Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Cooking class with the lan in Bo.lan - Part 2: Chicken relish and Eggnets

Chicken relish (rear) with fried fish
After the panang curry, we moved on to the other two dishes on the agenda - chicken relish and egg net rolls. I didn't properly transcribe Dylan's recipe or ingredients list, but hopefully the pics will give you a fair idea of what was going on.


Chicken relish (Bon Gai Nung)

Chicken relish is basically pound (cooked) chicken that is seasoned, flavoured with herbs and steamed in little parcels. Dylan tells us that you can't find this dish very often any more, even in Thailand, and that it was probably a typical farmer's lunch, as they were pre-cooked and easy to carry onto the fields.

Ingredients
THE INGREDIENTS (again, I'm just going by memory here)

Large roasted chillies, chopped into long-ish shards, blackened skins removed, otherwise ok to keep on
Roasted/steamed chicken, shredded
Roasted eggplant, blacken the skin and remove, leaving soft flesh, and cut into strips
Roasted shallots
Roasted garlic
Fermented fish sauce (nam pla ra)
Palm sugar (100%, see Part 1 for a picture of that glorious stuff)
Fish sauce
Lime juice
Banana leaves, cleaned and softened over a low charcoal flame

The familiar mortar
THE METHOD

Everything goes into the mortar, in this order:
Chicken
Eggplant
Chillies
Shallots & garlic
Palm sugar
Fish sauce
Lime juice

What it should look like after pounding

Between adding each ingredient, be sure to pound the contents to make sure it is sufficiently tender and mixed in.

With the last few ingredients, taste as you go to get the right balance.


Banana leaves
Make sure the banana leaves are clean and dry. They can be softened by gently heating over charcoal (or I guess in a heavy pan, on a low gentle flame?) so they don't break when you fold them. For each parcel, lay down 2 banana leaves, glossy side out (ie. the matte sides touching).

Plop
Spoon your chicken mixture onto the middle of the banana leaves.

First fold
The first fold is easy, just gather opposite edges of the leaves (let's say 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock).

Second fold, again
The second and third folds are done by gathering the sides. Say we do the left side first - bring the 9 o'clock edge into the middle (where your 12 and 6 o'clock have met) - you'll naturally have two 'extra' bits of banana leaf stick out, just fold them down so that you can hold everything together in one hand, in the middle.

Second and third fold in progress
Then just do the same with the other side.

Second and third folds
So you'll end up with all the loose sides together in the middle.

The finished parcel
The stick a pin or a bamboo skewer through the top to hold it all together, and steam (I'm guessing about 15 mins). Serve with rice, crudites and fried fish if you like!

Egg net rolls (Po Piat Tot)

Egg nets are those nets made out of fried egg (very complicated description, hey?!) that you see wrapped around other ingredients - they act like nori for sushi - I've also seen fried rice wrapped up/covered with an egg net, not sure if that's a Thai thing or bastardised for foreign audiences! The one we made was the sushi variant, with caramelised coconut and chicken as the main fillings.

It's supposed to be messy!
THE PREP

Egg nets:


Whisk eggs with a little salt and sesame oil, and leave them in the fridge overnight, otherwise the egg won't be smooth and stringy enough.

To make egg nets, heat a wok with a substantial amount of oil - the surface of the oil being about how big you want the egg net to be.

Keep the oil on a low simmer, otherwise there'l lbe a lot of spitting and the net will break or jig around too much.

Here's the fun part: dip fingers of one hand into the bowl of egg. Part your fingers lightly, lift your hand out of the bowl and dangle it above the wok. Move your hand forwards and backwards, like you're paddling in water, or signalling "come, come", with your wrist being the "hinge" point - only your hand needs to move. Once you've done that up and down a few times, turn and do it horizontally, so you get the crisscrosses required to form a net.

Hello egg net!
When you're satisfied, use something sharpish to cut the net away from the sides of the wok, and use a couple of spatulas or a tool of your choice to flip the net over.

Don't take too long as the egg will start to go golden brown, which means it will be too brittle.

Take it out and spread it out on a paper towel, letting it cool.

Caramelised coconut:

Buy shredded coconut flesh from a Thai grocer. Fry it slowly with coriander root, ginger, garlic and white pepper, than add fish sauce and palm sugar and let it cook slowly, so the sugar doesn't burn and it will coats the strips of coconut, and they will also soften. It could take up to two hours (if I remember correctly).


THE FILLING

Take caramelised coconut, as above.

Chicken
Add cooked, shredded chicken, but it could be duck, pork, whatever you like.

Lemongrass
Finely sliced lemongrass.

Shallots
Finely sliced shallots

Orange zest?

Ginger

Kaffir lime leaves

Thai lime zest
"Thai lime"
The flesh of the lime is orange, like a mandarin, and it smells and tastes less sharp than a normal lime, again, more like a mandarin.

Portioning the filling
Mix it all up.

Ready to roll
Lay an egg net out on a strong paper towel, or even a sushi mat, then lay some filling down the longest part. Try to pack it down and don't leave air pockets.

Straight sides
Trim off the side of the net.

Go!
Start rolling form the cut edge, using the paper towel or sushi mat to help you get a tight roll. Make sure you don't roll the towel into the roll!

Rolled
Trim off the egg nest towards the end so you get a straight, clean closure to the roll.

All lined up
Cut the roll up, like sushi, trimming off the head and tail of the roll for neatness.

Perfect finger food
Resist the temptation to eat them off the chopping board, place them on your serving dish, and off you go.

Dylan mentioned that you can roll anything you like into the nets, a fancy version might be to put prawn or lobster in.

The class concluded with lots of eating. Aside from the dishes we cooked, we also had this beautiful chicken salad.


I wonder how much of this I'll make again?

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