Fried chicken with chile jam: A Laotian-American showstopper
My family is from Laos, and when my mother made fried chicken when we were growing up in Oakland, “the aromas alone were addicting,” said James Syhabout in Hawker Fare (Ecco). At Hawker Fare, my Lao Isan eatery in San Francisco, our signature fried chicken is made the same way—with a wet batter, not seasoned flour, because “it’s all about marinating the meat.”
Well, that and tossing the crispy chicken in a chile jam. To make the jam, you need tamarind water, which can be found at Asian markets. But the jam is worth the trouble; “I swear you’ll end up using it on everything.”
Recipe of the week
Fried chicken with charred chile jam (Gai tod naam prik pao)
½ tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp chopped cilantro roots or stems
1 tbsp peeled garlic cloves
¼ cup oyster sauce
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, skin on, cut into quarters
1 gallon canola oil, for frying
1 cup jasmine rice flour
1 cup soda water
¼ cup charred chili jam (recipe below)
In a stone mortar, pound pepper, cilantro, and garlic to a paste. Transfer to a large bowl; add oyster and fish sauces; mix well. Add chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in refrigerator for 2 to 12 hours.
In a deep fryer, preheat oil to 350. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Pour rice flour into a medium bowl, add soda water, and whisk to form a smooth, loose batter. Drain marinated chicken and place directly in batter. Fry, a few pieces at a time, until golden brown and fully cooked (check by cutting into a piece), 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Drain on lined baking sheet, then transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Toss with charred chile jam and heap on a platter. Serves 6 to 8.
For 2½ cups charred chile jam:
¼ cup dried shrimp • ½ cup canola oil • 1 cup dried puya chiles • 1 cup whole peeled shallots • ½ cup peeled garlic cloves • ¾ cup granulated sugar • ½ cup fish sauce • ½ cup tamarind water
In sauté pan over medium heat, toss dried shrimp until fragrant. Set aside. Line a plate with paper towels. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Fry chiles, one by one, until each turns dark red, about 12 seconds, and transfer to lined plate to drain and cool. In the same oil, brown shallots, one by one. Repeat with garlic cloves, and finally the dried shrimp. Let everything cool on plate to room temperature. Strain frying oil, measure, and add more oil to get ½ cup. In a mortar, pound chiles and shrimp to a fine texture. Add garlic and shallots, pounding again to produce a smooth, wet paste. Scrape paste into a bowl. Stir in final three ingredients, mixing well. Add reserved ½ cup of oil; mix again. Use right away, or store tightly covered in refrigerator for up to four weeks.