Last post I tried a Hakka dish that was very simple in terms of ingredients and cooking method, today I try a Peranakan dish that uses many different spices; or what we call rempah. These rempah make Indonesian-Malaysian dishes to be very flavourful and distinctive from the rest of the world. I LOVE rempah, seriously, they taste amazing and are really good for your body. Killer combo, right?
So what is Peranakan cooking? Sometimes it is also called Nyonya cooking is the result of blending Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay/Indonesian community. The term Peranakan refers to descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Indonesia-Malaysia area. The term Nyonya is Malay word which means Madame or Auntie for Peranakan.
The recipe I am using is adapted from a book The Best of Chef Wan: Taste of Malaysia called Chicken in Spicy Coconut Gravy or Ayam Kapitan, page 45. Ayam Kapitan is not particularly famous in Indonesia, but it is definitely one of their treasure dishes in Malaysia. Chef Wan is a Malaysian Food Ambassador, so I believe I am in good hands, yes? Wink.
The spices used in this particular dish are moderately many, which can already be overwhelming for some of us. FRET NOT! It will be all worth it. Based on my personal experience as an autodidact cook, I was overwhelmed the first couple of times I tried to cook these dishes. But with many practices, I get used to it and come to love the process of the preparation.
Ideally all these spices need to be grinded manually (ngulek) on a pestle to release their natural oils. But it takes a lot of practices to be able to grind them into smooth paste, which I recommend you to do if you have the time. I do believe the taste is somewhat different. Since I am cooking in the morning before going to work, time is not a luxury I have. In this case, food processor is my best friend. 😀
It may seem that this dish uses a lot of onions and shallots, but the onions and shallots actually give a sweet taste to the gravy. I changed the measurement of the coconut milk from 500ml coconut milk into a 250ml watery coconut milk because I have to maintain my LDL cholesterol level low. This change makes the dish a lot lighter. It is about the same thing as if you change a whole milk into 2% fat milk. 😀
So here we go:
- 1 whole chiken, cut into 12 pieces, bone in skin out
- 4tbs vegetable oil
- 1tbs assam; dilute it with 125ml warm water
- 100ml coconut milk; dilute it with 250ml water
- salt to taste
- 2 onions
- 15 shallots
- 20 red chillies
- 6 candlenuts; lightly toasted
- 1cm galangal
- 1cm ginger
- 1tsp ground turmeric
- 3 lemongrass (white parts only)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves; have 2 more for garnish and slice very thinly
- Using food processor, have all the paste ingredients processed into a paste.
- Using a deep pan, heat the vegetable oil and add in the paste. Cook until fragrant.
- Add in the chicken, and cook until the pink colour is gone. Stir occasionally.
- Add in the coconut milk and assam water. Put into simmer, and cook until the chicken is tender and the liquid turns into thick gravy. Stir occasionally. Salt to taste.
- Garnish with thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves. Serve.