Pandan Leaf Chicken
Whenever I see Pandan Leaf Chicken, I’d remember the lunch I had with my Australian boss in a Thai restaurant in Melbourne. That was a long time ago, when Australians probably weren’t as familiar with Thai food as they are now.
One of the dishes we had was Pandan Leaf Chicken and, as I chatted away, Boss did something that I still remember now. He picked up a piece of fried chicken, unwrapped it, and put the entire pandan leaf in his mouth – no chicken, just the stiff, wiry leaf!
My eyes widened in horror and my mind went, ‘WHOA! WHOA! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!’
I guess I should have warned him immediately but I was too taken aback. I was speechless for a second and then – when I was about to yell, ‘DON’T EAT THAT!!!’ – I could see that the leaf was already halfway down his throat. ‘Oh sh¡t! He’s gonna choke, and I don’t know how to do the whatever manoeuver!’
As I panicked at the thought of my boss lying on the restaurant floor, dead, he stretched his neck like a pelican or seagull swallowing a big fish. And then, lo and behold, the leaf was down! Crikey! See the photo? A fried pandan leaf is stiff enough to stand upright but he managed to swallow it.
Glad that I didn’t have to phone for an ambulance and there was someone to drive me back to the office, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued eating. I didn’t say anything about the pandan leaf, and my boss thankfully didn’t try to eat another piece.
Some years after the pandan leaf incident, I ordered some vine leaves wrapped with rice and whatnots whilst having lunch with a friend. Being the country bumpkin that I was (and still am), I had never had dolma before. After the Greek dish arrived, I looked at the vine leaves and remembered my ex-boss’ culinary faux pas. ‘Hmm, am I supposed to eat these things that look like lotus leaves?’ I wondered. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of my new friend, so I unwrapped the leaves and gingerly pushed them aside.
‘Aren’t you going to eat those?’ my friend asked.
Dang, those leaves were meant to be eaten! I was wrong but, hey, not as wrong as the man who ate a fried pandan leaf. ‘I don’t like vine leaves,’ I said without batting an eyelid.
|PANDAN LEAF CHICKEN (GAI HOR BAI DTOEI)
Source: Thai Food, David Thompson
(Recipe for 5 persons)
3 chicken legs or 4 chicken thighs, about 600 g skinned and boned
large pinch of white sesame seeds, toasted
Wash and dry chicken. Cut into 24 bite size pieces.
Blend or pound marinade ingredients till smooth. Use half to marinate chicken for at least 2 hours. There should be enough to almost cover the chicken. Chicken may be marinated overnight without being overseasoned.
Remaining marinade is the dipping sauce. Taste and, if necessary, dilute with 1 tbsp water. Sprinkle with white sesame seeds. Cover and set aside.
After the chicken is marinated, wrap each piece in a pandan leaf:
Click here for a video on how to wrap the chicken. Don’t cover the meat completely. Exposed parts will turn brown and fragrant after deep-frying.
Drain wrapped chicken for a few minutes to remove excess marinade. Deep-fry in just smoking oil over high heat till leaves are brown and meat just cooked, 2-3 minutes. Drain. Serve immediately with the sauce on the side.