Chicken in Coconut Milk
Opor Ayam is a dish from central Java and a perfect introduction to Indonesian cuisine for those who cannot handle spicy food. It has no chilies and no pepper, and it's as mild as it could be. It's also very easy to make, though it does require getting some of the usual Indonesian ingredients that can be hard to find in America: galangal root, kaffir lime leaves, Indonesian bay leaves and candle nuts. Candle nuts are easily substituted with macadamia nuts, but none of the other ingredients have easy substitutions. Fortunately, I can get galangal at Asian markets and the Berkeley Bowl and I've bought kaffir lime leaves from local people who have trees. I've had no luck with Indonesian bay leaves, also called salam leaves, so I've used curry leaves instead.
I didn't think this dish was particularly extraordinary, but my husband and daughter liked it and it constitutes perfectly acceptable weeknight fare. The recipe below serves 4 with leftovers.
For the Spice Mix
- 5-6 oz shallots, peeled and quartered
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 7 candlenuts or 14 macadamia nuts
- 1 1/2" galangal root, peeled
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
For the final dish
- 3 Tbsp cooking oil
- 4 lbs chicken pieces
- 1 lemongrass, cut into 3 sections and bruised
- 3 Indonesian bay leaves
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 can coconut milk
Using a blender, grind all ingredients for the spice mix together into a paste.
Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the chicken, brown the chicken pieces on both sides. Remove from pot and set aside. Turn heat down to medium.
Add the spice mix and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the lemon grass, bay leaves and kaffir lime leaves and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
Return chicken to the pot. Add coconut milk bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through. Taste and add salt and/or sugar as needed.
Adapted from a recipe at Daily Cooking Quest
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