Cooking with Fire, part 2: Hot and Sour Chicken

by Talley

in Asian,Main Course,Poultry

Continuing with the theme of my last post, I made a couple other dishes this past weekend using the open fire. Both come from one of my favorite cookbooks (certainly my favorite for southeast Asian food) called Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia. I can’t say enough about the authors, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, who, if you ask me, have pretty much the perfect life. They travel around the world, especially around Asia and the subcontinent, taking pictures and learning from locals how to cook the local cuisine. They write wonderfully, including personal stories of their adventures, and nearly everything I’ve made out of their books has been great. The book looks gorgeous too, and certainly sits as comfortably displayed on a coffee table as it does on the kitchen counter. Incidentally, check out their other books as well, especially Seductions of Rice and Flatbread & Flavors

One recipe we made was a simple marinated and grilled chicken dish, served with a hot and sweet sauce. I’d been eyeing this recipe for a while and this seemed the perfect opportunity to make it. The flavor in this recipe comes from the marinade, which is primarily a paste of coriander (cilantro) root and black pepper, supplemented with some fish sauce. Now I realize coriander root is not exactly a common ingredient: in fact, I’ve looked all over Seattle for a place that sells cilantro with the roots still attached, even Uwajimaya couldn’t help me or suggest a place… so I’ve taken to substituting the stems. It works fine generally, but this time I was able to root up a couple coriander plants from Beryl’s garden and use the genuine article. I think the roots add an earthiness and perhaps a sweetness.

DSC_5410

Unfortunately I don’t have a good picture of the finished chicken. This is the problem with food photography! Beryl and I are always happy to snap away while something is cooking, but the shutter fingers disappear as soon as the food is on the table… we’ll work on that.

Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sweet Sauce

2 tsp black peppercorns
5 to 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped coriander roots (or stems)
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
3 lbs chicken breasts and legs, chopped into 10 to 12 pieces

sauce
1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes

Process the peppercorns, garlic, and coriander roots to a paste with a food processor or mortar and pestle. Stir in the fish sauce, and place the chicken pieces in the marinade and coat well. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature, or as long as 3 hours in the refrigerator.

To make the sauce, heat vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the garlic and salt to a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle. Stir in pepper flakes. Remove vinegar mixture from heat and stir in the garlic paste. Let cool.

Place chicken on grill about 4 to 5 inches from flame and grill until bottom side is starting to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn and cook until golden brown on the other side. If cooking in the broiler, this might take a little longer. If you feel like the chicken is done throughout, but you don’t yet have enough browning on the outside, you can “dip” the chicken into the flame to encourage quicker browning on the outside. Just be careful you don’t completely char it!

Serve chicken with dipping sauce and sticky rice, or jasmine rice.

Serves 4-6.

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