This past weekend, through the recommendation of a friend, I was privileged to attend a cooking class at The Private Pantry. Thank you to The Private Pantry for the invitation to attend Violet Oon's Nonya cooking session. The Private Pantry also organises cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes in Singapore by many other renowned chefs teaching different types of cuisines such as Thai, Italian, French and Spanish. Check out other classes by The Private Pantry here.
Violet Oon doesn't need much of an introduction for Singaporeans. She has been a household name in Singapore for the many decades and I have heard much about her Nonya Food specialty which made me really excited about going to this class to pick up some tips. For those who do not know her, Violet Oon is one of Singapore's leading food gurus and considered a leading authority on Asian cuisine.
Garam Assam Fish cooking away on the stove: Ikan Tenggiri or Garoupa fish steaks are cooked in a spicy and tangy curry with tomatoes, pineapples, laksa leaves and ginger flowers. One can also add other vegetables such as brinjal or ladies fingers or use other kinds of seafood for this dish.
My tasting portion of Garam Assam Fish: According to Violet, a strong tasting fish is used with this curry so that it compliments the richness of the sauce. The firm fleshed fish goes well with the sauce and the tomatoes and pineapples adds a sharp edge to the Assam sauce which makes it extra refreshing.
Sambal Belachan: Shrimp paste is pounded with fresh cut chillies in a pestal. This salty and spicy concoction is made perfect with a few drops of fresh lime juice. This can also be made in a food processor but the effect won't be the same as that using the traditional motar and pestal method, said Violet.
Satay Ayam Goreng stewing away on the stove: This has to be my favourite dish among the three (recipe below). In this dish, pieces of chicken are stewed till tender in a spicy and aromatic coconut sauce. And one doesn't need to fry the spice mix ahead which means it doesn't require oil and is therefore much healthier.
The sauce of the Satay Ayam Goreng being thickened: After the chicken pieces are done, they are removed and the sauce is slowly reduced further till it is thick and rich.
My tasting portion of Satay Ayam Goreng: The succulent pieces of chicken covered with an aromatic and spicy sauce. The sauce will be delicious with bread or rice.
Satay Ayam Goreng
Recipe by Violet Oon
- 1 chicken cut into pieces of 1.2 kg of cut up thighs and breast of a chicken
- 3 cups of thick coconut cream or freshly squeezed coconut cream from 2 coconuts
- 1 - 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 - 4 tsp sugar
- 1 stalk lemongrass smashed, to allow flavours to infuse curry
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, broken up, to allow flavours to infuse the gravy
- 1 tbsp coriander powder*
- 5 dried chillies or 1 tbsp dried chilli paste
- 5 candlenuts, washed and drained
- 3 red chillies, sliced roughly
- 150 g shallots, peeled, sliced roughly
- 1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
*Dry fry coriander seeds in frying pan till light fragrant. Grind in a coffee grinder and sieve to get dine powder. Discard the rough bits. Alternatively, buy ready-made coriander powder.
1. Wash dried chillies, soak in hot water for about 1 to 2 hours till softened. Cut the stalks off and cut the chillies into small pieces.
2. Pound the candlenuts till semi-fine. Add the fresh chillies and pound till semi-fine. Add the dried chillies and pound for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp paste and pound well. The last ingredient to add is shallots. Pound till the mixture is very fine. Alternatively, you can grind the ingredients in a food processor till you get a smooth paste. Grind all the other ingredients first before adding the shallots for further grinding.
3. Mix all the ingredients (spice mix, coconut milk, lemongrass, lime leaves, chicken) in the sauce pan and bring to boil. Sprinkle the coriander powder into the pan and then add salt and sugar to taste. Simmer till the liquid is reduced and the gravy is thick.
4. If the chicken is cooked (45 mins to 1 hour) and can be easily pierced with a fork, remove the chicken and further thicken the gravy till desired consistency.
5. Serve with rice, first removing the lemongrass and lime leaves.