There are several dishes that I grew up that bring me comfort. One of them was Macau style Portuguese Chicken Curry. That unforgettable coconut curry sauce with moist tender pieces of chicken broiled over fluffy white rice sends my mind into over drive. There was a small restaurant up in Scarborough at the former roller palace that our family would frequent and it was my go-to dish every time we visited. Drool-worthy even just thinking about it.
I came across these recipes in Toronto-based Chef Trevor Lui’s Double Happiness Cookbook that brought back all the memories of the tastes I grew up with. I’ve made several of his recipes for the family and each one has been a hit. In Chef Lui’s Macanese Portuguese Chicken Curry recipe, he combines elements of fish sauce, Thai coconut milk, turmeric and paprika, to pay homage to the culinary traditions of Southeast Asian cooking. This particularly savoury curry has an abundance of flavour with a hint of heat. The Thai Rice is worth looking for at your local grocery store for it’s wonderful texture and ease of cooking. This dish is worth trying if you are looking for a flavourful way to change things up from your everyday!
MACANESE PORTUGUESE CHICKEN CURRY
• 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into bite-size pieces
• 1 tbsp sweet paprika
• 1 tsp table salt, plus more as needed
• ½ tsp ground turmeric
• ⅓ cup canola oil
• 3 cups finely chopped onions
• 5 cloves garlic finely chopped
• 1 can or tetra pack of Thai coconut milk (13 ½ oz)
• 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce, plus extra to taste
• 1 ½ cups water
• 1 tsp curry powder (such as Madras)
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tbsp chile oil for garnish
• ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
• 1 lime or lemon cut into wedges, for garnish
1. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, paprika, salt and turmeric and mix with your hands. Let the chicken marinate while you prepare the other ingredients (or refrigerate for up to 8 hours).
2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add onions, reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onions are cooked through and everything is coated in a glossy layer of oil, about 5 minutes more.
3. Stir in the chicken and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Pour in Thai coconut milk, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a near boil. Simmer mixture until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
5. Pour in fish sauce and water and bring to a boil. (The broth will thin as the chicken starts to release its juices.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the curry has thickened and the flavor has developed, about 50 minutes. (Droplets of paprika-red oil will rise to the surface; this is okay).
7. Stir in curry powder and cayenne and simmer for 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 20 minutes for the dish to develop more flavor as it cools.
8. Season with more salt or fish sauce, if needed. Drizzle chile oil over the top and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with rice (or naan) and wedges of lime (or lemon).
SUMMER TROPICAL RICE
A staple in Thai restaurants and households, this easy-to-execute dish adds a few sunny island flavours to a classic rice base.
• 1 cup Thai Hom Mali rice (rinsed well)
• ¼ tsp salt
• ½ cup brown or basmati rice (rinsed well)
• 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger root
• ¼ cup Thai coconut milk
• 1 tbsp canola oil
• 2 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
• Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking tip: Rice blends should be cooked separately as cook time varies with type of rice grain*
1. Rinse rice thoroughly 3-4 times until water is clear
2. Cook rice accordingly on your rice cooker setting
3. Remove rice and place in large bowl and allow to cool to a warm temperature
4. Add canola oil, mixing rice while applying. Add Thai coconut milk, pouring evenly around the bowl, mixing thoroughly
5. Add ginger root, scallions and salt & pepper to your personal taste. Mix thoroughly. Garnish optional and serve immediately.
*Recipes reprinted with permission. Photo credit: Sonia Wong