Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ayam Masak Kicap, Redefined


I understand it'll be quite off-the-norm for me to put a recipe (of all things!) here, but well, the kitchen is a major part of one's life, especially when one is living on a tight budget and sometimes feel the urge to exercise creativity with minimal use of words or speeches.

Note the word 'creativity'. Hence bear in mind folks, I don't think culinary conservatives would be too thrilled with it. If you've got an outlandish taste (and accompanying zeal for gastronomical experiments) like me - well, the next steps after reading the recipe is up to your preference.

Olive oil (I actually opened my cupboard to discover that there is NO bottle of sunflower oil - the last time I made something with it was, erm, two weeks ago? And I didn't remember whether I had finished it off or left it outside the cupboard. I don't want to take the risk of poaching my flatmates' oil - though one particular bottle looks suspiciously like mine. So, I went for a more elegant, albeit COSTLY alternative.)

Half a large onion - the red (magenta?) type, not the orange bawang besar type. Chop into moderate slices.

5-6 pieces of garlic. Crushed.

Chicken. I used about four large pieces - the kind you'll get if you ask the butcher to cut the chicken leg (LEG, not DRUMSTICKS) into three pieces. Chop into smaller lumps of flesh and bone. I got visions of silat gayong brick-smashing feats when I was doing the above. Energy has to be efficiently transferred from the left palm to the back of the large kitchen knife to smartly slice through the bones. I haven't tried yet, but theoretically, I guess beef might also work instead of chicken.

Sweetcorn - about two handfuls of it.

Lada kering. Cut - or tear - into small pieces, then put into a bowl of boiling water to soften them up, clean the dusty interior, and make it much easier to separate the seeds (Folks say that if you eat them, it'll stick inside your appendix, giving you appendicitis in no time. But apart from that, I don't think they taste that good to eat either.) Rinse and get rid of the seeds.

Gula melaka. A piece would do. You know, the kind of 'one piece' that you get encircled in a hard leafy 'cage'. Aha, before I forgot, I must mention that as a true-blue Kelantanese, I can hardly restrain myself from putting sugar in ALL kinds of cooking. But this time I'm inspired to use an alternative, gula melaka or palm sugar. Got it from Chinatown near the Manchester city centre, in case anyone wondered.

Dark soy sauce. Not too much, as it's VERY dark and VERY masin. Very cheap as well. You got it right, I bought it from Chinatown.

Tomato ketchup. Mix it up with the aforesaid soy sauce.

OK, now for the real cookery process. Use a wok or a cooking pot. Tumis (is the English word for this 'saute'? Or 'lightly fry'?) the chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil. After a few minutes, add in the lada kering. It's best to do this when none of your Orang Putih flatmates are around, the vapours tend to make them sneeze, cough, and flash very nasty looks at you.

Then, add in the chicken, gula melaka, and the soysauce-ketchup potion. Add in some more water - I used about three cups of water for half a cup of aforesaid potion. Let it boil beautifully.

When the chicken don't look raw anymore, but you still don't feel like turning off the stove - I guess you get what I mean - add in the sweetcorn. I left the dish on low heat, letting it simmer for about fifteen minutes more before I decided that it's time to taste it. Alhamdulillah, my experiment works.

For a final touch, when serving it (to no one else but me, actually, since I'm staying 'alone' in a university flat), I squeezed juice from half a limau nipis. Eat with rice and fresh iceberg lettuce.

What a blast of flavour. Sour, sweet, salty, savoury, spicy, and whatnots all at the same time. I have a passion for flavours, and I loved strong ones. It's hard to define, I don't really like overly sweet or very salty food - but there's something about strong flavours, complementing each other, that is often the final determinant whether a particular dish would sweep me off my feet (into the plate?) or not. But I wasn't very nitpicky anyway, as my friends would testify, I would eat almost anything with equal relish =p (I must state here that usually friends who invited me for meals did great jobs - a necessary disclaimer to avoid losing all those invitations)

OK, enough rambling for now =)


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