Before I dive into the mechanics of making braised turmeric chicken, allow me to digress a little.
When I started sharing recipes on social media, I didn’t expect it to become such a rich learning resource, thanks to friends who comment.
The recipe for this braised turmeric chicken is inspired by a FB post about another turmeric-based recipe – Mum’s turmeric fried chicken. On that post, a FB friend commented, “Instead of deep frying, you can also braise the marinated turmeric chicken.”
My ears pricked up. Braise the turmeric?
My mum’s turmeric fried chicken is super delicious but fried chicken is not something you can eat everyday. The prospect of an alternative turmeric chicken recipe that was healthier (since it’s braised, not deep-fried) was overwhelmingly attractive.
… However, I had my doubts. Turmeric has always been an ingredient combined with other spices such as ginger, onions, chilly. Rarely is it the star of a dish. How would it stand by itself, unadorned? Would it be too strong or not strong enough? I had absolutely no idea.
Guess what. The next day, my friend Tan Ming May also cooked a turmeric chicken curry. Dang nabbit, the forces of the universe were practically conspiring to make me cook the dish!! By hook or by crook it was going to happen!
Luckily, the neighbourhood supermarket had fresh turmeric. I had trouble getting ingredients like turmeric, basil or even pandan leaves during the earlier part of MCO. With much excitement, I made it that night, guided by Kimberly’s instructions.
I couldn’t believe how good braised turmeric chicken was!
Braising the chicken made the meat wonderfully moist and tender. But the star of the show was the gravy, creamy and umami with a hint of floral muskiness. Hubs and I did not leave a drop of gravy behind. Even the turmeric was tasty. I ate every little piece in the dish.
When I posted the dish up on FB, my friend David Ong-Yeoh shared how growing up, his family would eat raw turmeric with shrimp paste. He said, “there is the fresh and slightly astringent taste with crunchy texture of the turmeric which is enhanced with the rich umami and sweetness of the shrimp paste.”
An old friend from Myanmar, Zaw Zaw Aung, liked the post. That small action triggered a memory – I had made something like this in the past. Roughly a year ago, I had come across a recipe in Food52 for a Myanmarese chicken dish that also employs the braising method. It was yummy, but the long list of ingredients was a deterrent. Kimberly’s recipe, on the other hand, has a refreshingly SHORT ingredient list, and it is easily adaptable.
Next to my scallion oil chicken, braised turmeric chicken has become my second all time favourite chicken dish. Mum’s fried turmeric chicken is in a league of its own of course, cannot compare ok!
To my friends, thanks for reading my recipes and please keep those suggestions coming!
Braised Turmeric Chicken
- Deep pot, mortar and pestle
- 250 g chicken pieces
- 2 inch fresh turmeric root
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 1 stalk lemon grass, minced (only the soft white bottom part)
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup santan
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- Remove the skin of turmeric root and pound roughly.
- Marinate chicken pieces in turmeric and a bit of salt for 20 minutes at least.
- Saute the lemon grass and shallots in oil until fragrant.
- Add chicken and enough water to cover at least halfway.
- Cover with lid and braise at low to medium heat for 30 minutes, then add santan.
- Add salt to taste. Serve!
- This recipe works best with dark meat, so use either bone-in chicken leg pieces, or chicken maryland.
- You can dress it up by adding flavourful leaves - I've used basil leaves - and boost the umami by adding a dash of fish sauce at the end. For a spicy kick, you can also add chillies.
- The longer you braise the chicken, the more tender the meat. I've braised it for up to 1 hour and the meat is fork tender. Just make sure that you turn down the heat to low and check from time to time to ensure the liquid doesn't dry up; you may need to add a bit of water from time to time.
- If you really like turmeric, you can further accentuate the turmeric flavour by adding some turmeric powder.