There's one word for this project: delicious! One of my best friends used to be a cook in the Navy and he taught me how to make this wonderful meal. My family and I eat a mainly vegetarian diet, so this was an extra special treat for supper this evening. This is a beautifully complex dish, and you can make many variations on it. I'll show you step by step what I did this time.
The main principles behind creating this dish or others like it are the layering of flavours, making the correct cuts and controlling the temperature.
I apologize for the quality of the pictures; I am a much better cook than photographer.
Step 1: Ingredients
4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 sweet onion
3 small/medium carrots
2 stalks of celery
1+ hot chili peppers
You can use whatever fresh vegetables you have or like
You can try using chicken, shrimps, pork, tofu, etc.
I added some ground flaxseed meal for nutritional value
Step 2: Equipment
I prefer to use my carbon steel wok because it allows me to use high temperatures. If you don't have a wok, you can use a large fry pan or sauce pan. Woks are usually available very cheaply. I bought this one at Stokes for $12.
Wooden Cutting Board for the veggies
Plastic Cutting Board for the chicken
Steel for sharpening the knives
I use the plastic cutting board for the chicken to keep the bacteria out of my wooden board.
Keeping your knives very sharp will make your kitchen chores easier. It also makes a cool noise.
Step 3: Getting Prepared
1. Cut a thick slice of onion and mince with several cloves of garlic and your hot peppers. I used cubes and paste for my ginger, basil and cilantro. If you use fresh for those as well then you can mince them at the same time.
2. Cut your vegetables. I cut my vegetables to bite sized pieces and to varying sizes based on how fast they will cook, so that I can add them all at once. My red pepper slices are a little bigger than the green peppers, for example. One trick to get the most flavour from your carrots and celery is to cut them on a diagonal. This works by increasing the surface area to volume ratio.
3. Cut the chicken. Your goal here again is to make all your pieces the same size, so that they will cook at the same rate. Start by turning it over and cutting off the tender. Next you have to look at the grains, and make slices that are similar in size to the tender, and then cut the slices into bite sized pieces. Alternately, just use the strips if you would like bigger pieces.
Step 4: Let the Cooking Begin
1. Put your starch on. You need to plan this part. Brown rice will take a long time to cook, and you should start it before you do your other prep work. Vermicelli noodles though would only take a minute, but you'd need to water to be hot while you do the other cooking.
2. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the wok, along with the minced spices and a tablespoon or two of curry paste. Use medium heat until the onion and garlic are cooked. This is the first layer of flavour.
3. Increase the temperature to the maximum your cookware will take. For stainless or carbon steel, use maximum, or if you're using some kind of non-stick, do not exceed medium-high temperature.
4. Now that your oil and spices are nice and hot, add the chicken and mind not to splash the oil out all over the place. It will not be enjoyable, if you get any of it on your skin. Stir immediately to coat the chicken with the spices and hot oil. The chicken is the second layer of flavour. You cannot walk away from this because of the temperatures being used. Continue to stir just often enough to keep from burning everything to the bottom of the wok.
5. When the chicken is about half way cooked add about a tablespoon each of oyster sauce and fish oil. When you smell this, you will not be pleased. Fish oil has a very distinctive odour, but this smell will cook out in a matter of moments. You may opt not to use these two ingredients if you wish.
6. You can examine if the chicken is cooked visually. Look for the appearance of strings across the surface of each piece. If it looks like tightly bunched strings, rather than a piece of rubber, you are there. As soon as the chicken is cooked add the vegetables. The vegetables at this point are, of course, cold. This sucks up the extra heat that would be drying up your chicken if you let it get the chance. Careful control of temperature here is what will result in some of the juiciest and most tender chicken you've ever had. Here's our next layer of flavour.
7. Continue to stir just enough to keep things from burning to the bottom. How long you cook the vegetables is up to you. I like mine nice and crisp, and I think that works best for this kind of dish anyway, so I don't cook them very much. Just a little to warm them up and bring out their colours.
8. Our final layer of flavour. Again we will do this just as soon as the vegetables are as cooked as you want them. Add a full can of coconut milk and a teaspoon or two of honey to taste. This is also where you can add things like the ground flaxseed meal that I used.
9. Make sure you taste it now, as it's your last chance to adjust the flavour. Effective adjustments at this time could be the addition of water, salt, coriander, more honey, etc.
10. One option at this point (which I did not exercise at this time) would be to thicken the sauce with some corn starch.
11. Remove from heat and plate immediately.
Step 5: Plate
Presentation can be important, so choose plates that the food will look good on.
I simply made a bed of brown rice and ladled the curry over it. If you were using noodles, you could do the same, or you could even mix them in at the end of cooking.
You could fancy things up a bit by garnishing with fresh cilantro or basil.
Step 6: Enjoy Your Meal
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you get a chance to make this and enjoy it as much as we do.
Participated in the
Hungry Scientist Contest