I bought the Shiok cookbook when I was still in Singapore after hoarding a copy from the local library for so long that they slapped me with a heavy fine. I decided then that it would not only be cheaper but also sensible to buy my own copy.
The Shiok cookbook by Terry Tan and Christopher Tan is a very authentic and delightful mix of Singaporean, Malay and Peranakan cuisine. I never cooked anything from the book while I was still living in Singapore. Why? Because I was still living there! And one had to just step out of their home to have access to the most delicious food on the planet. Cheap too, oh so cheap!
I started exploring the book after I moved to Australia and realized to my delight that most of the recipes were spot on in mimicking that elusive taste you find at all the good hawker centre stalls in Singapore. One of the easiest recipes to cook from the book is Kari Ayam. This Malaysian chicken curry is a staple in most hawker centres in Singapore and although they all pretty much taste the same, there are subtle differences at each stall that make the curry more interesting and a subject of lunchtime "makan-debate" at work. When I cooked Kari Ayam for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice that individually most of the ingredients used were also used in Indian curries. But the combination of ingredients was what made it very Malaysian.
The recipe has a curry paste which is quick to whip up and forms the basis of the dish. I go easy on the chili because of my boys but after the dish is cooked and I have separated their portions, I love to spike Nick and my portions with a lot of chili. The Kari is great with a bowl of steamed jasmine rice and even more spectacular with roti-prata.
KARI AYAM – MALAYSIAN CURRY CHICKEN
Preparation Time – 20 minutes
Cooking Time – 55 minutes
Serves – 6
1 large chicken, cut into 10-12 pieces
800g chicken thigh fillets, cut into chunky pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Canola)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 3/4 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly minced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel (or 1 teaspoon fennel seeds)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or 1 stick of cinnamon, crushed)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (or 5-6 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or seeds of 7-8 cardamoms)
1/4 cup water
Wash and pat dry chicken. Remove excess skin. (or alternatively prepare the chicken thigh fillets by cutting them into pieces of desirable size, the chunkier the better)
In a blender, process all ingredients of spice paste.
Heat oil in a wok or casserole over medium heat. Fry potatoes for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and set aside. Add spice paste to wok and fry for 6-7 minutes, stirring constantly until fragrant.
Add chicken pieces and mix well to coat them with the spice paste. Add coconut milk, salt, sugar and potatoes. Simmer partially covered for approximately 40 minutes on low heat.
Serve hot with rice or roti.