18 December 2008

Chicken Pandan

Gai Hor Bai Toey
Chicken Pandan (with title)
This is my second entry to Darlene's Regional Recipes event, featuring Thailand. Except that the fantastic Thip just posted this days ago and she wrapped it better too, haha :P

During the day my pretty crappy neighborhood can get on my nerves. Even though the construction that made my ears bleed is done, every now and then the serenity will be broken by the impossibly loud honk of a truck's horn. Imagine that coming down not 4 meters from your window. Even without the vehicles, the children who live in the area (a squatters' area sadly) are horrible thugs in the making. In the afternoon they play dodgeball, which is fine-- kids should be able to play as much as they want especially during holiday. But these brats scream and yell at each other like lunatics. Having nine year-olds scream "(Pu)tang ina mo!" (literally "your mother is a whore" but the usage is more similar to "Fuck you!") at each other is quite jarring. When they combine forces, it's so tragic it becomes funny again:
(Kids play on the street, yelling obscenities at each other.)
Kid: (Tauntingly) HA HA, HINDI KAMI NAGULAT! (Ha ha, we weren't startled!)
Truck driver: UMALIS KAYO SA DAAN, SA SUSUNOD SASAGASAAN KO KAYO! (Get out of the road, next time I'll run you over!)
Kid: 'TANG INA MO! (Fuck you!)

They grow up so fast.

(The next few pictures were taken from my grandmother's house in Pampanga last All Saints' Day.)
Tubes (500px)
At night, all these harsh elements go away. Lovely Siberian winds have brought us a gentle chill (if you can call it that, o people of the frozen north), with temperatures of about 24°C (75°F) at night. I usually sleep with the electric fan on, but recently I've wanted to feel the cool temperature on my skin without any help. Even though the electric fan has a barely noticeable whirring sound, the quiet that resulted was a sweet surprise. Nothing but the crickets. Amusingly, when I was a boy I thought that it was the sound the moon makes.
Flowers for my grandfather
Bicycle (500px)
What I think is my grandfather's old bike (it certainly is aged and beautiful, like he was). The tracks on the side were from rain falling from the scalloped roof edge.
It reminded me of those times in my childhood when we spent the evening at my grandparents' one hour North (in Pampanga). Some rooms had no electrical outlets or fluorescent lamps, and we slept on mats on the floor, in pitch darkness and with the sound of frogs and crickets outside our lullaby. I hated those nights; I longed for my light and my television. However, during my recent quiet nights, my memory only associated my sleepovers with a feeling of calm. And now that the year is ending, as always, reflection.
Board and Paddle (500px)
My grandmother's tools: a chopping board and a paddle (for washing clothes).
Kangkong Pond
Overgrowth of kangkong (water spinach) at my grandparents' pond
Though there were many joys and triumphs this year, it had its share of tragedy as well. But after the dust settles, I can't deny that life has been very kind to me. I'm so looking forward to the opportunity to start giving back to the world again as a working physician.
Jackfruit tree (500px)
Jackfruit tree
Bamboo seat
Seat from my grandparents' siesta hut, made of bamboo (and nails).
Passion flower
My favorite non-food photo I took this year, of a Passion flower I just happened to find near the water pump. Probably the first time the beauty of the shot matched the beauty of what I saw with my eyes.
This year I also got to meet a lot of new blogging friends, and a lot of new places to enjoy on the web. Thanks so much for your support-- I thoroughly enjoy your company and your food, even if I can only taste it through the monitor! Even though by mid next-year I'll be posting a lot less due to work (crossing fingers!), I hope you'll still continue visiting. I'll make it a point to still visit you guys each time I get a chance. But that won't be for a while, so let's enjoy ourselves for now :)
Chicken Pandan (more)
Gai Hor Bai Toey
This is one of the first Thai dishes I ever tasted, and it still is one of my favorites. Quite kid-friendly too, and though I am not a fan of cilantro and the aroma is quite strong as it marinates, the end-result is very pleasantly flavored and not offensive at all. There are plenty of recipes out there (here's Syrie's quick and delicious version, which was the one I adapted): this is a hybrid of all the versions I saw, though a little simpler on the ingredient-aspect (no coconut milk). I encourage you to add whatever you feel may be good-- I particularly liked Thip's addition of red chili powder-- wish I had thought of it.

  • 500g (1 lb) chicken thigh fillets (I used skin-on, just a preference)

  • about ten stems of cilantro (coriander), roughly chopped

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil

  • vegetable oil for frying

  • 20 fresh pandan (fragrant screwpine) leaves, cleaned

Cut each fillet into 2 or 3 pieces, each about 2-3 inches. Mash together the cilantro, garlic, white pepper, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt (alternatively you could blend/process it all with the oyster sauce and sesame oil). Add the oyster sauce and sesame oil if you haven't already. Coat the thighs in the marinade, cover, and leave in the fridge overnight. The following day, wipe the marinade off each chicken piece with your hands (just to make sure there aren't any big pieces of cilantro or garlic sticking to it) and wrap each with a long pandan leaf (sorry I can't diagram these; as you can see I didn't do a good job of it-- a skewer helps to keep it in place). Place in a steamer for 5-7 minutes, then fry until golden brown all over, about 3 minutes each side. Serve with sweet chili sauce on the side.

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