Turmeric-Coconut Chicken and Rice

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

This is not your typical chicken and rice dish, but it may be my new favorite. The chicken is cooked two ways: first braised on the bone in rich coconut milk, steeped in turmeric and chile; then broiled (or grilled!) until crispy. Meanwhile, the rice is cooked in the coconut milk, with some greens thrown in for good measure. Lastly, the whole thing is crowned with fried shallots, scallions, and chiles, along with a dribble of sriracha and lime juice.

The flavor is deep and rich, more complex than the simple spicing would suggest. The secret, if there is one, is to use the best turmeric you can find. Whole fingers, freshly grated, are best. If you must use pre-ground, try to get some that was ground recently. Good coconut milk helps, too. My absolute favorite is fresh, uncanned coconut milk sold frozen in blocks. It's extremely rich and very coconutty. Canned coconut milk is also fine; imported Southeast Asian brands tend, in my experience, to be better than their Western counterparts.

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Turmeric-Coconut Chicken and Rice

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 4 to 6 people
Active time:1 hour
Total time:1 1/2 hours
This recipe appears in: Spice Hunting: Turmeric

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 3-inch piece ginger, sliced
  • 1 jalepeño chile, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground tumeric, dry or fresh
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (preferably raw sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce; can substitute dark soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon half-sharp paprika
  • 2 pounds chicken, bone-in, skin-on, preferably dark meat
  • Salt
  • 4 heads baby bok choy, or 4 cups of another quick-cooking green
  • For topping
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced thin
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 jalepeño chile, sliced thin
  • For garnish
  • 1 large cucumber, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Sriracha or chile-garlic sauce
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice

Procedures

  1. 1

    Rinse rice in a fine-mesh strainer until water runs clear. Set aside in a bowl and cover with several inches of water.

  2. 2

    In a large heavy pot, combine coconut milk, ginger, jalepeño, turmeric, sugar, kecap manis, and paprika. Bring to a bare simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Salt chicken generously, then add to pot and cook at a bare simmer, covered, for half an hour, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Strain broth to remove chunks of ginger and chile, then let rest until fat floats to top and can be skimmed off.

  3. 3

    Strain rice from water and rinse again until water runs clear. Return coconut broth to pot, add rice, and cover with water so liquid is 1/2 inch above rice. Cook rice on medium-low heat, adding water if needed (better to err on too much water than too little). When rice is finished, fold in bok choy and cover pot to keep warm.

  4. 4

    When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove from bone and tear into large chunks. Discard skin. Place chicken in a single layer, well-spaced out, in an oven-safe skillet or sheet pan, and broil until top is crispy. Keep an eye on chicken to make sure it does not burn.

  5. 5

    In a separate skillet, heat oil on high and add shallots, scallions, and jalepeño. Fry for two to three minutes, until wilted, slightly crispy, and aromatic. Set aside.

  6. 6

    To serve, add rice to a plate or a wide, shallow bowl. Top with chicken, then shallot-scallion topping. Add some slices of cucumber, then sprinkle on sriracha and lime juice, finishing with cilantro.

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