Reading through this recipe for Zak Pelaccio's Curry Leaf Fried Chicken from Eat with Your Hands, you might not believe that the finished product is really just good old fried chicken. After all, how many recipes call for brining your bird in cincalok, a Malaysian fermented shrimp sauce, and sprinkling it with curry leaves once it's out of the oil?
But after frying up a batch, we're on board with Pelaccio. All of the crispy skin and juicy meat that we love in a great fried chicken recipe is here, along with a few intriguing background notes from the brine as well as the unique herbal qualities that only come with fresh curry leaves. Exotic and familiar at the same time, and yes, good old fried chicken.
Recommended playlist and drinks pairing:
Listen: Burning Spear, Live, from '77--I'm not so into Malaysian music, and reggae is island music, too!
Drink: Cold island beer like Red Stripe or cold star fruit juice.
What Worked: Brining the chicken in the cincalok boosts savoriness beautifully and the fried curry leaves that finish this chicken push it over the top.
What Didn't: We're usually pretty happy with any fried chicken, and this one was wasn't just any fried chicken recipe. It's a great one. No changes here.
Suggested Tweaks: If you can't find cincalok, try a fish sauce brine.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Total time:1 day
- For brining the chicken:
- One 8-ounce bottle cincalok, a Malaysian fermented shrimp condiment
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
- Chili Vinegar
- 2 cups chopped long green chilies, such as Anaheim or Hungarian Wax
- 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- For the chicken:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- Coarse sea salt
- 4 sprigs fresh curry leaves
The day before, brine the chicken: In a large saucepan, combine the cincalok, garlic, peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaf, and 2 cups water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 10 minutes. remove the pot from the heat and let the solution cool completely. Pour the cooled mixture into a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces, tossing well, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The day before, make the chili vinegar: Puree the chilies, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon sea salt together in a blender. Transfer the liquid to a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least 24 hours to let the flavors meld. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding any solids.
That day, fry the chicken: Remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry. Whisk together the flour, kosher salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge the pieces of chicken in the flour and put them on a cooling rack set over a baking pan. Let sit them for 5 minutes and then repeat the dredging process to make sure you get a perfect coating of flour.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan to 350°F over high heat (measured on a deep-frying thermometer). once the temperature is reached, reduce the heat to medium-high to maintain it.
Working in batches, add the chicken to the oil and fry until the chicken is golden, crispy, and cooked through, about 12 minutes for white meat and 15 to 17 minutes for dark. Remove the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack. Season generously with coarse sea salt.
When the chicken has finished cooking, fry the curry leaves in the cooking oil until crispy, about 10 seconds, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Place the chicken on a large plate and crumble some of the fried curry leaves over it. Pile a few more whole fried curry leaves on the side as a garnish and serve with a little bowl of the chili vinegar.