Thai tamarind chicken

The stirfry is one of the quickest routes from raw to cooked. Ideally, you need a wok and a blast of cooking gas. And if a good wok is hard to find, the hardy skottelbraai is a perfect substitute. Most of the effort this delicious meal requires lies in its preparation, but this is no big deal and well within the reach of the beginner cook.

To make Thai tamarind chicken for four you will need:

  • 800g chicken breasts, skinned and deboned
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 lime or lemon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 big red chillies
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  • 2 cups long-grain rice

This is a super quick meal to make, so get the rice ready first. Then fillet the chicken breasts and cut the meat into 15mm cubes. Try to get them all the same size to ensure even cooking. Eating undercooked chicken is a gun-free way to play Russian roulette. Peel and thickly slice the onions. Crush, peel and chop the garlic. Cut the two big red chillies into 5mm
segments. Leaving the pips in provides the oral veld-fire chilli lovers enjoy. Removing the pips lowers the heat. Your choice.

Next, the lime versus lemon saga. Limes are the better choice for all Thai-influenced cooking. If these are hard to find, lemons are adequate substitutes. Squeeze the lime and reserve a tablespoon of juice. Wash the coriander leaves and select about half a cup of the best looking sprigs. Take a heaped tablespoon of tamarind and manually remove and discard the pips. Mash the paste with a fork in a tablespoon of water to lessen the density.

For some diners, tamarind is an acquired taste. Slightly sour, splendidly unfamiliar, it gives a strong and pleasing accent to the meal. Place the cubed chicken in a bowl and add the diluted tamarind, garlic, chilli pieces, brown sugar and lime juice. Mix well to evenly distribute the ingredients, allowing them to make contact with the chicken cubes. Now, for the heat and high drama.

Pour half the oil into the wok or skottel and bring the temperature up until the oil begins to smoke. Add the chicken mixture and stirfry with great vigour, stirring all the time to prevent sticking and burning. When the chicken cubes are cooked through, lower the heat and remove from the wok. Add the remainder of oil, let this warm up to medium then gently sweat
the onions until they’re soft and translucent. Return the cooked chicken to the wok and stir well into the onions. Kill the gas and sprinkle the fresh coriander sprigs over.

Immediately serve on a bed of white rice. Some diners may prefer a light soy sauce with the meal. As in all things, not all brands are equal. This cook prefers Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce, which tastes fantastic and limits the sodium load.