Pandan Leaf Chicken

Friday, 18 February 2011

Whenever I see Pandan Leaf Chicken, I'd remember the lunch I had with my Australian boss in a Thai restaurant in Melbourne. That was a long time ago, when Australians probably weren't as familiar with Thai food as they are now.

One of the dishes we had was Pandan Leaf Chicken and, as I chatted away, Boss did something that I still remember now. He picked up a piece of fried chicken, unwrapped it, and put the entire pandan leaf in his mouth – no chicken, just the stiff, wiry leaf!

My eyes widened in horror and my mind went, 'WHOA! WHOA! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!'

I guess I should have warned him immediately but I was too taken aback. I was speechless for a second and then – when I was about to yell, 'DON'T EAT THAT!!!' – I could see that the leaf was already halfway down his throat. 'Oh sh¡t! He's gonna choke, and I don't know how to do the whatever manoeuver!'

As I panicked at the thought of my boss lying on the restaurant floor, dead, he stretched his neck like a pelican or seagull swallowing a big fish. And then, lo and behold, the leaf was down! Crikey! See the photo? A fried pandan leaf is stiff enough to stand upright but he managed to swallow it.

Glad that I didn't have to phone for an ambulance and there was someone to drive me back to the office, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued eating. I didn't say anything about the pandan leaf, and my boss thankfully didn't try to eat another piece.

Some years after the pandan leaf incident, I ordered some vine leaves wrapped with rice and whatnots whilst having lunch with a friend. Being the country bumpkin that I was (and still am), I had never had dolma before. After the Greek dish arrived, I looked at the vine leaves and remembered my ex-boss' culinary faux pas. 'Hmm, am I supposed to eat these things that look like lotus leaves?' I wondered. I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of my new friend, so I unwrapped the leaves and gingerly pushed them aside.

'Aren't you going to eat those?' my friend asked.

Dang, those leaves were meant to be eaten! I was wrong but, hey, not as wrong as the man who ate a fried pandan leaf. 'I don't like vine leaves,' I said without batting an eyelid.

PANDAN LEAF CHICKEN (GAI HOR BAI DTOEI)
Source: Thai Food, David Thompson
(Recipe for 5 persons)

3 chicken legs or 4 chicken thighs, about 600 g skinned and boned
Marinade
1 piece ginger, thumb size, wash, peel and chop roughly
2 coriander roots, wash and chop roughly
3 cloves garlic, peel and chop roughly
10 white peppercorns
5 tbsp palm sugar
3 tbsp red rice vinegar (or any sweet vinegar)
pinch of salt
½ cup kecap manis (thick, sweet soya sauce)
2 tbsp white sesame oil
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch of ground star anise, optional

large pinch of white sesame seeds, toasted
24 large pandan leaves, washed and dried
oil for deep-frying

Wash and dry chicken. Cut into 24 bite size pieces.

Blend or pound marinade ingredients till smooth. Use half to marinate chicken for at least 2 hours. There should be enough to almost cover the chicken. Chicken may be marinated overnight without being overseasoned.

Remaining marinade is the dipping sauce. Taste and, if necessary, dilute with 1 tbsp water. Sprinkle with white sesame seeds. Cover and set aside.

After the chicken is marinated, wrap each piece in a pandan leaf:



Click here for a video on how to wrap the chicken. Don't cover the meat completely. Exposed parts will turn brown and fragrant after deep-frying.

Drain wrapped chicken for a few minutes to remove excess marinade. Deep-fry in just smoking oil over high heat till leaves are brown and meat just cooked, 2-3 minutes. Drain. Serve immediately with the sauce on the side.

5 comments:

Blur Ting said...

Thanks for posting this recipe. I tried making it before using the leaves of the smaller pandan plant. Of course it didn't work. I had to discard the leaves and stir fry the chicken instead.

KT said...

Hi BT

Thank goodness I'm not the only who deep-fries things.

Anonymous said...

I have only recently been fortunate enough to find pandan in my area of the States. This dish is one of the things I miss most about my trip to the Philippines. Thank you!

KT said...

Pandan Leaf Chicken is usually deep-fried but the sweet marinade clinging to the meat makes the oil rather dirty because there isn't any flour to seal it. I haven't tried it yet but I think grilling the chicken may be an easier/neater option. Pan-frying should work too, I think.

asianmist said...

You are so entertaining as always!

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