Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recipe for yim kai

Yim kai or salted chicken is one of my favorite way to eat the bird. I have a simple yet very delicious recipe for preparing the dish. This salted chicken is very popular in Malaysia, especially in the northern states. In Ipoh the dish is sold widely. There are even shops that sell nothing but the popular yim kai.

My recipe is really very easy to prepare. I prefer to use ayam kampung (village or free running chicken). Although more expensive, I find ayam kampung more delicious and the meat texture more firm. For my small family of 3, I usually cook just half a chicken.

There are only 2 ingredients to prepare the chicken - salt and tong kwai (angelica sinensis). I prefer to use the unrefined sea salt. I find that the unrefined sea salt not as salty as normal cooking or table salt, and the outcome is a more delicious chicken. Tong kwai is a Chinese medicinal root, available in all Chinese medicine shops. They are dried and normally sliced.

The chicken is washed and dried. Cut the chicken into quarters. You could cook the chicken whole or in halves. I find that by quartering the chicken, the baking is more even. The areas around the thighs of the chicken tend to be harder to cook. By baking the chicken whole or in halves, these areas tend to be rather raw while the rest of the bird may be over-cooked.

For half a chicken, I use 1 tablespoon of unrefined sea salt. For a whole chicken, the salt is doubled.

The amount of tong kwai depends on individual preferences. Some people do not like too strong a tong kwai flavour. I prefer a stonger taste. For half a chicken, I use 7 to 8 slices of tong kwai. Again the quantity is doubled for the whole chicken. Grind the tong kwai to a coarse power. I use a blender to do that. Then mix the ground tong kwai with the salt.

Stab the chicken all over with a fork and apply the mixture on to the chicken. Put the chicken in the fridge let it marinate for about 24 hours. Be sure to cover the marinating chicken to prevent dehydration. A cling film over the plate or dish would do nicely.

The next day, take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before baking to allow the chicken to come to room temperature. Wrap each quarter of the bird in an aluminum foil.

Put them in a oven and bake at 210 degrees C, for 50 minutes. For the whole chicken, bake it for an additional 10 minutes.

The result is a beautiful golden baked chicken. The oil and juice of the chicken is collected in the aluminum foil. They can be use as a sauce for the chicken. Or you can use it as a stock to prepare Hainanese chicken rice, which perhaps can be another posting for my blog. I normally discard the juice. I find it too salty and sinful. The meat is good as it is without any additional flavouring.

Cut the chicken to bite pieces to serve. The chicken is aromatic and delicious. The meat is not dry and retain its succulence. The salt and tong kwai permeate into the meat. Even the breast is salty and delicious.

My family loves the dish every time I cook it. And it is so very simple to prepare.

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