My good friend, Phil from Flavorphil, loved the idea of the “So Called Indonesian” series. Not only because he gets to discover “Indonesian” dishes and flavours through eating more of my cooking-for-the-blog, but as it turns out, he had been making Ina Garten’s Indonesian Ginger Chicken for a long while. He loved this dish, and everyone he’s served it to has liked it. So he was curious whether it was really “Indonesian”.
Phil thought the dish should face the ultimate test of being put through the “So Called Indonesian” series here. He’d cook the dish, and serve it to me and Robert, Astrid and Abi to confirm that yes, this dish qualifies as “Indonesian”. This would be his contribution to the series, as an active chef, and not a volunteer belly.
So on Wednesday this week, Robert and me, Astrid and Abi, showed up with hungry bellies at Phil and Ned’s doorstep to be fed this Indonesian Ginger Chicken for dinner. Recipe, pics and write-up below!
Ina Garten’s Indonesian Ginger Chicken original recipe can be found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/indonesian-ginger-chicken-recipe.html.
What you need
- 1 cup honey
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup minced garlic, 8-12 cloves
- ½ cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
- 2 chickens about 3 ½ pounds/1.5 kg, quartered, with backs removed
Marinate the chicken overnight
Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Bake the chicken
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.
Serve with rice, Indonesian sambal and other condiments.
Upon arrival, glasses of Grauburgunder were placed in our hands and grilled halloumi cheese sprinkled with sliced chilli placed in front of us. This was very yum! A salty, slightly spicy kick to start the evening.
We started with a modified Caesar salad: with spicy chorizo instead of grilled chicken breast. Phil also added these oven-baked cherry tomatoes. They’re warm, with slightly seared skin, and they burst in your mouth with a pop of sweet-and-tart flavour. I love love Caesar’s salad.
Main dish arrived and it’s this fragrant baking dish almost full to the brim with chicken and soy sauce. It certainly smelled like a dish my mom and aunts would cook. Main course was served with steamed Jasmine rice and a side dish of roast carrots.
Verdict on Ina Garten’s Indonesian Ginger Chicken
It was really delicious! We all liked it, tender marinated pieces of chicken in sweet soy sauce, with bits of crispy skin. A sure winner in the flavour axis. The usage of soy sauce in this dish gave a definite Javanese influence.
Central and Eastern Javanese cuisine employs sweet soy sauce in many dishes and in many forms. The sambel kecap condiment I wrote up a few weeks ago is an example of this. Similar to the Canadian maple syrup, there are grades of sweetness in the Indonesian soy sauce. Some are super sweet and thick like molasses, some mildly sweet with a tang of fermented soy flavour, and then there’s the salty end of the axis. I may have to dedicate a blog post to the Indonesian soy sauce spectrum!
In terms of authenticity, looking at ingredients, preparation and technique, I wouldn’t say this was authentic Indonesian. For several reasons:
- The dish was missing the triage that makes up the basis of many (especially Javanese) dishes: the garlic, the shallots and the chillies.
- Not many Indonesians cook/bake food in the oven; it’s still not a widely-available cooking method.
- Many Indonesian dishes employ multiple cooking methods, e.g boiling then frying, or double-fried, or steamed then grilled.
The closest dish we can think of that resembles Ina Garten’s Indonesian Ginger Chicken is what Indonesians know as ayam kecap. In Indonesian Chinese eateries, this is pieces of chicken stir-fried with sweet soy sauce and copious amounts of butter, and one of my favourite dishes to order at my local Jakarta ‘hood eatery.
In Indonesian street food stalls, ayam kecap is often chicken boiled in water with garlic, then marinated in sweet soy sauce before grilling over an open fire, then it’s served with steamed white rice, and sambel kecap (which contains shallots and chillies) as a dipping or drizzling sauce. You eat with your hands, of course :)
Still, this was a delicious dish that made me a bit homesick. My father’s side of the family is Javanese and sweet soy sauce is ubiquitous in their homes. I will probably cook this one of these days.
At the end of the meal, Phil brought out the “Death by Chocolate” cake prototype; he’s prototyping cakes for Robert’s birthday party next weekend. Everyone oohed and aahed, and rightly so!
The cake was delicious! It’s a cookie-crusted bottom, with an Oreo cake layer, a white-chocolate icing, then a chocolate layer on top, covered in more white chocolate icing and drizzled over with chocolate sauce and crushed Oreos.
We were really stuffed afterwards. What a lovely way to spend a summer evening; chilled white wine, great food, close friends. We are looking forward to Astrid and Robert’s birthdays next week, with more yummy food to come!
Hope you enjoyed this episode of the “So Called Indonesian” series! Go make some ginger chicken!
See you in the next one!