Steamed Herbal Chicken
When I lived in Singapore, my dad and uncle used to bring back delicious parcels of steamed herbal chicken from across the causeway after a day of golfing in Malaysia. The bags would reach home still warm, wrapped in foil and plastic. Inside the parcel contained the most flavoursome and lip-smackingly succulent chicken you’d ever eaten. Why does chicken from Johor Bahru taste so good? Is it because it’s kampung chicken? Are they chickens that grew up roaming freely about the villages of Malaysia?
I wanted to re-enact that beautiful dish. The herb packet (Seah’s Spices) was bought last year but the urge to use it only bubbled up recently when I was sick. With a heaty body, I had this strange desire to eat steamed chicken cold.
On top of the rub spices, I thought some sliced shiitake mushrooms and goji berries might complement the dish during steaming. I thought of adding garlic cloves too but decided not to as the smell might be too strong. My chook was free range. I chose the smallest one in the market and spent a good while rubbing the spice mixture into the meat. I even went under the skin where it could be lifted.
The herb packet also included the plastic and foil. I parcelled up my chicken and steamed it for two and a half hours in a wok. The result was terrific. All the goodness of the chicken had mixed with the herbs and come out as an aromatic and delicious gravy. The spice packet was good, the dish didn’t come out overpoweringly herby. The meat was tender and much of the herb mix was infused into it. I like having this dish with a baguette, dipping the crusty bread into the gravy and attacking the chicken with my fingers, mm-mmm. My only comment was that the flavour of the chicken meat itself still wasn’t as delightful as the meat of kampung chicken.
Kampung chicken is a different breed of chicken, almost akin to gamefowl. They are also known as Malay chicken and are found in the rural localities of Asia. This breed has a tougher meat with a greater depth of flavour. This chicken type is bred both free range and in battery farms, so don’t assume kampung chicken automatically denotes free-range. I won’t be able to find this chicken in Australia, but maybe I could try this dish again using game birds such as pheasants or guinea fowls.
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