It has been ages since I last posted about my cooking. Well, the reason also being that I cook much lesser nowadays due to my busy social life (dining with floggers), so much so I only cooked once or even most, twice a week. On Monday, I took the day off to recuperate from the exhausting Penang trip and so I decided to try out a recipe that I saw in Flavours magazine: Johor-Style Chicken White Rendang. According to the magazine "White rendang got its name as it doesn't include kerisik (roasted grated coconut) to darken the dish. The heat from chillies is mild as only fresh chillies are used. Carambola or belimbing buluh is used here as the fruit imparts a very mild sour taste compared to tamarind paste or slices. If unavailable, a slice of tamarind can be used as a replacement."
The ingredients are quite simple to source and recipe is easy to follow. So, here goes:
Spice paste: 4 fresh red chillies; 2 stalks lemongrass; 20g galangal; 20g old ginger; 25g dried shrimp paste (belacan). This is supposed to be a non-spicy dish, but I decided to spice it up with bird eye chilies.
Blend the spice paste ingredients.
Other ingredients: 50ml cooking oil, 150g shallots (finely sliced); 20g garlic, finely sliced 40g galangal (crushed); 1 stalk lemongrass (crushed); 4 carombola fruit (cut into half); 250ml water; 400ml coconut milk; sugar and salt according to taste. I forgot to blend the belacan so I dumped it into the pot as I cook.
Of course, how could we miss this? The main ingredient...the CHICKEN! The recipe above is for 1 whole chicken (1.8kg) but I substitute with 10 pieces of drumsticks instead. According to the magazine, a tougher bird such as old hen or free-range chicken (ayam kampung) is preferred for making rendang as it can withstand the long hours of cooking. But since the only chicken I could get that day was from Jusco supermarket, the alternative would be to remove the chicken pieces when cooked and return to the pan after the gravy has thicken.
Heat the oil in the saucepan over low heat and fry the sliced shallots until they start to brown; add the garlic and continue to fry until golden in colour. Mmmm...really smells good! For rendang, the more shallots you add to the dish, the better the taste. This is very true cos the curry I cooked in Melbourne never tastes as good as the curry I cook in Malaysia. Why? Cos shallot is either a rare find or costs a bomb downunder.
Add the blended spice paste and cook, stir until fragrant.
I couldn't find carambola at the supermarket and when I reached home, I also found out that I ran out of tamarind. Hehehe..have no fear cos I found another good substitute. Guess what is it? Nope, not lime not lemon not vinegar. It's bottled SOUR PLUM! I put in one piece plus a tablespoon of its sourish juice.
Add chicken and stir it for 1 minute.
At this stage, the recipe requires 250ml water but since I do not want my chicken to cook too long, I decided to put in the coconut milk instead. I have also decided to use only 200ml instead of 400ml of coconut milk.
Season to taste with sugar and salt. Bring to boil on medium heat. Stir occasionally until the gravy is thick and chicken is fork-tender. Once gravy is thick and oil appears, remove the crushed galangal and lemongrass before serving.
The dish smells really good but I think I put too much salt so it ended up a tad too salty for me. But then Hubby complained it was not salty enough. I was too anxious to try the chicken and I only realised when I was about to finish my dinner that I have forgotten to snap a picture of the final product! Gosh! How could I?? Luckily I cooked extra so a quick snap of it before I continued attacking the rendang which goes superbly with white rice.
Hubby and I brought the leftovers to office for lunch the next day. We find that it tastes even better as the flavour was infused into the chicken meat. There are plenty more rendang recipes, both chicken and beef, in the Sept-Oct issue of Flavours. Do grab it if you are a super fan of rendang.