Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ayam Pongteh

So, another Malaysian dish here and another nyonya one at that. Ayam pongteh is nyonya braised chicken with shiitake mushroom and potato and is popularly eaten at most festivals or celebrations in Malaysia (so I've read anyway). 

Although not spicy it is still very full flavoured with the sauce being enriched by lots of shallots, garlic and umami-rich fermented yellow beans. The chicken and potatoes become very tender and tasty from the savoury sweetness of the sauce

I actually cooked this on the eve of Chinese New Year which seemed quite apt really seeing as I'd read that it is traditionally served on festive occasions.

Serving sambal belacan, which is a thickish sauce made by pounding fresh chillies together with toasted shrimp paste and lime juice and sugar, as a condiment with this would give even more of a nyonya feel. In all honesty though I wasn’t in the mood to make some so opted for some sambal oelek on the side instead. This sambal is actually Indonesian in origin but I’m quite addicted to it’s sharp spiciness and thought it would probably work quite well.

I originally got the idea for cooking this from Sunflower’s blog and this recipe is adapted from there.

Ayam Pongteh - Chicken braised with potato and shiitake
Serves 2

250g chicken thigh fillets, cut into large pieces
2 tsp light soy sauce
pinch of ground white pepper
15g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water (for about an hour)
40g shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 medium size potato, peeled and cut into chunks similar size to the chicken (keep in a bowl of water to prevent browning)
25g yellow bean sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
10g palm sugar
1 tbsp groundnut oil

Mix the chicken pieces with the light soy sauce and ground pepper and then leave to marinate for at least a few hours, although overnight in the fridge would be best.

Drain the mushrooms 
(but reserve the soaking water) and then slice them in half and set aside.

Blitz the shallots and garlic in a mini chopper or food processor until you have a smooth paste and mash the yellow beans with a pestle and mortar.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan or casserole over a medium heat and add the shallot and garlic paste. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring frequently until the paste is reduced and colouring.

Add the mashed yellow beans and cook, stirring, for a few more minutes before adding the chicken pieces. Cook for a couple of minutes stirring to thoroughly coat the chicken in the shallot and yellow bean mixture.

Add the dark soy sauce and then stir in the mushrooms before adding the mushroom soaking liquid to just cover the chicken and mushrooms (add more water is there isn’t enough soaking liquid).

Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes, stir everything well to mix and then continue to simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the chicken is very tender (keep an eye on the sauce and top up with a little more water if it is becoming too thick or dry).

Add the palm sugar and continue to cook for a minute before serving over rice with a spoon of your choice of sambal.

PS apologies for the terrible photos, the lighting in my current flat is dreadful and it seems really hard to get the balance right sometimes.

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