
Juice of 2 - 3 key limes
1 - 2 tbs salt
Water to boil

For spicy chicken:
2 lemon grass stalks, divided to 10 cm lengths, bruised
1 tomato
1 red pepper
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs salt

Optional for spicy:
Habanero peppers

General directions:
1. In a food processor/blender, pulse the yellow onion, garlic, candlenuts and jalapeno peppers.
2. Divide the pulsed ingredients to two.

For sweet chicken:
1. Heat oil in a deep wok (deep enough to contain the chicken half submerged in water).
2. Saute the pulsed ingredients until soft, add chicken and sear the chicken for about 4-5 minutes.
3. Add water, enough to submerge the chicken, then add sweet soy sauce, coriander seeds, kaffir lime leaves, brown sugar and salt, stir evenly.
4. Cook for about half an hour on medium heat, uncovered. Stir occasionally, then adjust the flavor (this should be as sweet as the soy sauce).
5. Continue cooking until water is completely evaporated and thick brown glaze forms on the chicken. 
6. Add lime juice, stir evenly.

For spicy chicken:
1. Pulse tomato and peppers (red and/or habanero) with the pulsed ingredients.
2. Heat oil in a deep wok, then saute the pulsed ingredients until soft.
3. Add chicken, water, lemon grass, and salt.
4. Boil for about an hour on medium heat uncovered. Stir occasionally until water almost evaporated. Adjust taste (this dish should be sweet, but not as sweet as the sweet version).
5. Continue cooking until water is completely evaporated and glaze forms.

1. You can eat this with rice or, like when we had this for Elsa's birthday, you can flatten the meat using your meat hammer, then grill the chicken on your BBQ grill. Not paper thin, of course, but just enough to spread the chicken a little... 3 - 4 times of good hammering (yes, bones and all) will do.  
2. If you opt to grill it, leave more of the liquid for both dishes, so you can baste as you grill. I wouldn't grill for too long, just enough to get a nice charred surface.
3. I've made the sweet version without Kaffir lime leaves. But if you can get them, I strongly recommend them. Kaffir lime leaves freeze well too, so I usually invest on 2 containers and just pop them in the freezer.
4. You can make this vegetarian, of course, just boil tofu/tempeh instead. Cooking time will be cut by half, I assume. If you want to use tofu, get the super firm one for the sweet version and deep fried tofu for the spicy version (this means you have to either get the tofu that's already deep fried, or deep fry your tofu ahead of time). For the tempeh, they'll retain their shape, so you don't have to pre-fry them.
5. A word of caution for buying tempeh... Seriously, that thing is a dime a dozen in Indonesia. It's actually poor people's food. So when you buy it, don't spend too much money and stick to the original soy, and none of that flavored weird tempeh. Tempeh, just like tofu, will assume anything it's cooked/marinated in. So you want curry flavored tempeh? Just put curry powder. Want some lime flavored tempeh? Add lime juice. How can you tell if you get a good tempeh? Look at the spongy layer between the soy nut grains. The more sponge, the better, but not too much (each soy nut should be separated by around 1-2 mm spongy layer).
6. You can add the lime juice as you're boiling. In fact, this is what I do most of the time. But it does take a lot of lime juice doing it this way. The last time I did this it took 2 - 3 limes (or 5 - 6 key limes). This is just because it's diluted with water. 
7. The spicy seasoning can be used to cook eggs too. Eliminate the lemon grass from the recipe. Boil eggs (about half a dozen or more, up to you). Shell the eggs and pan-fry it just until a skin develop. Then boil it again in the spicy sauce (just like you boil the chicken).

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