This recipe came to me from Che Hafsah Harun of Kuching in Sarawak. It is a dish for special occasions. It might be served, for instance, at the feast that precedes the fasting period. The recipe has been prepared in Che Hafsah Harun’s family for three generations.

2 lb (1 kg) chicken

5 tablespoons oil

1 cup (250 ml) water

1 cup (250 ml) tamarind water

3 tablespoons dark soy sauce

3 tablespoons sugar

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised

Salt to taste

Spice Paste

20 medium-sized dried chilies, soaked in warm water until soft and squeezed dry

6 slices galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped

2-in (5-cm) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

12 shallots, sliced


Cut the chicken into curry pieces. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces until they are brown. Drain and set aside.

Grind the Spice Paste ingredients to a paste. Drain all but 2-3 tablespoons of oil from the wok, reheat it and fry the Spice Paste until it is fragrant. Add the chicken pieces, and stir-fry for 2 minutes until the chicken is coated with the spices. Add the water, tamarind water, soy sauce, sugar, lemongrass and salt. Stir and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally as it cooks. If the dish gets too dry before it is cooked, add more water and finish cooking. Adjust the seasonings and serve.

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