Vietnamese Caramelised Chicken

Vietnamese Caramelised Chicken

Sometimes I have good ideas. Sometimes I get inspiration from other people. Sometimes my good ideas lead me to find inspiration, and it’s all one happy little coincidence. So after geeking around the web recently I came across a nifty little thing called Meebo. Meebo is a site that lets you embed your own little message window into the browser, so visitors can talk to you while they’re visiting your site. Which i thought was a relatively novel idea, although I figured it would be a waste of time.

Imagine my surprise then, when not long after setting it up, long time reader, first time instant live chatter Brad decided to mosey on by the site and give me an awesome recipe for the now obviously titled “Vietnamese Caramelised Chicken”.

According to Brad it was made by his brother recently, but he was going to do one better by remaking it with some additions. After taking a quick look at the recipe, I figured it could just about fit the often eclectic mix of ingredients I had in my fridge at the time, and so I printed it out and headed home to make it that very night.

The recipe from Brad, in it’s elegant simplicity is shown below. With the stuff in brackets being my own modifications.


  • 1 TBSP RICE BRAN OIL (I used peanut oil)
  • 4 SKINLESS, BONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS (I used two chicken breasts)
  • 6 BROWN SHALLOTS, THINLY SLICED (I used one big onion)
  • 1 TSP DRIED CHILLI FLAKES (I used a bunch of chilli powder)
  • 6 TBSP SOY SAUCE (I basically splashed a whole bunch of soy sauce into the pan)
  • 1/2 zucchini, sliced
  • handful of coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and brown the chicken in 2 batches, Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the garlic, shallots and chilli to the pan and cook over a gentle heat until soft and golden brown. Return the chicken to the pan and add the soy sauce and brown sugar. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, remove the lid, turn up the heat and cook, stirring until the chicken is coated and the sauce has reduced to a sticky syrup.

Serve on steamed rice with a squeeze of lemon or lime over the top.

For a very simple video of the process I went through to make it, check this out

So the result was great. Succulent chicken and a thick slightly sweet sauce that came together as the brown sugar was absorbed into the soy sauce. The coriander gave it a fragrant lift, along with a splash of apple cider (the new Pipsqueak brand from Little Creatures) that just felt right at the time.

Here’s to serendipity bringing great ideas your way soon. And if you haven’t checked out the actual website in a while, stop by soon and say hello, I promise to try not to freak you out :)

A (Curry) Night to Remember

Curry !

I had the idea recently of organising a little curry night. I’ve been getting into all sorts of curry over the past couple of years, spurred on by Sharon introducing me to some excellent Malaysian curry. I’d never really understood the curry before then. I just figured it was a hot spicey kind of soup that other people ate, and that I didn’t like. I’m not sure why I had that idea, but I think it’s an important one to get rid of if you ever want to experience all the world of food has to offer.

Since then I haven’t looked back, having tried out a whole range of Malaysian, Thai, Southern Indian, North Indian, and Vietnamese curries, a good number of Moroccan tajines (which are almost kinda like curry), and doing my best to avoid Japanese curry, which still defies all logic.

So just last Saturday night a few of our closest curry making friends dropped by to share the love, and the food in their own special way. Sharon and I spent the better part of the day procuring supplies from Kongs (the local Asian supermarket), and preparing the base for her curry. I’m always amazed walking around in those places… it’s like, just when you think you have a pretty decent grasp on a type of food, you step one foot into a store, look around, realise you don’t know what even half of the stuff is for, and suddenly feel very small again.

A recent discovery along those lines for me personally was Asafoetida… which i’m sure is pretty common to my sub continental readers, but was a complete mystery to me. Turns out it’s a kind of spice made from the resin extracted out of the stems and roots of the Ferula plant, and is used particularly by Indians who are practitioners of Jainism, as a replacement for certain foods (onions, ginger, garlic) that they aren’t allowed to eat.

That has nothing to do with this post of course, other than to state formally that I still know bugger all about a great many things… and any education my learned readers are able to give is always appreciated.

So on to the curries.

Dan and Mabel brought a lovely lamb curry, I would say vindaloo, but I might be wrong, so i’ll stay general for now.
Dave and Mel also brought a lamb curry, this was a southern Indian style dish with no coconut milk and a predominant clove, cinnamon flavour to it.
Jen and Ben brought a Bicol Express (!). My first experience with Filipino curry and apparently one of the few of such dishes that exist in the Phillipines, It’s basically pork, chicken, beans, chilli, tumeric, and… ummm, stuff. Very tasty indeed and sadly too hot for the creator to manage, but well done Jen for taking one for the team.

Sharon made a Malaysian chicken curry. This one had a lot of ginger, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, garlic, onion, tumeric… all blended into a wonderful paste that got smeared all over the chicken (one the bone) while they cooked away for a good few hours til nice and fall apart-ified.
I was stuck for options, not having a home land from which to draw curry making experience from I either had to choose from my list of previous conquests that turned out ok, or tread the lonely road of experimental curry making.

Lamb curry Duck Curry

Plucking up all my courage, I turned the pages of Mel’s curry book she had kindly lent me, and settled on one that looked sufficiently different yet still tasty… Duck curry. A slightly odd choice perhaps, and not the most well known of all curries, but it was in the book dammit, and apparently is quite popular in the Kerala region of India where water fowl are more prevalent, and clearly not fast enough to not get eaten.

So I started with Duck breast… three of em, skinned and cubed. Fried a little fenugreek and fennel seeds in some oil and then added a whole onion, two green chillis, and a good dose of shredded ginger. When that was nice and soft I added some more chilli powder and a dash of turmeric. To that lovely concoction went the duck breast, to get coated and loved with all the spices and flavours. The rest was simple, throw in a few baby potatoes, a handful of curry leaves and a spash or three of coconut cream, and Babu’s your uncle. It turned out pretty darn good even if I do say so myself, and I do… Of course I am the worlds most biased food critic, and can quite easily overlook the slighty dry and somewhat gamey texture of the duck, which perhaps would have been nicer had I used it on the bone and cooked it for a couple more hours. Still, it was a triumph for experimental curriests the world over, and a great first effort.

Mel's mango cocunut puddings

We finished off with these lovely little mango and coconut puddings that Mel lovingly coaxed out their shells and served with a good dollop of ice cream.

All in all a great night, and like all things curry, the best was yet to come. Two days later and I’m still going strong with the left overs, and as much as a fan of Johnny Cash I am, there hasn’t been one ring of fire to speak of. Thanks to everyone for putting in the effort and all I can say is the next one will have some huge expectations… Anyone know where I can buy Iguana ?

Moroccan Chicken Pie with 3 Bean Salad

Moroccan Chicken Pie and 3 bean salad (with a Moroccan funk to it)

So I should admit from the outset that I am to Moroccan cuisine what “Hey Hey it’s Saturday” was to quality television. But just like Darryl and Ozzie and that crazy crew of pranksters with their wacky hijinx… I just refuse to quit. So this post is my homage to not being particularly good, but giving it a bloody good go anyway.

If you’re thinking that this should possibly be called bstilla, or bisteeya, or b’steeyilla, or cheryl… then you are right (unless you said cheryl). Bstilla is indeed the dish I had in mind when I started making this, but then i got half way through and towards the end I realised I had no almonds, no icing sugar, no ground ginger, and little desire to intricately layer 500 sheets of filo pastry on top of each other to make it properly… hence I give you… Moroccan Chicken Pie !

The dish was based loosely on a combination of versions made by Jules of Stone Soup and Melissa of Travellers Lunchbox. Both excellent sites and great recipes. Sadly, I had neither the time nor the patience to follow the directions set out by either of these ladies, and so the resultant dish is suitably less refined.

Moroccan Chicken Pie

  • Chicken (the ladies used thighs, I used 2 large breasts… no really)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon crushed
  • Tablespoon or two of fresh ginger, minced
  • 150g butter
  • 300 ml chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayene pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • handful of chopped coriander
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry

Moroccan Chicken Pie

How i fooled the Moroccans
Basically I cooked the onion and garlic together in the butter, until they were soft and breaking down. Then added the ginger and other spices. At this stage it could be the basis for an interesting Moroccan Risotto… but i’ll save that for another day. I added the chicken breasts whole, and when they were mostly browned all over, poured in the chicken stock and stirred it all around.

Once the chicken was completely cooked, I took it out of the mixture and let it cool, then shredded it into little bite sized chunks, before turning up the heat on the stock mixture and letting it reduce right down.

When the stock had reduced to about a third of its original volume, I added the eggs, which had been beaten together with the coriander and the lemon juice. This creates a kind of thick spicey egg slurry, that could quite easily turn into scrambled eggs if you wanted it to… but I keep stirring it over a low heat until it had just come together and then took it off the heat.

Now in a pie dish, butter up some sheets of pastry and lay one in the bottom of the dish. Add the shredded chicken first, and then spoon over the cooled egg mixture. Now add the other sheet on top, fold it all in nicely so it’s looking like a pie, and pop it in the oven on 180C for about 25 minutes or so.

If you were really making a bstilla, you would have used flat filo pastry instead of puff pastry, and layered many levels on the bottom along with blanched almonds and ground ginger… and then folded the pastry over the top of the mixture, and then decorated the top with more almonds and icing sugar… Of course we weren’t doing that, so the jury will disregard everything I just said…

Now onto the bean salad.

Three Bean Salad

  • 1 cup kidney beans
  • 1 cup haricot beans
  • 1 cup broad beans
  • Lots of olive oil
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • handful or two of spinach
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons crushed cumin
  • salt and cracked pepper

A salad mostly consisting of 3 kinds of beans

How I overcame bean adversity

I have to admit that beans and me do not sit well together. I think it all stems from the fact that when I was growing up, my sisters were always given baked beans on toast, and my brothers and I were given spaghetti on toast. I think I honestly believed for a long time that girls were supposed to eat beans and boys were supposed to eat spaghetti… But gender alignment issues aside, I thought it was time to give them a go, and not from a can for once.

So having procured a few different varieties of dried beans, I had to find out how to prepare them. There were 3 options as I saw it.

      1) Soak the beans overnight in cold water in the fridge
      2) Boil the beans in hot water for 10 minutes and then leave to sit in hot water for a few hours
      3) Boil the beans in hot water for as long as they bloody well take to soften up, regardless of how much they split in the process

Clearly I chose option 3. Into a pot of salted water with enough to cover the beans by an inch or two, and then onto the low heat
for what was probably an hour or so in the end. I forget exactly but I was testing each type of bean every 10 minutes or so for softness, and eventually I got to the point where I really didn’t care if they were soft enough anymore. Which fortunately coincided with the exact right time to stop.

The rest was simple. Into a bowl goes the beans, the diced onion and spinach, a healthy glug or three of extra virgin olive oil, a few good pinches of sea salt and a couple of cracks of black pepper. The juice of half a lemon (or a whole one if you’re feeling feisty), and a couple of teaspoons of that quintessentially Moroccan essence, cumin.

Stir it all up and serve.

And there you go… Invite your friends around and impress them to no end with your faux-Moroccan cuisine. If that doesn’t work, just drop the word Ras El Hanout a few times, as long as you’re not pronouncing it Rass Al Hannut, then you’re on your way to instant North African popularity.

My First Tajine


First off, lets clear one thing up. I have no clue whether I should be spelling it Tajine, or Tagine. Popular opinion would seem to favour Tajine with a ‘J’, but the labels on the box from one Mr Emile Henry, proud maker of my fancy new “Tagine” beg to differ.
Personally, I only get involved in linguistic battles when I think I can win, and having very little grasp on any other languages other than English (which is a tenuous one at best), I think i’ll stick to trying to cook one.

So, now that the formalities are out of the way, I have anti climatically bought my first Tajine. Yay ! After a long hard day of being dragged through furniture stores looking for a new lounge suite, I finally had enough and did what any well meaning, red blooded Australian male does to relax… head straight to the nearest kitchen supply store and start fondling crockery. I did my usual trick of picking up all the Le Cruseut stuff to see if it’s still as heavy as the last time I picked it up (it is), then casually scoffed at the lame excuses for non-stick frying pans they have, before wondering if I really needed to buy an industrial sized burner for caramelizing the tops of my creme brulee (I don’t, yet).

Finally, after eliminating all the other possible things I could waste my money on, I came across an object of desire that has passed my gaze many times and managed to get away. A Tajine. And not just any Tajine… but a RED one… which everyone knows is WAY more authentic than any other colour… and also goes faster. This particular model was by the aforementioned Emile Henry, and a finer model I’ve not seen.

It’s made from a high grade glazed ceramic that is both heat resistant as well as resilient to sticking, and hardy enough to be scrubbed with abrasive materials and not lose it’s lustre (a great benefit to lazy cooks the world over).

So… my purchase made, and my walk acquiring a new skip that only the knowledge of future dinner experimentation with new toys can bring… it was off home to get cooking.

Now, I know about as much about Moroccan cuisine as I do about Morocco. Thanks to Wikipedia, I do know the capital isn’t Casablanca (which is a movie I have still yet to watch), that it’s been inhabited by more cultures than one of Jerry Springers cocktail parties, and that Morocco ranks among the world’s largest producers and exporters of cannabis… possibly why the food tastes so good.

So to my first foray into Moroccan cooking, and the Tajine.

Moroccan Chicken

  • chicken breasts (I would have used meat on the bone for a more tender texture, but breasts were all I had)
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 can tomatoes, plus 4 whole tomatos chopped
  • duck/chicken stock (I had duck stuck left over from earlier experiments)
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pack couscous (I’m still yet to fully grasp couscous as a concept)
  • Crushed Spice mix (cumin, clove, cinnamon, saffron, tumeric, fennel, coriander)

How I made mine

Basically put the Tajine over the heat and put a little oil in, fry the onion and garlic together til it’s a little soft and then add the chicken pieces and brown them off a little. Then add in all the other bits and pieces. The chick peas, carrot and potato, the chopped tomatoes and any other vegetables you may want to use. Once all the veges are simmering away, add the can of tomatoes and the stock, enough to almost cover the food, and then mix the spices well through the tajine. When you’re happy with how much liquid you’ve got in, turn the heat right down on the stove, put the lid on, and walk away… thats right… just walk away.

From what I can gather, Tajines gain much of their mythical popularity from the gorgeous flavours and textures you bring out, after slow cooking the food over a long period of time with a bunch of spices. So I left this cooking slowly for around an hour and a half, checking it occasionally to make sure the potatoes and carrots hadn’t completely disintegrated into some kind of unexpected (but totally planned if it tasted ok) Moroccan soup.

While that was going I made up the couscous. Now I have a bad history with couscous. It was a dish my sister used to butcher mercilessly when we lived together. Putting it in the microwave and a bit of water and nuking it to death until it turned into a fluffy cardboard tasting mess. So it was with much fear that I decided to give it another go.

Chicken Tagine

This time I simply put it into a pan on the stove with a bunch of butter, and simmered it slowly over low heat while adding more duck stock. Towards the end, sprinkling a little fresh chopped coriander into it. I won’t say that it was great. But it was at least good enough to use as a liquid absorber for the tajine… So we’ll call Matt vs Couscous round 1 a draw.

So after waiting longer than my meagre patience can normally stand, it was ready to go. Normally tajines are served straight to the table and people use their hands and bread to dip in and share the meal, but opting for the polite refinement of western disconnectedness, I served it into some big plates with the couscous, more fresh coriander, and some toasted turkish bread (I couldn’t find Moroccan bread).

It was a definite success, rich flavours, beautiful textures, and the subtle elements of each spice coming through just nicely. I think I’ve found something to occupy myself with for at least the next month. Mo-rock-on :)

Basil Chicken In Coconut-Curry Sauce

Thai Green Curry Chicken with Basil

Photo courtesy of Mel at Masala Lover who was nice enough to try this recipe out.

Another old old recipe I made a while back. I copied it straight from the original source (which has since dropped off the internets), but from memory i think i bumped up the amount of tumeric and basil, and added a touch more coconut milk. This is really nice served over some steaming jasmine rice… So rich and creamy…

Basil Chicken In Coconut-Curry Sauce


4 skinless, boneless chicken breast h, alves (1 pound)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 large red onion, chopped (1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil or cooking oil
1 can (14-oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp snipped fresh basil
1 tbsp finely chopped gingerroot
1 small red onion, cut into wedges (optiona, l
1 fresh basil leaves (optional)
1 hot cooked rice


Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
Place chicken in a medium bowl. In a small bowl stir together the
salt, coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, chili
powder, and turmeric. Sprinkle over chicken; toss to coat. Cover and
let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator
for 1 to 2 hours.

In a large nonstick skillet cook and stir chopped onion, garlic, and
jalapeno in hot oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Remove,
reserving drippings in skillet. Add about half of the chicken. Cook
and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or till chicken is tender and no pink
remains. Remove chicken from skillet. Cook the remaining chicken, as
above, adding additional oil if necessary. Remove from skillet.

Stir together coconut milk and cornstarch. Carefully add to skillet.
Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Add chicken, cooked onion
mixture, snipped basil, and gingerroot to skillet. Cook and stir
about 2 minutes more to heat through. Serve over rice. Garnish with
red onion wedges and fresh basil if desired.

Cheating Cajun Curry Chicken (if a woodchuck could chuck wood)

Cajun Chicken Curry

I love alliteration. I also love curry. In the past I could probably be described as a curry ignoramous. I had no idea what went into it, how to eat it, and how many different kinds of curry there actually are out there.

The lovely Sharon however, has opened my eyes to the big wide world of curries that exist. She is personally an afficionado of Malaysian and Thai Green Curry, and makes a pretty decent Indian Curry too. She is at the point of having a specially concoted mixtures of herbs, spices, and chilli’s that she crafts in a seriously hot base. So needless to say my natural causcasian aversion to eating spicey foods has taken a back seat of late, and I am growing a new stomach lining to handle a bevvy of new taste sensations… and loving it too :)

So this was my attempt at getting in on the act… Albeit by making a curry I have no real idea about… but that’s never stopped me before…

The meal was actually inspired by a trip we took to Rickies (?) Cafe in Mt Lawley. It’s run by a West Indian guy from London, and they serve really down to earth West Indian/Jamaican style food (and you get free Johnny Cakes !). I ordered a really tasty curry chicken dish, and ever since I’ve thought about making it myself.

I do feel like a bit of a fraud though, because I haven’t gone and investigated how to make the cajun spice mix myself. I just happened to be in Fresh Provisions one day and came across a packet of “Cajun Spice Mix”, containing such exotic ingredients as “Pepper”, and “Mixed Spices”… So i decided to give it a go.


  • Chicken (i like breast (teehee), but apparently meat on the bone is better for curry)
  • Cajun Spices Mix (in lieu of actually making your own)
  • Few Potatos
  • One big onion (or two small onions… or 4 miniature onions)
  • 3 bullet chilli’s (tiny little ones that pack a punch)
  • Capsicum (i used some roasted stuff I needed to use up)
  • Sugar Snap Peas (again not exactly a cajun style ingredient, but had to use them up)
  • Raisans/Sultanas
  • Apple

Deceptively easy really. Cook it as you would any curry, which for me meant coating the chicken in the spice mixture, and rubbing it all with some olive oil (or ghee), then cutting up the chilli and frying it in some oil before adding the chicken to be browned. At the same time boil the potatos in a pot (actually sweet potato would go great in this too). Then adding the onion and getting it nice and soft, before adding the capsicum and anything else you want in there. When the potato is getting soft, add that into the mixture, and just before its done, drop in the sugar snap peas. I like these to be nice and crunchy for a bit of texture contrast.

And thats basically it. I tossed up whether I should use coconut milk or not, but opted out in the end, as I wanted to preserve the heat of the chilli… and the spice mixture I used seemed to have some kind of thickening agent in it already. I probably should have added coconut milk, because the spice mixture also had chilli in it already… So added to the 3 mega hot chillis I added, it was SPICEY ! But so very good.

Give it a try :) And if you have a good recipe for a DIY from scratch cajun/creole spice mixture, please let me know.

Cajun Chicken Curry

Chicken & Cherry Tomato Penne

This was a meal that Sharon made because I in a non-cooking mood. Yes it does happen sometimes, and she’s always there to step in and make something tasty for me. Malaysian style curry is her speciality, but she is a woman of many talents, and this simple pasta dish was just the thing for a quiet night in.

Cherry Tomato & Chicken Penne with Basil


* Chicken breast
* Cherry Tomatoes
* Red Wine
* Tomato Passata (is that a tautology ? I think passata is inherenty made from tomatos…)
* Basil
* Onion
* Penne
* Parmesan to serve

Directions are simple, slice the chicken into elegant strips, fry them in a little olive oil and some cracked pepper. Set aside when they’re almost done.

Then cook the onions, cherry tomatos, and whatever other vegetables you may decide to throw in. Reduce it down to a sauce, then beef it up with some redwine, basil, and the passata. Let it simmer for a while and reduce down further before adding the chicken back in.

Cook the penne until its just al dente and plate it up. Serve the chicken and sauce over the top and sprinkle with a little black pepper and parmesan to finish.

Total cooking time… me: 0 minutes ! Sharon: 10 – 15 minutes… Now who said fast food can’t be good…

Tasty Penne