Friday, July 4, 2008

Fried chicken with basil leaves

After coming back from my trip I was disappointed at how poorly my curry leaves fared. I stored some in a sealed plastic bag with a strip of paper towel to absorb any stray moisture and some in one of those perforated greens storing bags. The batch in the sealed bag had begun to rot. I think they would have done fine for a couple weeks, but it's now around four weeks since I got them in my summer CSA a la carte. The second batch was well on its way to drying out, but the leaves had lost all of their aroma and without that they're hardly worth calling curry leaves.

I'll admit that this is something I should have checked somewhat earlier than halfway through preparing a recipe called Fried Chicken with Curry Leaves. However, I had a back-up plan. I've been needing to prune the basil in my garden (Last year I didn't and my basil plant grew like I was under attack by Plantman but died just as quickly.) so I can move this recipe from Malaysian to Thai. Luckily I had already switched out the soy sauce in the marinade for fish sauce so I was on my way. I don't actually know what variety of basil I've got, but it doesn't have the peppery bite of real Thai basil so I'll have to toss in some peppers to compensate.

So here's how it went:

oil for deep frying
2 chicken thighs, boned, skinned and cut into largish bite-sized pieces
1 large handful basil leaves
1 small onion, chopped into largish bite-sized pieces
1 small green pepper, chopped into largish bite-sized pieces
1 bird's eye or similar hot pepper, sliced (and seeded if you're a wimp)
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (black pepper is fine, but I got tired of grinding. I need a new more efficient pepper mill.)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/2 Tablespoon oyster sauce, I used Chinese-style which worked fine although I've just learned that Thai-style is different
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
80 ml chicken broth
20 ml rice wine
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice of 1/4 lime

1. Combine marinade ingredients, add chicken, marinate in refrigerator for one hour.
2. Heat oil for deep frying in a wok. Add chicken in batches without draining. Deep fry until golden brown. Don't worry about under-cooking as they'll be going back into the pan for a significant amount of time.
3. Drain all but 2 Tablespoons of oil (or heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a wok at high heat if you used an actual deep fryer).
4. Add onion, peppers and small handful of basil leaves. Stir fry until onion and pepper begin to soften and become translucent.
5. Add chicken and glaze. Stir fry until almost, but not quite dry.
6. Add remaining basil leaves, toss and immediately remove from pan and serve over rice.

No offense to ponikuta whose original recipe this is based off of, but this turned out much better than when I followed her recipe to the letter. The switch from curry to basil leaves was, I think, a lateral one, but boosting the amount made the results much more aromatic. Adding the onion and pepper gave a better solids to glaze ratio so the sauce didn't over-reduce as it did on my first try. Instead of those overly salty and simple results, the flavors this time are a lovely blend of the savory chicken boosted by the oyster and fish sauces and the sweet of the lime and sugar with the basil wafting up behind and the pepper burning beneath. This would actually be a fine not-quite-vegetarian dish as the sauce brings out and supports the flavors of the onions and peppers. You could deep fry tofu and it would work really well, but don't use those frozen pre-fried tofu puffs. They'd absorb too much of the glaze and it wouldn't reduce right.

It's when I unexpectedly get these sorts of spectacular results that I regret that I'm only cooking for myself. Well, that's why I have this blog; If I can't feed you, at least I can record and pass on the recipe. Please make this; I promise you won't regret it.

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