Egg net parcels with pork-peanut filling, stir-fried lump crabmeat with long beans, Pomelo salad bites… These dishes are emblematic of Thailand’s bustling capital city of Bangkok and its distinct food culture.
Leela Punyaratabandhu grew up in Thailand, watching her mother cook. To this day, she says the sound of a mortar and pestle still transports her back to her mother’s kitchen in Bangkok. She started her blog She Simmers in reverence of her mother’s culinary lessons but now, two books later, Punyaratabandhu is carving out her own style as she continues to bring the meals and culture of Thailand into American households.
Her recipe for braised chicken in coconut-galangal cream sauce signifies the simple beauty of Bangkok’s signature meals. An interesting technique Punyaratabandhu utilizes in this particular recipe revolves around cooling the kitchen by using ice.
In a double-broiler or doufeu style pot, the ice cools the chicken down while retaining maximum moisture inside the pot. The chicken cooks on a low heat, which creates a “self-basting” effect. Give it a try on this delicious dish, best served with rice.
Braised chicken in coconut-galangal cream sauce
4 (6-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
4 (6-ounce) skin-on chicken drumsticks
⅓ cup paper-thin slices of young galangal
½ cup paper-thin slices of trimmed lemongrass (with purple rings only)
6 makrut lime leaves, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce
About 6 quarts ice cubes
2 cups coconut cream, or 1 cup each coconut cream and coconut milk
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Fresh bird’s eye chiles, as many as you like, coarsely chopped
½ cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
Prepare the chicken: Arrange the chicken at the bottom of a 4-quart Dutch oven. Drizzle1 tablespoon of the fish sauce over the chicken, then scatter the galangal, lemongrass, and makrut leaves on top.
Add ice on top of the Dutch oven: Put the pot over low heat. Put 2 quarts of the ice cubes in a round-bottomed braising pan and place it on top of the Dutch oven, making sure the bottom of the pan doesn’t touch the chicken. Cook undisturbed until the ice cubes have melted and the water is lukewarm. Empty the braising pan and repeat the process another two times.
Add the coconut cream: When the last batch of ice cubes has turned into lukewarm water, the chicken should be tender and swimming in its own juices. Check to see how much liquid there is in the Dutch oven and add enough of the coconut cream so the liquid is flush with the chicken (you may not need all 2 cups).
Build up the flavor: Stir in 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, then taste and add the remaining fish sauce and lime juice if needed. Aim for equally salty and sour with subdued natural sweetness coming from the chicken juices and the coconut cream. Stir in the chiles to taste.
Serve: Spoon chicken and sauce into a serving bowl and top with the cilantro. (If your galangal is on the mature side, you may want to pick it out and discard it. There’s no need to remove the lemongrass or lime leaves; you can eat them along with the chicken as I usually do.) Serve with rice.