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16 Oct 2012

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Makan Through Malaysia: Paper-Wrapped Chicken (Chi Pau Kai)

I would have thought this year's theme Makan Through Malaysia would have been pretty easy but when I sat down to think what I could make that must have a story attached to the dish, now that's pretty difficult. There is no doubt Malaysia has many provinces, states and small towns; each with their own unique dishes show casing the fresh ingredients from the area but it is indeed very hard to single them out. Am sure, many of you would be in such dilemma.

As I was leafing through my cookbooks, stopping at almost every familiar recipe... I know, I could do it but to cough up something within my memories.... mmmm very challenging, no? I managed to stop at this simple recipe found in Lee Sook Ching's Cook Malaysian - Paper-Wrapped Chicken (chi pau kai in Cantonese). They are marinaded chicken pieces, wrapped in greased-proof paper before being deep fried. When one mention Chi Pau Kai, Serdang or Sar Dung in Cantonese would come into mind.

Chi Pau Kai 01

If you have read me enough, deep-frying is not my strong hold as I really despise the cleaning up and the lingering smell in the kitchen, clothings, body and hair! It really have me there, thinking not twice but thrice before deciding, this would be my story for this Merdeka Day. And here we go...

My maternal grandmother who is a Hakka have a couple of relatives staying in Serdang. Back in the 70s, Serdang is really located very far, and considered as outstation and it predominantly housed Hakka clans. A trip to Serdang means setting aside one day for travelling and visiting. Ironically that 20+ years later I'm staying pretty near to Serdang (about 15 minutes) and are commuting to where I used to stay (Kepong) like at least 3 times a week within the reach of 45 minutes!

When I was really young (aged within single-digit), my grandmother, a couple of grand aunts, aunts and my mother would take me along when they go on a day trip visiting their relatives in Serdang. The whole gang would take a bus from where ever they are and to meet in town, which I can't remember which part, for the next leg of the journey via another bus. I know from Kepong to town, we have to take the red stage bus called Selangor Bus but I've no idea which bus company was it from town to Serdang. The adults would pass me the tickets to play or just hold on to them. All I could remember it's really a long ride!

The relatives would wait for the entourage at the bus station before taking us out for lunch or at times back to their house for a sumptuous Hakka lunch of almost consist of Hakka Char Nyuk (braised deep fried pork belly with black fungus), abacus seeds (yam dumplings) and at times Paper-Wrapped Chicken.

After lunch, it would meant going to their house for a visit and in those days, many of such village house are located within a farm of yet another famous item in Serdang - starfruit! I have to attest that the starfruits here were one of the sweetest I've ever tasted that my dad managed to nurture one in front of our house from the seeds. That sweet old tree had produced many sweet and delicious starfruits until the recent years that the old tree no longer yield that much fruits that my dad decided to chop it down.

I've no idea how paper-wrapped chicken came about and if it's truly a Hakka dish but I sure know that whenever it is mentioned, Serdang (old town) or Seri Kembangan (new town) would come to mind. So that's my take this Merdeka.

Chi Pau Kai 02

This recipe yields the dry type instead of gravy laden ones and I've adapted the recipe based on the amount of chicken meat I have used but I'll post up the original recipe. The recipe called for boneless meat but I've used chicken legs that are chopped into 4 pieces.

The first batch that I've fried up for lunch, the chicken pieces actually stuck to the paper. It was horrible to have to remove the bits and pieces of paper. How can that be??? Capt'n Hook asked me if I have used the correct paper. Hmmm I knew it's definitely grease-proof paper... so I reread the recipe and guess what... ahahahahaha as with the norm with human, we tend to don't read the recipes closely and ended up with such boo-boo. So I found out that I need to grease the paper first placing the chicken onto it :p

Verdict: The chicken is great to be fried wrapped in paper as it retained its moisture making the chicken nice and tender. As for the taste, next time I would like to increase a little more of the ginger juice.

Paper-Wrapped Chicken
Cook Malaysian, Lee Sook Ching

2 cups chicken meat, cut into small pieces
Ginger juice, extracted from 1 cm knob of ginger
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Cooking oil for deep frying
12 (15 cm square pieces) grease-proof paper

1. Season chicken with ginger juice, soy sauce, rice wine, salt and sugar and 1/2 Tbsp of cooking oil for 30 minutes.

2. Divide chicken into 12 portions and place on well greased grease-proof paper. Wrap firmly to form little parcels. Tuck loose end of paper into the folds or staple to secure.

3. Heat oil for deep frying in a wok and fry the packets for 2 - 3 minutes until paper browns. Drain well and serve.

I'm submitting this Paper-Wrapped Chicken for Merdeka Open House 2011: Makan Through Malaysia.


Nate @ House of Annie said...

Thanks for posting the recipe.

I've got to learn more about Hakka cooking, especially as it is practiced here in Malaysia.

Babe_KL said...

Nate, we have plenty of Hakka dishes over in KL. How about in Kuching?

Shannon @ JustAsDelish said...

I too despise deep frying & the clean up! Love this dish, but I think I'll just leave it to my Serdang makan trip.
The only Hakka food I know & love is Lui Cha & Abacus Seed.. Now I got myself into craving for Abacus Seed, must visit the restaurant in Kepong tonight :)

Little Corner of Mine said...

Thanks for the recipe. I need to try making this. :)

rokh said...

well i don't think Taiping has this so at least you can minus one off :P anyhow I was acquainted with this dish when I am in KL and i would say only some places make really good ones...

Ciki said...

fwar.. chee pau kai also u know how to make.. terror-nya!! :D