Spice I really am!
Every time I sneak off for lunch at Spice I am in Surry Hills, I absolutely have to order this spicy chicken stir fry dish. No matter that each time I tell myself to order something different, I still can’t go past it. Everybody I have taken to that restaurant calls me when they are there to ask me the name of “that spicy chicken” dish. It seems this chicken dish is rather addictive. For the record, I can never really remember its name, but I can give excellent instructions on exactly where to find it on the menu, right down to it being the fourth item on the right hand side of the stir-fry dishes! I think it is called Pad Cha and is described as Phuket style spicy stir fry. But please don’t hold me to that name!
So you can imagine how delighted I was to be able to ‘crack’ that recipe and recreate it at home. A few months ago I accidentally made something fairly similar which got me thinking. I knew I was missing a crucial ingredient in the grachai (wild ginger). I have never been able to find it in any of the asian grocery shops. And every Thai person I have asked has just looked at me strangely and shaken their head when asked. Finally, finally I found a very helpful young bloke in a Thai grocery shop who knew exactly what I wanted and took me over to it. A jar of pickled grachai. Apparently we almost never get it fresh in Sydney. And having tasted the pickled stuff I can confirm that it is what Thai restaurants in Sydney use. I also managed to pick up some fresh turmeric, pea eggplant and apple eggplant – all things crucial to this dish.
When I clicked my heels and laughed out loud after tasting this dish when I finished making it, my kids were amused. I explained that I was very pleased with myself for managing to make my all time favourite Thai dish…and quite possibly even made it slightly better than the original version. Sam the cheeky little boy said “that’s great mum, but do you remember what you put in it?”. Ah. He knows me so well. I just make it up as I go along and never quite take note of what I put in. Luckily this time I took a photo of some of the ingredients as I was preparing it. And I vowed to write it down for the blog while it is still fresh in my mind so I can refer to it in future (you do know that it is why I keep a blog, right?!).
My family came over for dinner and since my sister and her daughter have been initiated into the Spice I am lunch experience I was keen to see what they thought of the dish. My niece didn’t know that I had been trying to recreate the dish so she was very surprised when she took her first bite and said “hey, this is that spicy chicken dish from Spice I am!”. Success!
Here is the photo of some of the ingredients I used. Lemongrass, chillies and kaffir limes and leaves are from my garden. 🙂
That spicy chicken dish
1.5 kg chicken thigh fillets trimmed of fat and cut into slices
1/2 cup pea eggplants
8 apple eggplants cut into quarters or slices
1 tablespoon shredded grachai
4 kaffir lime leaves
Juice of 1 lime
In a mortar and pestle pound together the following with a tablespoon of salt until you get a slightly rough sort of paste:
Skin of 1 kaffir lime
2 stalk of lemongrass – sliced
1 tablespoon galangal – chopped
1 tablespoon young ginger (or 1/2 tablespoon standard ginger) – chopped
1.5 tablespoon fresh turmeric
2 tablespoons chopped red shallots
4 cloves of garlic
4 birds eye (hot) red chillies
1 tablespoon coriander roots
1 tablespoon grachai
Heat some oil in a wok and fry the spice paste with two roughly torn kaffir lime leaves and the extra shredded grachai. Add the chicken and stir fry on high heat to quickly seal the chicken – you don’t want it to stew in its own juices. When the chicken is nearly cooked add the pea eggplants and the apple eggplants. Add the remaining two kaffir lime leaves and the lime juice. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
This dish should be chilli hot, gingery from the grachai, ginger and galangal, and slightly tangy from the lemongrass and lime. It should also have a very slight bitterness from the pea and apple eggplants. I didn’t add any fish sauce, palm sugar or soy which I am surprised about while writing this out now. It didn’t need it but perhaps next time I might add a bit in to see what it does to the taste.