Malaysian barbecued chicken with kerabu rice salad


  • Serves 4 people

Start this recipe a day ahead to marinate the chicken.

  • 1 chicken (about 1.6kg)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (white part only), bruised
  • 2 pieces asam gelugor (see note)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • Spice rub
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • Spice paste
  • 8-10 dried chillies, soaked in hot water until soft, drained (reserve liquid), coarsely chopped
  • 5 golden shallots (150gm), peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 4 candlenuts (see note)
  • 15 gm each ginger and galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 lemongrass stalk (white part only), thinly sliced
  • Kerabu rice salad
  • 500 gm steamed long-grain rice
  • 4 snake beans, finely sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk (white part only), finely sliced
  • 1 golden shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 40 gm (4-5 tbsp) toasted desiccated coconut
  • 15 Thai basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 15 sprigs coriander, leaves picked
  • 10 Vietnamese mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • 10 mint leaves, finely sliced
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Handful of shredded cabbage (optional)
  • Handful bean shoots (optional)
01   To butterfly the chicken, place it breast side down and cut down either side of the backbone with a pair of poultry shears. Discard the backbone or use it for stock.
02   Turn chicken over and press down on the breastbone to flatten the bird, then cut through the cartilage from the neck end and run your fingers along the sides of the breast bone and tease it out. Trim off any fat and discard fat and breastbone.
03   Pat both sides of chicken dry with paper towel and make a few slashes on the thickest part of the legs and breasts.
04   Combine spice rub ingredients and salt to taste in a zip-lock bag. Add chicken to bag, seal it and shake vigorously to coat chicken with spice mixture, massaging well into chicken, and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
05   For spice paste, pound ingredients in batches with a mortar and pestle to a paste, adding a little reserved chilli-soaking liquid if needed.
06   Heat oil in a wok or saucepan over medium-high heat, add spice paste, lemongrass, asam gelugor, kaffir lime leaves and whole spices and stir-fry until fragrant (5-6 minutes).
07   Add coconut milk, sugar and 250ml water, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly (12-15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and discard lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Allow to cool, then set a third of the sauce aside to serve, and reserve remainder for basting.
08   Prepare a charcoal barbecue; it’s ready when coals have a light coating of ash (40-45 minutes). Bring chicken to room temperature 20 minutes before cooking.
09   To make the kerabu rice salad, toss ingredients in a large bowl and season with salt.
10   Place chicken skin-side down first and grill, basting with sauce and turning occasionally, until nicely charred and juices run clear when pierced with a skewer in the thickest part of chicken (35-40 minutes). Rest chicken for 10 minutes, then cut into portions and serve with kerabu rice salad and reserved sauce.

Note Asam gelugor or asam keping, a dried, sliced sour fruit, and candlenuts are available from select Asian supermarkets and grocers. If asam gelugor is unavailable, substitute 2 tbsp of tamarind purée. 

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