Balinese chicken salad

When you’re travelling with kids there are obvious culinary allowances you have to make, especially in south east Asia. Our kids go to bed pretty early so we can’t eat late. We tend to eat at relatively ‘safe’ (read: sanitary) places and have to avoid stuff that the kids may find too freaky or spicy. Plus, the kids tend to want to do things other than eating (weird, I know) so we will have to save the major culinary excursions for when the kids are old enough to leave with the grandparents for several days at a time.The Hong Kong bender for my 40th and Pete’s 50th birthday has entered the planning stage…A couple of years ago we went to Ubud with my parents and stayed in a gorgeous little place called Alam Shanti lost in a laneway off a laneway south of the monkey forest. For 10 glorious days we started every evening with a gin and tonic, bid goodbye to the geckos and then wandered up the dirt track to a local restaurant called Laka Leke. The food was certainly very passable (but not fabulous) but it was just the most delightful place to eat.  Little open sided pavilions were dotted throughout one of those relentlessly beautiful Balinese gardens. Mosquito coils in little clay pots were tucked under the tables where we sat and watched the sun set over the rice paddies. The women there fell in love with my son and hauled him off every night to feed big chunks of bread to the goldfish. Alex still refers to this restaurant as “my friends’ place”.

My dad and I learnt this recipe at a cooking class we took at Laka Leke. It’s a great addition to a special banquet style dinner as you can prepare the chicken and dressing in advance and toss them together just before serving. If you can’t get the fresh tumeric (promise me you’ll try), you can substitute 1 tsp of powdered tumeric and half a teaspoon of saffron. To toast the shrimp paste, wrap it in a single layer of foil and dry toast in a hot pan until you can’t stand the stink any longer, then pound it into a fine powder .

Ayam Panggang Sambal Matah (Balinese Chicken Salad)

  • 2oo gm chicken breasts
  • thumb sized piece of fresh tumeric, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 6 tablespoons light olive oil (or other lightly flavoured salad oil)
  • 4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and finely sliced)
  • Half a teaspoon of toasted shrimp paste, ground to a powder
  • Juice of one lime
  • Inner white part of a stem of lemongrass finely chopped
  • Finely sliced hot red chillies to taste

Place the chicken between two sheets of cling film and pound flat with a rolling pin. They need to cook quickly or the marinade will blacken so you want them not more than a centimetre thick. Combine the grated tumeric, ground coriander, salt and pepper and three tablespoons of the oil and coat the chicken. Marinate for 1 hour and then grill or BBQ the chicken and leave to cool. Combine the remaining oil and ingredients to make the salad dressing. When the chicken is cool, shred it with your fingers and then toss it together with the salad dressing. I like to serve it piled high on a plate garnished with extra chili, finely sliced kaffir lime leaves and some grated kaffir lime rind.

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