Fried Chicken with Charred Chile Jam by James Syhabout

 Eric Wolfinger

Eric Wolfinger

FEATURED RECIPE
Episode 3: James Syhabout

Fried Chicken with Charred Chile Jam (Gai Tod Naam Prik Pao)

From James Syhabout's Hawker Fare : "We were resourceful in our household. We’d buy whole chickens because they were cheaper and use the legs and thighs for fried chicken. Moms would bone out the chicken thighs and use the bones for stock, even though she knew that fried chicken on the bone was much better— an economic compromise. The chicken was still delicious. It was something to come home after school to a plate of it— the aromas alone were addicting. Fried chicken was one of my favorite foods EVER. (If Moms didn’t make it I’d have to make a Church’s run, that’s how much I loved fried chicken.) This simple recipe calls for a wet batter (we always had Perrier around for Pops’s whiskey sodas, so that was the sparkling water of choice, by default). Unlike Southern fried chicken, no seasoning of the flour is required—it’s all about marinating the meat. It’s fantastic on its own, but I always find myself raiding the fridge for some sort of spicy condiment, and Crystal hot sauce wasn’t an option. Charred chile jam (naam prik pao) is my go-to hot, along with Shark brand Sriracha straight out of the bottle."

SERVES 6 to 8

MARINADE

  • ½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (10 grams) chopped cilantro roots or stems
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) peeled garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons (36 grams) fish sauce
  • 2 pounds (907 grams) boneless chicken thighs, skin on, cut into quarters

BATTER

  • 1 cup (100 grams) jasmine rice flour
  • 1 cup (237 grams) soda water
  • 1 gallon (3,280 grams) canola oil, for frying

SAUCE

¼ cup Charred Chile Jam (see below)

Directions

  1. In a stone mortar, pound the white pepper, cilantro roots or stems, and garlic to a paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the oyster sauce and fish sauce, and mix well. Add the chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours (but no more than 12).
  2. Preheat a deep fryer to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Make the batter by adding the rice flour to a medium mixing bowl. Add the soda water and whisk to form a smooth, loose batter. Drain the chicken from the marinade and place directly in the batter. Fry the chicken a few pieces at a time for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown and fully cooked (check by cutting into a piece). Make sure not to crowd the fryer, or it might lower the temperature of the oil. Transfer to the paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Add the charred chile jam and toss to coat. Heap on a platter and serve.

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Charred Chile Jam (Naam Prik Pao)

Makes 2½ cups

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup dried shrimp
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup dried puya chiles
  • 1 cup whole peeled shallots
  • ½ cup peeled garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ½ cup tamarind water

Directions:

  1. Toast the dried shrimp in a dry saute pan over medium heat until fragrant but not browned. Set aside.
  2. Line a plate with paper towels. Heat the oil in a wok or saute pan over medium heat. Fry the chiles, one by one, until they turn a dark red hue and are brittle but not burnt, about 12 seconds each. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried chiles to the paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the shallots, frying them one at a time in the same oil until browned, then draining on paper towels. Repeat with the garlic cloves and finally the dried shrimp. Let everything cool to room temperature. Strain the cooled oil and measure it; add additional oil to get ½ cup.
  3. Add the fried chiles and dried shrimp to a large mortar and pound to a fine texture with a pestle. Add the fried garlic and shallots and pound again to produce a smooth, wet paste. Scrape the paste into a mixing bowl; stir in the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind water and mix well. Add the reserved ½ cup oil and mix again. Use right away or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

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Reprinted with permission from HAWKER FARE by James Syhabout.

Brian Stewart