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Old 11-08-2006, 01:47 PM   #1
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It's time to go Peranakan!

For many of you who are not familiar with Peranakan (also known as Nonya locally), it is an amalgamation of cuisine from the Straits Chinese Settlements that include Singapore, Malacca and Penang. Most of the traditional dishes are spicy and have coconut milk in them and are labour-intensive to prepare.

Due to the many types of spices and the different Asian ingredients used in the dishes, it is rather difficult for someone who lives abroad to try his/her hand at them. With this in mind, I have chosen Curry Chicken as I think the ingredients are easy to find.

NONYA CURRY CHICKEN

Ingredients:
1-1/2 kg (3 lb) chicken
3 potatoes, quartered
2 tsp salt
1 cup thick coconut milk/cream
2 cups water
3 tbsps curry powder for meat
Vegetable oil for frying

Curry Paste:
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger

Method:
Clean and cut the chicken into pieces. Marinate with salt and 1 tbsp of curry powder. Set aside. Grind all the Curry Paste ingredients to a fine paste.

Heat oil in a wok till hot and deep-fry the potatoes. Remove and drain. Fry paste till oil bubbles through and mixture turns light brown. Add in the balance of the curry powder and stir-fry for awhile. Add in seasoned chicken pieces and stir well with the paste mixture. Add potatoes and water, bring it to a boil and simmer for about half an hour or till chicken is tender and potatoes are soft. Pour in the coconut milk, then bring it to a boil. Remove from heat.

Serve hot with bread or plain rice.

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Old 11-08-2006, 05:43 PM   #2
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I have never heard of this cuisine, but I have recently been experimenting with various curries and have grown to love them! I will definitely be doing this one. My geography is terrible, I've noticed many Indian recipes that use coconut milk, are the regions you mentioned near India and therefore suggest a mix of cultural influences?

Thanks for posting!
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Old 11-08-2006, 06:02 PM   #3
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Flourgirl, from your perspective, you may consider the countries as "close." Anyway, close or not Indians have migrated in the region several hundred years ago. Inevitably there have been exchanges and mutual influence on cuisines. They remain a distinct ethnic group and their culture, custom and cuisine are decidedly present in the local scene. However, since coconut milk is a natural staple in all of South-East Asia, I do not think that its use necessarily originated in India.

Curries are plentiful in Indian cuisine as well as in most South-East Asian cuisines. These dishes are similar but there are important differences too deriving from both the particular spice mixes utilised as well as the method of preparation.
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Old 11-08-2006, 08:18 PM   #4
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Thanks for the help, your detailed information is really fascinating! I've always thought of Asian and one style, not realizing the regional variations, I'm interested in learning more, I'll do some research!
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Old 11-08-2006, 10:05 PM   #5
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I claim ignorant when it comes to curries. My husband is a huge fan of indian curries, he is from England where Indian curries are very popular. I have no idea about asian curries.

I know that many curries use coconut milk, and various amounts of spices and heat. According to my husband, I have never tasted a good curry, compared to what is offered in England vs my here in the states, and he is probably correct. All I know is that I hate the taste of curry powder, such that is sold here.

Your recipe sounds great. I love chicken and potatoes, and coconut milk.
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Old 11-10-2006, 03:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amber
I claim ignorant when it comes to curries. My husband is a huge fan of indian curries, he is from England where Indian curries are very popular. I have no idea about asian curries.

I know that many curries use coconut milk, and various amounts of spices and heat. According to my husband, I have never tasted a good curry, compared to what is offered in England vs my here in the states, and he is probably correct. All I know is that I hate the taste of curry powder, such that is sold here.

Your recipe sounds great. I love chicken and potatoes, and coconut milk.
To begin with, there are as many different curry powder as there are people who prepare them. By this, I mean the ones who mix the spices either in powder or in paste form and then package and make available to the individual consumers. Despite this multitude of curry mixes, similiarities do exist which allow for some broad classifications.

Thus, we can classify curries with respect to the cuisine they hail from eg. Indian curries, Thai curries, Peranakan curries, etc. Another broad classification is with respect to the dish for which they are intended. The two main categories from this point of view are meat curries and fish curries. Meat curries are usually used in the case of chicken too. Fish curries can also be used for vegetarian dishes.

Outside the countries where curries are staple food, one may be limited with respect to the variety, taste or other attributes of available curry mixes. I really hope that you can find a shop offering a reasonable variety of curry mixes in your area. Failing that, you may have to resort to some form of ordering from specialty outlets either in the U.S. or abroad.
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Old 11-10-2006, 04:00 PM   #7
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boufa, while we are at it, can I ask you a question? We love all sorts of curries and like to experiment with different versions, but not exactly experts. The other day, we bought a bag of "curry leaves"(dried, whole, not crushed). Are they used like bay leaves (they do look like small bay leaves...), like let them cook in sauce or liquid to enhance the flavour? How much? Are they very strong? Can you give us a tip for the usage of curry leaves?
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Old 11-10-2006, 04:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urmaniac13
boufa, while we are at it, can I ask you a question? We love all sorts of curries and like to experiment with different versions, but not exactly experts. The other day, we bought a bag of "curry leaves"(dried, whole, not crushed). Are they used like bay leaves (they do look like small bay leaves...), like let them cook in sauce or liquid to enhance the flavour? How much? Are they very strong? Can you give us a tip for the usage of curry leaves?
I am lucky enough to have an Indian market about 10 minutes from my home. I stopped in yesterday and saw the same leaves and wondered about them myself, I'll check back on this thread.

I was however able to pick up a variety of spices that I am hoping to combine to make my own curry powder as I do not care for the prepackaged yellow curry powder that they sell at my grocery store.

Excellent thread.
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Old 11-10-2006, 04:29 PM   #9
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There either is or used to be a restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in San Francisco called "Straits" that featured the cuisine of these nations.

Good food!
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Old 11-10-2006, 04:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urmaniac13
boufa, while we are at it, can I ask you a question? We love all sorts of curries and like to experiment with different versions, but not exactly experts. The other day, we bought a bag of "curry leaves"(dried, whole, not crushed). Are they used like bay leaves (they do look like small bay leaves...), like let them cook in sauce or liquid to enhance the flavour? How much? Are they very strong? Can you give us a tip for the usage of curry leaves?
The difference between curry leaves and bay leaves is that curry leaves are used mainly in curries and vegetarian dishes whereas bay leaves are used to flavour stews. A sprig of fresh curry leaves is normally added to curries to add robustness to the taste. The dried ones are usually not as fragrant so I would recommend 2 sprigs at most or 1 tsp flakes.
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Old 11-10-2006, 05:55 PM   #11
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thanks boufa, I will try a few leaves in our next curry!!
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Old 11-29-2006, 04:31 PM   #12
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boufa, I should have reported back earlier, but I did try the curry leaves, by now I used them a few times in our dinners, and it is wonderful!! I take a small handfull of the leaves, kinda crush them by hand first, then put it in the pestle and grind them together with the freshly toasted coriander seeds, and mix with other curry spices, like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and (later towards the end of cooking) cardamom. The combination of toasted coriander seeds and the leaves definitely fill the gap where I always thought my curry dishes were missing little something. Now I don't even use garam masala, and get a pretty decent flavour, I think I can pat myself on the back...
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urmaniac13
boufa, I should have reported back earlier, but I did try the curry leaves, by now I used them a few times in our dinners, and it is wonderful!! I take a small handfull of the leaves, kinda crush them by hand first, then put it in the pestle and grind them together with the freshly toasted coriander seeds, and mix with other curry spices, like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and (later towards the end of cooking) cardamom. The combination of toasted coriander seeds and the leaves definitely fill the gap where I always thought my curry dishes were missing little something. Now I don't even use garam masala, and get a pretty decent flavour, I think I can pat myself on the back...
Thanks for your feedback, I am glad that you were successful in your experimentation and you truly deserve a big pat on the back.

However, in case you want to try your hand at making good Nonya (Peranakan) curry chicken, here is the curry powder recipe of Mrs Leong Yee Soo, an authority on Nonya cooking based on her bestseller cookbook, Singaporean Cooking Vol 2.

1.2kg (42oz) coriander seeds
425gm (15oz) cumin seeds
285gm (10oz) aniseed
425gm (15oz) dried chillies
140gm (5oz) tumeric
140gm(5oz) white peppercorns
75gm (2-1/2oz) cinnamon bark
40 cloves
3 nutmegs
50 cardamons
2 star anise
75gm (2-1/2oz) poppy seeds (optional)

1. Wash coriander, cumin and aniseed in separate lots in a large saucepan of water. Drain well and dry in sun together with the dried chillies.
2. Put on a tray the rest of the ingredients except the poppy seeds. Heat oven slightly and toast the tray of ingredients for 30-45 minutes till ingredients are heated through and smell fragrant.
3. Mix all the ingredients together and blend into a fine powder. Spread to cool completely before storing in an airtight bottle.

Please note that this curry powder is only for meat dishes. Due to the strong flavour, there is no need to add curry leaves to make it any stronger.
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Old 11-29-2006, 05:33 PM   #14
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Wow, thanks for the recipe boufa!! Okay, sorry for being a pest, but upon seeing this ingredient list, I must ask you another question...

I detest the flavour of aniseed with passion, also fennel, by themselves. But these two are often called for many curry mixes and I just have been avoiding adding them to mine.

But I know some spices and herbs, also certain food can take on a surprisingly different and pleasing flavour when they are blended or cooked in certain way. And probably among some of the dishes I enjoyed at various Indian restaurants may have contained aniseed or fennel or both without my noticing, I suspect. Do the flavours of aniseed/fennel transform themselves in some way when mixed in other curry spices? Would they be still recognizable? Should I give it a try?
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Old 11-29-2006, 06:28 PM   #15
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Generally, I do not cook a lot of Indian curry dishes but I think that if a recipe calls for aniseed or fennel to be included in the mixed spices, you should do so. This way you will be able to taste the full flavour of the dish. In Indian curries, garam masala which is a blend of spices consisting of cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, fennel and black peppercorns, is used quite often to give flavour to the dish. Likewise for sambar powder, which is made up of roasted ground dhall, coriander, cumin, black pepper and fenugreek. You could however, reduce the amount of aniseed or fennel if the taste is not up to your liking.

The spice mix in meat differs very much from fish and vegetable dishes. That is what it is so unique and mysterious about the tantalising taste of curries.
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