Gai Nam Makarm (Chicken With Tamarind)

Offering inspiration for Thai New Year menus, specialist in oriental cuisine Terry Tan prepares gai nam makarm, a quick and simple recipe that delivers an authentic taste. In this modern take on a classic Thai dish, the chicken breasts are bathed in an aromatic and subtle tamarind and palm sugar sauce that compliments the bird’s flavour in the sweetest way. It is neither too chilli hot nor so mild as to not reflect the Thai love for the hot pod, and the use of star anise and cinnamon echoes Thailand’s ancient Indian ties when the country was a largely Hindu enclave some 3,000 years ago. The ingredients are easily available, it is very quick and easy to create, and the preparation can be done in advance, making it suitable for busy periods and special events. Ingredients 2 chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthways 8 tablespoons oil Selected salad greens to serve For the marinade 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 whole star anise 2.5cm/1 inch piece of cinnamon 1 clove garlic, peeled 1 coriander root and stem 2 teaspoons light soy sauce For the sauce 180g palm sugar 2 teaspoons fish sauce 100ml light soy sauce 250ml tamarind liquid (dilute to taste from concentrate) 2 tablespoons tapioca flour For the garnish 1 tablespoon sliced shallots 1 tablespoon sliced dried chilli (with or without seeds, depending on desired heat)
Preparation method: 
For the marinade Dry roast the coriander seeds, star anise and cinnamon to release the fragrant oils in each spice. Grind these down in a pestle and mortar, adding the garlic, coriander root and stem. Continue grinding together until reduced to a fine mixture. If preparing large batches, a food processor can be used instead of a pestle and mortar. Add the light soy sauce to moisten the mixture and then coat the chicken breasts. Leave to marinate for at least one hour. For the sauce Bring four tablespoons of water to the boil and use to dissolve the palm sugar. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce and return to the boil. Add the tamarind liquid and simmer for two minutes. Dissolve tapioca flour in one tablespoon of water and add to the sauce to stir until it thickens. Set aside and keep warm. For the garnish Heat the oil and deep fry each garnish until crisp, and drain on absorbent paper and set aside. To finish Grill chicken breasts for about four minutes on each side until cooked. Slice them into strips and arrange by overlapping on salad greens. Coat with the sauce and sprinkle with the fried shallots and chilli garnish. Terry Tan Drawing on his mixed heritage – a combination of Chinese, Indonesian and Straits Chinese – Singapore born Terry Tan has spent his life immersed in oriental cuisine: cooking, eating, researching and writing about it. He first started cooking aged 13 in the kitchens of his mother’s guesthouse in Singapore, before later entering a career in media as a radio broadcaster and chief editor on Singapore’s Wine & Dine magazine. Having explored cuisines around the world in this role, from the Americas to Europe, he moved to England 23 years ago and has since worked as executive chef, restaurateur, teacher and author, penning more than 16 cookery books including the award winning Asian Cook. He currently works as culinary consultant and development chef for HP Foods and developed the successful range of Amoy Straight to Wok sachet sauces. Based in North London, Tan continues to be consulted on all aspects of oriental cuisine, hosting masterclasses, researching books and delivering culinary demos and lectures around the UK. This recipe first appeared in Stockpot magazine, Spring 2006

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