Recently, I’ve been obsessed with crispy food. My goal is produce food so crispy that I can hear the crunch as I bite into it. So far, I tried prawns and fish; I’ve made super crispy salted egg prawns for Chinese New Year and perfected the necessarily skills for a crispy skin salmon. Next up must be everyone’s favourite fried chicken. The first recipe that pops in my head is Amma’s fried chicken.
Every Christmas, my partner’s grandmother, Amma, would make this fried chicken amongst other delicious Indian food like acar and mutton cutlet. It’s absolutely delicious especially when it’s hot and crunchy. Somehow, she didn’t make it last year and regular guest started asking for it. Yup, it’s that yummy!
One day, while I was chit-chatting with Amma, I got the chance to ask for her fried chicken recipe. It’s difficult to get a written recipe from a seasoned cook; they cook from memory. So I took a spoon and a teaspoon from her kitchen and to get a more accurate measurement of her ‘agak-agak’ (approximation) method.
Amma told me she blends her own spices and pound them with her pestle and mortar, and advised me to do the same for the best flavour. Upon discovering that I didn’t have one, she gave me her an old stone granite mortar and pestle she used when she was a child. I was stoked! Here’s the finished recipe which I’ve tried a few times in a week because it’s so good (and because I absolutely loved playing with my new toy)
- Whole chicken, chopped into small pieces x 1
- Ginger root x 1 inch knob (about 60 g)
- Garlic x 6 cloves
- Chili powder x 1 1/2 tbsp
- Turmeric powder x 1/2 tsp
- Coriander powder (ketumbar) x 2 tsp
- Fennel seed (jintan manis) x 1 tsp
- Cornflour x 1 tbsp
- Salt, to taste x 1/2 tbsp
- Lime, juice x 1 tbsp
- Oil with peanut content x 2 cups
Blender/ pestle & mortar
Wok and tongs
Paper napkins, wire rack and aluminium foil
- Wash chicken and drain in a colander. Pat dry (we want the chicken to be dry when we marinate it)
- Peel ginger and garlic. Blend in a machine or mash using a pestle and mortar.
- Add blended spice powder, cornflour and salt in a small bowl. Mix well.
- Place chicken in a large bowl. Slowly pour mixed spices and blended ginger-garlic over chicken. Mix well.
- Cover with cling wrap and let it marinate in the chiller for a few hours or overnight.
- Take marinated chicken out of the chiller an hour before cooking. This is important to ensure that chicken wouldn’t be undercooked inside.
- In a wok, heat up oil. When oil sizzles, turn the down the heat to medium. Put a few pieces of chicken (of the same size) into wok and fry until brown.
- Place freshly fried chicken in a tray lined with paper towels, then transfer to a wire rack, laced with aluminium foil underneath to ease cleaning.
- Repeat #2 and 3. You will need to fry about 3 – 4 batches.
How to improve crispiness?
Skills is very important. If you are not used to deep-frying, it may take practice. However, here are some things you can do to improve the chances of getting crispy chicken:
- Use oil with peanut content.
- Do not fry too many chicken at once. Allow enough oil to coat every piece of chicken.
- Move chicken as you’re frying.
- Make sure oil is clean. Remove bits from oil with a strainer in between frying.
- Place chicken on paper napkins and then transfer to a wire rack. Do not place freshly fried chicken too close together or covered. If it steams up, the chicken will not crisp because of moisture.
- If you cannot get hold of spice powder, get the seeds and blend your own using a spice mill or a pestle and mortar. Unlike, chilli and turmeric powder, coriander and aniseed powder are not easily available. Hence I pounded with the mortar and pestle.
- Add more salt if you so desire. Suggestion: start with 1/2 tsp. Fry a piece and see if the chicken is tasty enough. I adjust the salt level according to people and its purpose. Is it a finger food or its eaten with rice? Do my guest normally eat in or eat out? For the latter, I’ll add more salt.
Truthfully, I don’t normally fry food at a daily basis. I believe cooking should be simple and fast; this recipe is not and frying takes time. However, I also believe in indulging once in a while and cooking food that other people enjoy. If you don’t like frying, you can oven-roast the chicken. I’ve tried and regret to inform that it is incomparable to fried chicken made the traditional way.