I came across this recipe in a local food magazine when I was in Malaysia. It's a home-style fried chicken dish but I was intrigued by "cekur powder" (沙姜粉/sha jiang fen). I asked a supermarket staff if she's heard of it/stock it but she said she wasn't quite sure. A Malay customer tried to help me find it, but we found something else instead. When I got home, I asked my grandma about it and she told me it's a type of ginger and she doesn't like the taste of it. I tried my luck at a herb shop near my grandma's and they actually stocked it. I bought a small quantity back just to make this. Opening the sealed bag, it smells quite fragrant and familiar. I haven't seen it on the shelves in Asian grocers here, but it might be available in traditional herbal medicine shops. If you can't find it, I think it's ok to leave it out since the recipe only requires a little bit.
This actually reminds me of the Taiwanese popcorn chicken (盐酥鸡/yan su ji), sold at a street vendor near my uncle's apartment in Taiwan. We'd pass the stand everyday and grab a bagful on our way out and some more with iced lemon tea on the way home. It was so so addictive just like these!
◯ ◯ ◯
Taiwanese crispy chicken serves 4 as part of a shared meal
2 pieces chicken thigh fillet (approx. 500g)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half a thumb of ginger, finely chopped
30ml soy sauce
Dash of sake or shaoxing wine
50g self raising flour
25g rice flour
Water, as required
Coarse sweet potato flour (粗番薯/地瓜粉), as required* (or cornstarch)
Cooking oil, as required
2 handfuls of Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
Five spice pepper salt, as required**
A good pinch of sand ginger powder (沙姜粉/cekur/sha jiang fen) powder, (optional)***
Trim excess fat off chicken and cut into thin strips. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces if you want to make popcorn chicken. Marinate with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and wine and leave for a few hours up to overnight.
To make batter, combine self raising and rice flour with enough water (approx. 125ml). Batter should be runny. Add in a glug of cooking oil if you want and mix in thoroughly. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes and stir again before using.
Dip chicken strips into batter and coat well with coarse sweet potato flour. Deep fry in hot oil until light golden. Drain chicken of oil and deep fry again until crispy.
In another wok, heat and toss crispy chicken with basil leaves, five spice pepper salt and sand ginger powder until basil leaves begin to dry. Serve hot.
*Should be available in Asian grocery stores near the packaged flour section. I didn't think the flour would fry properly because it was quite lumpy, but after frying, I was surprised those lumpy bits turned into crispy bits.
**My dad makes his own blend and cooks it over a low heated wok. The original spice blend in the magazine includes: 1 Tb five spice powder, 1/2 Tb fine salt, 1/8 tsp sand ginger powder, 1/8 tsp pepper.