Picture this. You’re out to dinner with a couple of friends and you decide to go for a nice Asian meal. You’re placing your orders and then you hear a friend say, “Could you make that extra spicy, please? Thanks”. You start to roll your eyes, only to catch the waiter rolling his. Sound familiar? Everyone has a friend like that. That friend ( usually asian ) whose tongue just can’t be beat by the Scoville scale. There is NO dish too hot or spicy for them. Or at least, that is what they want you to think.
I used to be that friend. When I first moved to Switzerland, nothing was spicy enough and everyone was challenging me. How hot could I go? And to be honest, that challenge wasn’t hard to beat here in the land of Chocolates. My dad is from Indonesia, so I grew up eating spicy food. I had a distinct advantage. You should see the way my family eat chilli. They don’t pair chilli with their food. Hell no! They pair food with their chilli! I’m the weak one of the bunch.
That being said, I doubt that I could still win a challenge like that these days. The Swiss have been getting more adventurous with their food in the last few years. Plus, my taste buds have all gone soft on me. I mean, seriously! My husband, who’d never even touched hot ketchup before he met me, could beat me at this how-hot-can-you-go game.
Which brings me to today’s dish. Ayam Rica Rica is one of the many spicy dishes I grew up eating. It is also one of our absolute favourite dishes. I remember sitting at the table as a child, scoffing down spoonfuls of rice to take the edge off my tongue, only to reach for more gravy. It is a numbingly hot dish and yet, so very addictive. It’s interesting how we humans enjoy torturing ourselves.
Now, before anyone cries foul and says, “but that’s not Ayam Rica Rica” , let me just say that this is what I grew up eating and that’s what they told me it was called. I say this because if you googled Ayam Rica Rica, you will see very different looking dishes. Also, this recipe doesn’t quite match what other recipes call for but it’s what my Mum taught me (I suspect it’s a cheat version). But it all doesn’t matter! Because one taste of this and you wouldn’t care if I had named it Ayam-nuke-my-taste-buds-but-give-me-more.
I do hope you try it. The spice level is entirely up to you. Add more chilli if you enjoy not feeling your tongue or less if you prefer it……bland. I’M KIDDING!! Either way, this dish will have you scraping the pot for that last drop of gravy.
Ayam Rica Rica (Indonesian Chilli Chicken)
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed ( I used only thighs this time)
- 2 + 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 250g shallots, finely sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 8 to 12 birds’ eye chillies, finely chopped ( I used 10)
- 4 stalks of lemongrass, bruised and cut in 1 inch pieces
- 3 handfuls of Kaffir lime leaves
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- salt to taste (approx. 1 tsp)
- Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in wok. Brown chicken and set aside.
- Heat remaining oil in wok over medium heat and sauté shallots until very fragrant and just starting to brown.
- Add garlic, chillies, lemongrass and lime leaves. Stir-fry for 2 minute. It gets difficult to breathe at this point. You might want to leave a window open or you’ll choke on the fumes from the chilli.
- Return chicken to wok and fry for another 3 – 5 mins. Be careful not to burn the shallots.
- Add chicken stock and stir well.
- Add turmeric powder. Stir well, season with salt and bring to boil.
- Cover wok and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes.
- Serve with rice or white bread. Noodles should go well too ;)