Every week, we’re spotlighting a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Below, Mandy Lee of Lady and Pups breaks down fried chicken prepared in the mamak style, which is a fusion of flavors from India and Malaysia.
There’s a world of fried chicken beyond KFC. Photo: Mandy Lee
Malaysian Mamuk Fried Chicken
This is not mama’s fried chicken, but mamak, a word that’s used to describe the fusion of Indian and Malay flavors. Mamak food stalls can be found everywhere on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, but if you’ve ever been there during Ramadan, food vendors as far as the eye can see line the sidewalks beginning at 6 P.M. And there it was, amid the hustle-and-bustle roadside of Jalan Sultan Ismail, that I found nirvana.
I’ll admit that I didn’t see it coming, the high. Because it was seemingly just another mamak street vendor where you can build your own curry platter. (And, might I add, this was after a marathon of binge-eating that should’ve left my enthusiasm relatively jaded.) But over a bed of annoyingly superb biryani on an alarmingly melty plastic container, there were two pieces of fried chicken with oily but crispy skins, sticky and juicy flesh, plus amazing notes of ginger and Indian spices. I stood, astonished, at how I could ever be surprised by something as widely studied as fried chicken.
Here, I’ve added a few twists of my own, incorporating more Malay flavors such as shrimp paste and lemongrass, and adding a paper-thin crust. This is possibly the most pleasurable prison-break you could pull from whatever physical reality you’re escaping from. Sink in. Lick your fingers.
2 ½ tablespoons (57 grams) Malaysian dried shrimp paste/belacan (if unavailable, replace with 2 tablespoon Thai shrimp paste)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
3-inch piece (70 grams) ginger, cut into chunks
2 large lemongrass stalks, cut into pieces
3 small shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 kaffir lime leaves
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon palm sugar, or dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
8 pieces chicken legs and thighs
For the breading:
1 cup (135 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (115 grams) rice flour
1 cup (120 grams) cornstarch, or potato starch
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground cayenne powder
½ teaspoon salt
Wrap the shrimp paste in foil, and roast in a preheated 400°F/200°C oven for 10 to 15 min. Then add it to a blender along with coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, curry powder, ground cumin, salt, palm sugar (or dark brown sugar), and ground black pepper. Blend until smooth. Marinate chicken legs and thighs in this mixture in the fridge for at least 6 hours to overnight. Bring the chicken up to room-temperature 2 hours before cooking.
Evenly mix all-purpose flour, rice flour, cornstarch, curry powder, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne powder, and salt in a large bowl. Leave a thin coating of the marinade on each piece of chicken, then coat them lightly with the breading. Shake each piece to get rid of excess breading then set aside on a tray.
Add enough oil to a frying-pot until it reaches a depth of 2 inches, then heat to 330°F/165°C over medium-high heat and keep the temperature steady. Fry the chickens without crowding the pot, chicken legs for around 7 to 8 minutes and chicken thighs for around 10 min, until golden browned on all sides. You can keep the fried chicken warm in a 320°F/160°C oven while you fry the rest. Allow to slightly cool, then serve warm.