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khao man kai - chicken and rice

Firstly, I am taking the liberty of posting this to the fast food news
spool as well as my usual groups, because the subject is a common "fast
food" in Thailand.

Anybody who has spent any length of time in Thailand -- indeed who has
progressed beyond the International airport transfer lounge, will be
aware that Thailand is awash with streetside vendors who serve
everything from snacks and desserts to wholesome, nutritious meals.

These basically fall into three groups: 

1) khao gaeng (literally curry and rice) stalls, sell a wide variety of
"single plate" meals

2) kuaitiao (pronounced "gw-eye-tea-ow", and meaning "noodles") sell a
variety of noodle soups and stir fried noodle dishes

3) khao man kai and mu daeng stalls, which sell chicken and rice and
"red pork" and rice (some stalls specialise in only one of these meals).

To watch a khao man kai chef at work is often to be dazzled by the
virtuoso performance -- and nothing goes to waste. The chef takes a
steamed chicken and quickly cuts of the head and neck, then trims off
the wings, which are set aside to be deep fried (wings in a tempura
style batter sell for 1 baht each or perhaps 2 for 3 baht - 4 to six
cents American each - throughout Thailand), and the legs are chopped off
and set aside (Thais in general don't relish dark meat, but you can
request a drumstick if you want - otherwise they'll also be deep fried
and sold for 5 baht each - 20 cents). The chicken is quickly slit down
the breast bone and the two breasts are removed, and the carcase and
neck tossed in the stock pan. The breast is placed on a cutting board,
smacked with the flat of the cleaver blade and quickly sliced into bite
sized pieces, served on a bed of rice that has been steamed in chicken
broth, and delivered to the customer with a cupfull of chicken and
pumpkin soup, and a couple of little bags containing bean source and
fresh ginger. 

A local stall sells this meal for 15 baht a plate (60 cents), and 20
baht (80 cents) for a "jumbo" portion. Once a week, when we are feeling
lazy, my wife and I buy two jumbo portions and two deep fried chicken
breasts, for a total of 60 baht ($2.40).

Before you dismiss the prices on the basis that Thailand has a much
lower average wage than the US, bear in mind the Kentucky Fried Chicken
opened an outlet in town recently, and the KFC prices are within one or
two baht of the prices KFC charge in America...

So the process is continuous: bones are boiled to make stock, the stock
is used to cook the chickens and rice, and to make soup, and the bones
from the chickens are used to make more stock, and so the cycle
continues.

Since I am sure most of my readers are not contemplating continuous
production, you have two options: you can make it with water the first
time and then store stock in the fridge for future use, or you can buy
some bones and make some stock. Please do not use commercial stock or
stock cubes, as it almost all has rather a lot of salt, and often MSG,
in it, and the cooking of the rice will certainly concentrate this to
the point that it will be unpleasant to eat.

Finally in this preamble, let me say that the commercial sellers nearly
all sell simple yellow bean sauce, bought commerically, and Thai
purchasers may either eat it like that, or trick it up themselves at
home. I include the instructions for preparing a more traditional (and
tastier) sauce, below.

This recipe serves 2 hungry people or four people with more modest
appetites.

--

The first step is, about a week before you want to eat the khao man kai,
finely slice some prik chi fa (red jalapenos) and discard the seeds,
then mix them with about twice their volume of rice vinegar, and leave
to marinade (you need at least a tablespoon of chillis).

When you are ready to cook, you need about 8 cups of unsalted chicken
stock, made by boiling chicken bones in water for about 15 minutes. If
you don't have stock, use water.

Place the chicken in a large casserole, and cover with the stock. Add a
few slices of phak thong (winter squash), to the pot, and simmer or
poach over a low heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender.

Remove and drain the chicken, then when it is cool enough to handle, cut
off the wings and legs and reserve them for other dishes, remove the two
chicken breasts, and smack them with a cleaver to dislodge the skin,
which may be discarded if you are watching you weight. Cut the breasts
into strips about half an inch wide, and cut the strips into bite sized
pieces.

Place one and a half cups of washed long grain rice in a saucepan, and
add two and half cups of the chicken broth from cooking the chicken.
Cook over moderate heat until the liquor is absorbed, and the rice is
cooked (the finished rice should be slightly moist).

Serve the chicken on a bed of the chicken steamed rice, garnished with
coriander leaves, and accompanied by a good supply of sliced cucumber,
with a cup of the chicken broth, and few pieces of squash as an
accompanying soup, garnished with coriander leaves.

This meal is accompanied by the following two sauces:--

--

Bean sauce

You will need

4 tablespoons of fermented yellow bean sauce
4 tablespoons of the chicken broth from cooking your chicken
1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon of pickled jalapenos (prepared earlier)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon of palm sugar

This is mixed and tasted, if required you can add extra sugar, and some
of the vinegar used to pickle the jalapenos, for balance.

The second "sauce" consists of half a cup of freshly ground ginger.

Special thanks to - Muoi Khuntilanont.