Braised Chicken with Spices

by - February 25, 2013

Braised Chicken with Spices (Ook Kai, อุ๊กไก่) is Northern Thai treat, which is unfamiliar here in Tokyo. Thai restaurants aboard typically serve Central Thai food, and often Chinese-Thai, reflecting the origin of the owners. 

In Bangkok where I was born and raised and in central Thailand generally, the dishes are based on seafood and coconut.  But in the cooler land-locked north of the country, fresh shrimp, crab, ocean fish and others seafood are not easily obtainable. There meat, freshwater fish and vegetable predominate. Coconut is reserved mostly for desserts. 

My father  was born and raised in Chiang Mai, the major city in the region. So I have been able to enjoy many delicious Northern Thai specialties. Braised Chicken with Spices (Ook Kai) is one of my favorite.   

Ook Kai, a popular regional main dish, is chicken cooked over low heat  in spicy soup with various aromatic herbs and spices. It 's not fiery hot, just comfortably hot. Ook Kai is usually served with glutinous rice (ข้าวเหนียว) but steamed white rice(ข้าวเจ้า), though less traditional, also can be used.  

Below is my Braised Chicken with Spices (Ook Kai) recipe. 

                                                 Yields 3-4 servings Clock60 minutes
500 grams chicken (bone in, skin on, please)
1.5 tablespoon Mae Ploy red curry paste 
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder 
1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
5 kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด) 
4-5 slices immature galangal (ข่า) 
400 ml. water 
1 teaspoon fish sauce 
1/2 teaspoon sugar 
a pinch of salt 

1. Heat vegetable oil, add in red curry paste. Stir fry until aromatic. 
2. Add in turmeric, lemon grass and galangal. Stir fry for 10 seconds.  
3. Add in chicken. Stir fry for 30 seconds. 
4. Add in water, season with fish sauce, salt, sugar, braise COVERED for 40-50 minutes. 
5. When the sauce get reduced and the chicken is tender, tear in kaffir lime leaves. Cook for another few minutes. Remove from heat, serve hot. 

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