Familiar Flavour

As a child, my brother and I frequented our granny’s place when both our parents headed off to their 9-to-5. Lunch & dinner were usually prepared lovingly by her and she never failed to note our favourites, cook them and watch us both lap up our plates with glee.

Apart from the simple but satisfying combination of rice-butter-sunny-side up-&-dark-soy-sauce (Still my ultimate fave!), I fondly remember her preparing Ayam Korma’ at least twice a week, because it was a familiar flavour that topped my favourites list. I was already a foodie back when I was 7 lol!

Now, each time I prepare this dish, my mind forms a vivid recollection of her feeding me amid my rambling about events in school. Oh alright, sentimental memories and granny stories aside; here are the ingredients you’ll need for Ayam Korma’ as prepared by the wise ole lady herself – I have em all at my fingertips cos it’s a household staple!

For Spices mix:

3 tsp Coriander Seeds

1 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds

1 tsp White Peppercorn

1/2 Nutmeg

1 tbsp Korma’ spice powder

4 cloves Garlic (blend)

2 large Red Onions (blend)

2 stalks Lemongrass

1 inch Galangal

2 Kaffir Lime Leaves

1 Whole Chicken

1 cup (or less) Coconut Milk

For Garnish:

Coriander Leaves

Fried Shallots

Toast the 4 spices in a pan over a medium heat, to intensify the aroma. Roll them around so they don’t get burnt.

Here are some quick tips on dried spices:

When you’re cooking with spices like cumin, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and the likes, get the right proportions. Under-adding spices will result in a less aromatic dish, yet over-adding spices will overpower other ingredients and may even cause the dish to be bitter! Yikes!

Toasting spices helps to release their aroma. It is however, important to not burn it. Burning your spices too will result in a bitter dish, so do keep it under close watch.

In a mortar, grind the toasted spices with Korma’ spice powder. Once it’s well-grounded, mix it to the blended garlic cloves and onions. This fragrant mix is the foundation of the Ayam Korma’. Now, give yourself a pat on the back! =)

In a large pot, heat the oil before sautéeing the mixture. Pound the lemongrass stalks and galangal, and toss them into the pot. Remember the tip I mentioned in the Mee Bandung recipe? Ensure that you see the oil seeping through the spices, or “naik bau/terbit minyak” before proceeding to the next step. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, your chicken is ready to dive right in! Rip the lime leaves and add it to the pot while you’re at it.

Here’s a useful rule that I abide by:

Avoid adding water when you add meat to sautéed spices. This will ensure that the meat will retain all the lovely flavours of your spice mix. Meat, especially beef and chicken, will release their juices into the spices as they cook, and forms the gravy. You’ll get tender meat and gravy that’s bursting with flavour and aroma, I promise!

Pour in half a cup of coconut milk, stir, cover the pot and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Intermittently add the rest of your coconut milk later. Give it a few minutes to simmer a little more. Once your poultry is cooked, sprinkle coriander leaves and fried shallots; cover the pot, get it off the fire and let it rest.

Serve with piping hot white rice, or if you can’t live a day without bread, why not? This is a great dish to serve during Aidilfitri too, alongside ketupat or lontong (traditional Malay rice cakes).

I wouldn’t say it’s a quick & easy recipe – let’s just say, you just have to constantly remind yourself that cooking is a labour of love (speaking from experience!). If you have a soft spot for familiar Malay home-cooked flavours, you’d know that Ayam Korma’ is undeniably good.

You’d also know that this recipe is definitely worth a try or two, yes?

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Filed under Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Tips

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