Whenever I talk about flavour, an urge to be “musical” arises, I blame Craig David. Anyone else know the song? Comment if you do!
I would say it was a trip at the age of sixteen to Malaysia that first opened me up to such colourful spicy notes. Mee-Goreng, an incredible noodle dish I had the good fortune of tasting, is a food memory that has stayed with me for over a decade.
Then came Curry Laksa during my Masters year while I was living near Brunswick Square in London. My mouth still waters thinking about it, a beautifully separated assam curry, a timid layer of fragrant oil just glistening on the surface and what lies beneath, fat rice noodles, crisp vegetables, tofu and other delights. It has all been cooked in a coconut milk broth that has incredible depth and heat.
The first Thai dish I ever cooked was Tom Yum soup, I literally had no idea what I was doing but the end result was pretty good. This convinced me I could cook. So much so, I basically whipped up an entire Thai meal over the following week for my Dad’s birthday and so it was that this school of flavour (Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian) kind of became my forte (Italian and Afghan comes in at a close second).
The kind of flavours used in these Asian cuisines hit all your tastebuds, sweet, savoury, sour and spice. The fragrance and freshness of coconut milk, lemongrass, lime, gently toasted ground and whole spices, fresh coriander, kaffir leaves and basil just explode bite after bite.
I’ll be honest, this experience can rarely be delivered as a quick fix recipe, if there are some cuisines I will slave over it’s these. For me personally, the slow cooked coconut curry is what develops intense flavours and gives you that melt in your mouth moment.
Having said that today is one of those crazy days where time is of the essence, while I didn’t spend hours over on it and though it’s no laksa, it tastes pretty awesome.
Four chicken thighs with the skin
*(For a vegan version of this, use firm tofu and follow the same steps but apply half the cooking time of the chicken)
1tbsp ginger paste
Pinch of red chili flakes (or to taste)
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup of basmati rice
2tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1tsp poppy seeds
1 cup of coconut milk
To serve: some chopped fresh coriander
Marinade the chicken in ginger, red chili flakes, tamari and half the lemon juice.
Wash and cook your rice according to packet instructions.
Heat 1tbsp coconut oil in a shallow pan that has a lid on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot, put your chicken thighs in skin side down. Fry them off until they are gold brown. Flip them over, go to the lowest heat setting and cover with lid.
You are going to steam the thighs slowly until they are cooked, about forty minutes or so. Once the thighs are cooked, reduce the remaining liquid in the pan so you get a nice glaze on them.
In another pan, on a medium heat, melt remaining coconut oil and throw in the garlic, curry paste and poppy seeds and sauté for about ten minutes until they are sizzling. Add your cooked rice, coconut milk, the remaining lemon juice and mix well until everything is combined.
Serve with coriander.