Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tamarind Chicken over Udon Noodles

This is a dish I started making about three or four years ago when I entered my favorite Middle Eastern/Asian Market.  I'd enjoyed Tamarind "pops" from Baja, Mexico, and fell in love with tamarind's sweet and sour flavor.  When I noticed it as a sauce (or concentrate) and a chutney, I had to purchase it.  My first few attempts at this dish included several of the ingredients I used to day, but I also include cubed red, green, orange and/or yellow bell peppers.  I did not use those today, as I wanted to create a more elegant looking dish, not more colorful. I hope I accomplished that today, but I am certainly not averse to incorporating peppers into my dish, as I love peppers.  I did use Serrano peppers, but in the marinate and sauce, not the body of the dish itself.  I will address the heat aspect of this dish, as you can make it as heat spiced as you wish, or not.  This dish takes a little less than an hour to prep and to cook.  Good times!  Here's the main ingredient line-up:

1 large onion (I used a white onion), cubed
3 large garlic cloves (grated), separated into three equal parts
1 large or two small Serrano chilis, seeded, ribbed, and finely chopped
The next items will need to separated into two bowls (marinade and fry sauce):
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce or Low Sodium Soy sauce, separated
4 tablespoons Tamarind sauce or Chutney (sauce), separated
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce, separated
2 tablespoons Kung Pao sauce (if desired), separated
2 tablespoons (Your favorite) Mustard  (I used a Cranberry Mustard, for tartness)
Half a tablespoon and Half a tablespoon Hot Chili sauce (I used Vietnamese), separated
2 tablespoons (Your favorite) Sake or some other biting alcohol
Extra Virgin Olive oil, 2 tablespoons, separated, and 2 tablespoons in the high-sided pan
Dried Spice Ingredients:
2 teaspoons coriander (ground, or crushed seeds),
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped, or dried, separated
2 teaspoons dried or ground chili powder (Your favorite)
Salt and Pepper (added to the marinade)
2 - 3 tablespoons Paprika, separated
1/4 cup slivered almonds, or, same amount of peanuts 
1+ bundles of Udon Noodles (one bundle yields a little more than one cup)
 The star ingredient:
1 package boneless/skinless chicken thighs, cubed

By now you know that all of the ingredients are separated into two bowls:  one for the marinade, one for the fry sauce.  Combine all of the separated ingredients, including one part of the garlic into one bowl.  Repeat the procedure for the other bowl.  Mix the ingredients in the bowls well.  Next, add two tablespoons of the evoo to the large, high-sided fry pan or skillet, along with one part of the garlic and one teaspoon of the chili sauce.  Just let it sit together over no heat.  Now, place the cubed chicken thighs into a bowl or on a large plate, and cover with the other bowl of sauce. Cover and coat all of the chicken cubes.  Let sit and marinate for thirty minutes.  You can cover and place in the refrigerator, but I left it out so the meat would not seize up in (what will be) the hot fry pan. 
 Incorporate the ingredients in each bowl well!
Marinade the chicken for thirty minutes!
After allowing the oil and chili sauce to sit in the fry pan for 25 minutes, turn the heat to low.

After 25 minutes, turn the heat over the pan to low.  After nearly ten minutes, the chili sauce seeds will start to sizzle and may pop.  Look out for those seeds!  They splatter!  Use a mesh splash guard if you have one. Turn the heat to medium-high.  Add the onion cubes, add a pinch of salt, and cook until the onions just begin to soften.  Add the chicken with as little marinade as possible and saute for about five minutes until the chicken begins to sear.  Add the second bowl of sauce and incorporate well.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.  Allow to simmer for ten or so minutes. 

Bring three cups of water to a boil, salt lightly, as the Udon noodles soak up whatever you put into the water, and add the Udon noodles.  Allow to cook about eight minutes.  You will need to try it at that point to see if it is done.  You will know; the noodles should not be tough or chewy.  Drain the noodles and add to your bowl or plate.  

Meanwhile, chop up a little scallion greens or cilantro, and set aside for a minute.  Have sesame seeds?  They'd make a nice topping, as well as the greens. 

Take the chicken off of the heat and place a few heaping spoon fulls over the noodles, allowing the noodles to soak up the spicy goodness.  Top with the cilantro or scallions and sesame seeds, if you like, and serve.  

What might be even better than that tangy, spicy taste?