Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gai Dtai Nam (Chicken Under Water)

Here we sit in the last week of December and another year's notch is about to be cut into the belt. Last Tuesday was one of my favorite nights of the year, a ritual known as "Guy's Annual Night Dinner". My group of friends started this tradition back in 1970 and this marked the 44th year of this occasion.

It actually started with just three of us having a Christmas lunch at Lincoln Del out on Highway 12. Then we started doing dinners. We'd have dinner at Jennings on Excelsior Boulevard and then hit the discos afterwards...typically Ichabod's or Rupert's. That was just the thing to do when we were in our 20's. The last few years we've been alternating between Wildfire and Olympic Hills.

Given that we're all in our 60's now, it's cocktails at 5:00, dinner at 6:00 and bed by 8:00.  There are three of us that go back to the third grade together. Sadly, three of our crew have gone on to the great diner in the sky...but they always get remembered and toasted at the dinner. It's just a great group of guys and I so look forward to these dinners every year.

Today's recipe is an Asian gem from P.J. Stoop in Houston. It's called Chicken Under Water because that is exactly how you cook it. You throw the chicken pieces in a pot and then cover the pot with a pan of ice water. This encourages rapid condensation of water and in just 50 minutes you will have incredibly moist pieces of chicken and a fantastic sauce.

The only difficult ingredient here is the kaffir lime leaves. Your closest Asian Food store is a sure bet. But if you are an Internet shopper like me, my go-to place for them is Follow this link to make your purchase: This recipe serves four.

7 cloves garlic
2 large shallots, quartered
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer removed, sliced
1 (¼-inch) piece ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 whole chicken, cut into 16-20 pieces
1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon coarsely ground white peppercorns


  1. Make curry paste: Use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to pulverize garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns until a coarse paste forms. 
  2. In a bowl, combine chicken with curry paste and soy sauce. Let marinate 30 minutes.
  3. Place marinated chicken in a stock pot over medium-low heat, then cover pot with a large metal bowl filled with ice water. Cook until wisps of steam begin to escape from pot, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove bowl of ice water, add scallions and lime leaves to pot, and stir. Cover pot again with bowl of ice water, adding more ice if necessary, and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 30 minutes more. 
  5. Transfer chicken and sauce to a large bowl or platter. 

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

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