Khao Mok Gai (Thai Chicken Biryani)
Khao Mok Gai (Thai Chicken Biryani)
One of my biggest guilty pleasures is watching people eat different food around the world on YouTube. While this may sound like a creepy hobby, it’s also how I get a lot of inspiration for my cooking. I’m always on a hunt to find new and exciting dishes to try as a challenge. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a video of someone in Thailand eating a dish called khao mok gai which is a Thai version of chicken biryani. As you may remember, I’ve shared a few biryani recipes before. They are usually comprised of meat or vegetables with rice and an array of spices cooked all in one pot. They’re great for days when you don’t feel like doing extra dishes.

Biryanis are Middle Eastern-influenced dishes originating in South India. The word “biriyani” derives from the Persian language, which was used as an official language in medieval India by various Islamic dynasties. When I first heard about khao mok gai, I knew it was going to be delicious, and judging by the spices in the dish I thought I knew exactly how this was going to taste. But the outcome was surprisingly different from what I was expecting. The flavors are far more complex than any biryani I’ve ever tasted before.

In my last column I talked about the health benefits of turmeric in my Gold Milk recipe. So this week I thought I’d share a savory dish using turmeric spice. Turmeric and cumin are typical spices used in any biriyani, but this one actually uses a lot of the spices I’m sure you already have in your cabinet from holiday baking. I hope you will try this simple and delicious khao mok gai served with a refreshing mint chutney.

Ingredients:

(serves 4 people)
For the rice
4 chicken thighs with skin and bone
4 shallots
12 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
14 cup cilantro
112 Tbsp. ginger
212 tsp. ground turmeric
112 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
18 tsp. ground nutmeg
18 tsp. ground clove
12 tsp. ground cardamom
12 tsp. ground cinnamon
18 tsp. white pepper
18 tsp. black pepper
18 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. sugar
112 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chicken stock paste or one bouillon cube
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
14 cup canola oil
For the mint chutney
1 clove garlic
112 tsp. minced ginger
34 cup fresh mint
34 cup fresh cilantro
14 tsp. salt
34 tsp. sugar
14 cup rice wine vinegar
juice of 12 lime

Directions:

Now, I know you may be intimidated by how many ingredients are going in here, but don’t worry! We are letting the blender do all the work. Place all the spices including salt and pepper and sugar, along with garlic, ginger and cilantro, 2 shallots and Greek yogurt, in a blender. Blend on high speed until it becomes a thick and creamy paste. (photos 1 & 2)

Coat the chicken thighs with the paste, cover it up and refrigerate overnight. You can use drumsticks or wings, but I do not recommend chicken breasts in this dish because the skin and bones actually will release a lot of juice and flavor into the rice, which makes the dish richer and much tastier. (photo 3)

After the chicken has been marinated overnight, brush off the paste from the chicken but don’t throw any of the paste out. This is just to prevent the chicken from burning when we sear them. Slice up the remaining 2 shallots.

In a large skillet on medium high heat, fry the shallots in 1/4 C canola oil or any type of oil with a high burning point. Fry until the shallots are golden brown and crispy. Drain it and set aside while saving the oil. (photo 4)

In the same skillet, on high heat, sear the marinated chicken thighs in the oil from frying the shallots, until both sides are golden brown. This will take about 2 minutes on each side. (photo 5)

While the chicken is browning, rinse the jasmine rice. Make sure you rinse it at least three times so that all the starch is washed off. Washing off the starch makes the cooked rice much fluffier and prevents it from turning mushy.

Take the chicken out of the skillet once it is nice and browned. Scrape out any of the burned pieces. Pour in the marinade paste and saute the rice in it for two minutes until all the rice is well coated. (photo 6)

Transfer the rice into a heavy-duty pot, such as a Dutch oven, and pour in 2 cups of water along with 1 chicken bouillon cube. Place the seared chicken thighs on top of the rice and sprinkle half of the fried shallots in the pot as well. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. You may score the chicken thighs before placing them in the pot; this way it will cook faster and more evenly. (photo 7)

While we are waiting for the rice to be cooked, we can prepare the mint chutney. Again, it may seem like there are a lot of ingredients and just one more thing to do, but it is so worth it! Blend everything together until smooth and set aside. Thai cuisine doesn’t typically use much ginger, so whenever you see ginger in a Thai dish, it’s most likely a dish that is Indian or Chinese influenced. (photo 8)

When the chicken is fully cooked, take it out of the pot and fluff up the rice. Remove from the heat and cover the rice up again and let it steam for five minutes.

Serve the chicken over the rice along with the mint chutney on the side. Sprinkle the remaining fried shallots on top of the rice and serve it with some sambal chili paste or your favorite hot sauce on the side.