Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hainanese chicken chop

I remember going to some old coffeeshops in KL with my parents when I was little and tucking into some Hainanese favorites including roast pork and chicken chop. We also stayed at a holiday bungalow in Fraser’s Hill which had a wonderful Hainanese caretaker who served up fabulous meals and desserts including, of course, chicken chop.

Sadly, the holiday bungalow no longer exists and the caretaker has retired. The few Hainanese coffeeshops in town have given way to Starbucks and Coffee bean outlets. There are a few remaining restaurants including Coliseum and Yut Kee that claim to serve up the dish but when I tried them, something was missing. Majestic Hotel offers what is supposed to be a chicken chop from a recipe handed down through three generations but charges a bomb for it. Desperate for a really authentic chicken chop like I remember from the good old days, I had to resort to making my own.

To me, what makes the chicken chop typically Hainanese is a combination of ingredients. Of paramount importance is the gravy, a tantalizing blend of different sauces, stock and spices that drench the fried chicken and make every mouthful ambrosial. A Hainanese friend demonstrated this dish once a long time ago but I didn’t really take note of everything she put in. The french fries also have to be homemade. The pre-cut variety just doesn't cut it. For me, there has to be baked beans, not the icky frozen vegetables or worse, green peas which I absolutely abhor.

The chicken chop itself has to be made with chicken thighs, because chicken breast ends up being too dry when deep-fried. The thigh should be deboned with just the little bit of bone joint at the end remaining. I now get it de-boned for me at the market, because when I do it myself, it takes me forever and I end up doing a terrible job. I also pound it out a little to make sure that the entire piece of chicken is of the same flatness.

The recipe calls for the chicken pieces to be coated  in a beaten egg and then dredged with flour. Any flour will do really, but a chef once let me in on the secret and told me about Hup Loong Frying Powder (what a great name!). According to its list of ingredients, it's a mixture of wheat flour, rice flour, corn flour and bean flour. Whatever you coat it with and fry or even when you use it in a batter, the end result is really crisp. I find it especially good when frying up calamari or tempura.

I scoured the internet for a good recipe and I've kind of played around with the ingredients, incorporating some and deleting others. What I've listed below works best for me. I'm also not great when it comes to measurements, which is why I'm hopeless at baking. So the measurements in the recipe are just a guide. Just go ahead and make more of the gravy if you like it ( which I do) and more of the french fries if you're a fan (which I am).

The traditional Hainanese chicken chop calls for toasted white bread to sop up all that wonderful gravy!

Hainanese Chicken Chop
(For 4)
Ingredients for fried chicken:
4 chicken thighs, deboned
salt and pepper to taste
50g flour
1 egg, beaten
Oil for deep frying

1.  Clean, pat dry and season chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste.
2.  Coat chicken with beaten egg and dredge in the flour.  Deep fry chicken until golden brown.  Dish out onto a serving plate.

Ingredients for Gravy:
300g potato wedges
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
30g big onion wedges
50g tomato wedges
salt and pepper to taste
baked beans
40g Lea & Perrins sauce
30g tomato ketchup
1/2 tsp cornflour mixed with
1 tbsp water

1.  In the same oil used for frying the chicken, deep fry the potato wedges to half cook them.  Dish out and drain on paper towels.
2.  In a frying pan, heat the butter and saute the minced garlic for a few seconds.  Add the half-cooked potato wedges and the chicken stock.  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
3.  Add the onion and tomato wedges and stir fry for a few seconds.  Add seasoning to taste and thicken gravy with the cornflour mixture.  Add potato wedges to continue cooking them. Pour gravy over chicken chop and serve immediately.
4. On the side, serve up warmed baked beans or green peas.