Friday, July 13, 2007

Curry and Revelations

I gotta throw this post out to my friend Z, who is hustling out there somewhere Colombia trying to make the world a better place. Check out her blog. She happened to mention how she misses good food, and I would like to concur. There is loads of good food in Guangzhou you say? I agree but there aint no joy in eating alone. Back home in Jakarta we sit for a meal together as a family almost every night, talking story and really savoring the food. I meet up with VJ at least twice a week for lunch when we can and we go all out. Some days we cant even go back to work! Here in GZ eating has become a fucking chore, and I hate that. Something I love so much is now the time of day I least look forward to. Walking home from work at 7pm I start to think about what to have for dinner, then I realize I would have to go to the supermarket, prepare the food for a half hour, cook for another half hour, sit down to my meal alone, then do the bastard dishes. By the time I get all that done it would probably be 10pm. That leaves me an hour to digest my food before going to bed so I can be up again by 8am. Then repeat the process. How fucking depressing is that? I used to be totally comfortable with eating alone at restaurants but for some reason its no fun when the sole purpose is just to fill your stomach and not to enjoy a bottle of wine, the atmosphere, or good music. To top that off everything I have been cooking recently has been coming out shite. Until last Friday. I had enough of the cycle so I went out and picked up a few supplies and decided to whip up a storm. While I was shopping I had no plan of what I was going for, I just went for what looked good. The boneless chicken from the supermarket is GZ cooks really fat and get stringy in minutes so I went for some legs. I started off by chopping up some ginger, garlic, and red chilly peppers. I also scored a packet of coconut milk that I figured would come in handy.

I also diced some onions and fresh mushrooms. I got the last pack at the supermarket. They have loads of other mushrooms there but I have never cooked those kinds and I don’t like to experiment with mushrooms unless they are the magic kind. In most Indian curries the onions would be chopped finely or even blended into a purée but I was in the mood for some texture, not just soup with rice.

I had a bit of time to prepare the food and I was chilling with a drink so I allowed my chicken legs to marinate for a while I just dropped them in a bowl with some of the ginger, garlic, and red peppers. There are some people who like their meat with no skin at all. That's just silly. Skin is very healthy for you, it gives you good skin. And if you eat a goats brain you will get smarter. Swallow the fishes eye and your eyesight will never go bad. You get the idea. So when you are marinating chicken meat with skin on it, you can slip slivers of garlic and peppers under the skin so it marinates against the flesh. This is exceptionally good in BBQ when it's the meat has been absorbing the flavors overnight and when the garlic gets grilled right in there between the meat and the skin.

Being Indian I naturally have a full blown spice rack at home. I don’t know who bought the stuff that’s on it or who keeps it stocked but there is always enough goodies on the spice rack. If I am ever in the mood for Indian food I just reach over, select 3 jars, add to whatever I am cooking and VOILA! Its Indian food. It could be noodles, fried rice, or even scrambled eggs.

So of course I threw some into my chicken marinade. Until this point I was not really sure what I was making. I was contemplating making use of an old bottle of wine and coming up with some sort of white wine and coconut cream concoction with black pepper too. But of course once the spices made it into the mix I was pretty sure I was making some sort of curry. I had also invited Brother Ro to come over and feast with me so I could not go buck wild with experimentation.

I threw the chicken in my pot first with some oil and mustard seeds. I also added some foto for good measure. I don’t know what you call it in English but it has a really strong flavor and sometimes people use it in Indian tea, the milky kind. I like to cook the meat for about 5 minutes first on high heat because it makes the outside a bit crisp and gives the skin a chance to melt a bit. I then took out the 3 legs of chicken and threw in my onions, garlic, and ginger, then the mushrooms, chilly peppers, and one tomato. I also played around with the spice rack a bit before I let the mix sweat for a while and added in the chicken again. As the concoction got dry I began to add some coconut milk, cream, and water slowly cooking the curry on low heat for almost an hour. That's right, I like to let the flavors really work their way into the mix. Oh yeah, I added a few more whole chillys to the mix.

Also I added salt to taste. The last time I cooked for Z I did not use enough salt. I guess I have a sensitive pallet because when I taste food it is almost always too salty. And I also have figured out through trial and error that white folk or westerners LOVE salt. Like loads of it. So I put in enough salt for me, but maybe not enough for the unhealthy people out there. Add salt to taste. Plus I usually squeeze some lemon juice over the final product. Here is the curry...

So I could have stopped there and served up dinner for Ro and myself with curry and some rice. But I was in a mood to cook and having a damn good time with it too. I decided to whip up a batch of chips. I usually make my chips circular, thin, and crispy, but to accompany the curry I went for some long cuts with some really fat and others quite thin to get a nice mixture of textures to go with the curry and rice. This was a right good plan.

Curry, chips, and rice. What a fucking meal. Now my adventures in the kitchen do not always have a happy ending but I must say that this meal was quite fucking good. I guess I had been missing a good home cook meal for so long that I actually managed to hit one out of the park. To complete the session of course, 1 bottle of Jack Daniels. Bon Appetite Z.

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