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Chicken Kapitan

Chicken Kapitan, inspired by Peranakan cusine, is a curry dish that is more savoury than spicy.

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One thing that is unique about Peranakan cuisine is the fact that there are so many versions of the same dish. Take, for example, the famous Pongteh Chicken dish that can be found in most Peranakan restaurants. Though the basic ingredients in a good Pongteh Chicken are the same, variations emerge through the use of other spices used or the combination of ingredients used.

Another famous dish that can also be found in most Peranakan restaurants is the Chicken Kapitan. It is common for most people to mistake this dish as yet another Curry Chicken as both dishes looks quite similar. The gravy for Chicken Kapitan is usually thicker, however. The spices and ingredients used to make Chicken Kapitan are far more elaborate than Curry Chicken. Most of the recipes calls for the use of kaffir lime leaves, turmeric powder, candlenuts, garlic, shallots which have been sliced and deep fried until crispy, lemongrass as well as chillies, both dried and fresh. Some recipes also call for the use of belacan, or dried shrimp paste, galangal, lime juice and sometimes brown sugar. The chicken is normally marinated with turmeric powder and left to sit overnight. Some people use only grated coconuts which have been stir-fried without oil on low heat till fragrant and brown, lime juice and salt as marinade for the chicken. Others do not even marinade the chicken before cooking the dish.

The spices, chillies, candlenuts, garlic and fresh shallots are first ground together to form a paste. It is then fried in oil until the paste is cooked and becomes fragrant. The chicken is then tossed into a wok and both the items are stirred around so that the chicken absorbs the fragrance of the spices, after which coconut milk is added to the wok. The chicken is then left to simmer for about 15-20 minutes before it is served.

Cooking methods for Chicken Kapitan can vary according to regional and cultural influences. Certain communities, like the Chinese community, may not like their food to be as spicy as the Malay community, and so may reduce the portion of dried chilli for this dish. Others may opt to exclude spices like galangal and belacan as these ingredients are not something they consume on a regular basis. Other cooks feel that deep frying the chicken prior to adding it to the paste will make it tastier. The same goes for the choice of using thicker coconut milk to produce a richer and thicker gravy. Whatever the cooking methods may be, one can be sure that the end product will all taste equally delicious and mouth-watering.

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