Raise your hand if like fried chicken. Raise both of your hands if you like homemade fried chicken.
Over the past Christmas holidays I had the pleasure of meeting a friend and her family for the first time. In true foodie-style, the gathering took place amidst a feast – an Indonesian feast. Among the many things that my friend, Tuty prepared was Yellow Fried Chicken (so called because turmeric is one of the spices used to season the chicken and give it the requisite yellow colour).
When the platter of chicken was unveiled I caught my breath. Never before had I seen such perfectly, delicately browned fried chicken. The entire platter of chicken was uniform in colour. I wondered how the heck Tuty managed such a feat. I figured that she must have some special fryer that makes perfect fried chicken.
Feeling comfortable and completely at home, I sought out the pieces that had some bones connected to them. Oh how I love a piece of bone! But that is a subject for another column. I settled for a couple of wings and a piece of breast. I bit into the meat. Oh-my-goodness, sheer tenderness and cooked right through! I am not kidding you. With each bite I marvelled at the perfection of the fried chicken I was eating, it did not only look good but it also tasted just as good as it looked. The other thing about the chicken was that there was a certain lightness to it, which was another puzzling factor for me. How did she fry the chicken to get such a delicate colour, have the meat remain tender, the texture not indicating that it was fried and yet make it have that lightness, almost as if it was not deep fried at all? Though Tuty is a foodie too, I restrained myself from going into to full-foodie mode and asking her to tell me how she made the fried chicken, after all, there were other people there and sometimes you have to give the foodie side of you a rest, not from yourself but from everyone else.
The next day amidst the thank you for a terrific meal, I asked Tuty about the fried chicken. She then explained to me that it’s Yellow Fried Chicken. I’m sure she said the name of the chicken the night before but I was too distracted by the attractiveness of the chicken to even hear her. “How do you make it?” I asked. Tuty replied, “You season the chicken; you can use your green seasoning if you like. Then boil the chicken, lightly dust it in flour and then fry it.”
Hmmm, boil the chicken? She explained further, that she adds the seasoned chicken to a pot along with water, bring to a boil and then shuts off the heat and the carry-over heat is what cooks the chicken, hence the tenderness and the meat being cooked right through. Given that the chicken would already be cooked, frying would not be a long process; it would simply be a matter of putting the chicken in the hot oil for no more than a minute. That is why the coating on the chicken was such a gentle brown, colour and that is why there was uniformity in the colouring of the entire platter of fried chicken.
I was excited to get back home to try making this Yellow Fried Chicken. I didn’t want to make it with my green seasoning though; I wanted to make it with the seasoning paste Tuty used. Given that she (Tuty) was busy, I turned to another foodie friend of mine, Pepy, who is also Indonesian and makes food and posts pictures on her blog that make you want to lick your computer screen. Armed with Pepy’s recipe I set about making the spice paste for the chicken. I massaged the chicken with the paste and left it to marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Giddy with excitement the following day, I set about putting my chicken into the pot along with the cup of water specified by Pepy and here is where I departed from Tuty. Instead of bringing the chicken to a boil and then letting the carry-over heat continue and complete the cooking, I followed Pepy’s directions and let the chicken cook on low heat until all the water had dried out. At this juncture, I said goodbye to Pepy’s recipe that required me to deep fry the cooked chicken as is, and went back to Tuty’s directions – lightly dusting the chicken in flour and deep frying. I don’t think that there is a wrong or right in either of the ways, I think that it is the preference of the cook and the people he or she is cooking for.
How did my chicken turn out? See for yourself. Go on, look at the photograph. Tender, succulent, perfectly seasoned, gently coloured with a mere dip in hot oil. Oh Yellow Fried Chicken, how I love thee. I tell you, once you try making this fried chicken, it will quickly become a favourite. I think what I am attracted to about this fried chicken is the technique used. Sure the flavour is great from the turmeric, coriander, ginger and garlic but it is the tenderness that really gets at you. The great thing about this also is that you can use a wet or dry rub or paste that you like. Of course it would be called Yellow Fried Chicken then, but you can call it whatever you like. I can’t wait to experiment with other flavourings.
The original recipe called for some ingredients that are not readily available here in the Caribbean so what you see below is what I actually used. The original recipe with speciality ingredients can be found on my blog, www.tasteslikehome.org the recipe below is a combo of Pepy & Tuty’s. Have a go at it and tell me how it turned out.
Yellow Fried Chicken
1 whole chicken cut up for frying and seasoned with spice paste (recipe below)
2 pieces lemon grass, white part only, crushed or 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 curry leaves (leave out if you don’t have)
1 cup water
1 teaspoons salt
All purpose flour for dusting
Oil for deep frying
8 cloves garlic, chopped
5 candlenuts (substitute with macadamia nuts or blanched almonds)
5-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
2 medium-sized shallots, (use the red-head only of the shallots)
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons salt
Grind all the ingredients together to make a paste
Rub the paste all over the chicken; be sure to get under the skin etc.
Cover in bowl or place into plastic zip bag and let marinate for 1 – 2 hours in refrigerator. Overnight is even better
Add chicken along with crushed lemon grass (or kaffir lime leaves), curry leaves and water to pot
Cover with lid and bring to a boil. When the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, move lid slightly ajar and let cook until all the liquid is gone. Remove pot from stove and let cool
Heat oil in deep frying pan until hot
Lightly dust chicken in flour and deep fry in batches. Each batch should take no more than a minute or minute and a half. The chicken should be lightly brown or golden. Let heat come back up to temperature in between batches
Drain on paper towels