Friday, August 15, 2008

Attempting improvements

As I mentioned in my last post, at the end of last May when I first got ahold some curry leaves I made two Malaysian dishes with them. One, stir fried shrimp with curry leaves turned out very nicely. The other, fried chicken with curry leaves, less so. A month later I kept the distinctive cooking technique but changed quite a bit else to create a wonderfully successful Thai-spiced fried chicken with basil leaves. Since then my original post has risen to #4 in the Google rankings for "curry leaf recipes" so I've been wanting to fix up fried-chicken-with-curry-leaves to match the quality of the basil version so I can give my visitors what they've come for. Today I tried. And failed.

I'll tell you what I did and what I think went wrong. Maybe you can figure out a better way.

oil for deep frying
2 chicken thighs, boned, skinned and cut into largish bite-sized pieces OR 1 chicken thigh and an equal amount of tofu (I wrote in the original post that tofu might work well in the dish so I tested that, too)
2 large stems curry 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 soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon corn starch

1/2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
80 ml chicken broth
20 ml rice wine
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice of 1/4 lemon

1. Combine marinade ingredients, add chicken and tofu, marinate in refrigerator for one hour.
2. Heat oil for deep frying in a wok. Add chicken and tofu in batches without draining marinade. 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 curry 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 curry leaves, toss and immediately remove from pan and serve over rice.

To tell the truth, I forgot the hot pepper until the dish was just about ready so I ended up chopping up a jalapeno real quick, removing the dish from the wok, quickly stir frying the pepper, returning the rest of the ingredients and cooking a bit longer to blend the flavors. I ended up cooking a bit too long and the sauce dried up entirely with the soy sauce caramelizing onto the solid bits. Which doesn't taste so good.

But even before that, I gave it a try when it was at the proper level of doneness and looked like this:

At that point the strong lemon-soy flavor predominated, the curry leaf was completely lost, and the tofu was just blah. In the Thai-flavor version the aromatic fish sauce, basil and lime all worked together to make a wonderfully fragrant dish. This is OK, but OK isn't what I was aiming at. I should definitely leave out the lemon, but then it's just soy vs. curry leaves and the curry leaves will lose. I'll have to give this some more thought. Or give up. One or the other.

No comments: