When I was little, I used to follow my mum to the Malaysian "wet" market in the mornings, where fresh meat and produce were sold. I have vague memories of those adventures, particularly how "smelly" the place was and I had to hold my breath every time we walked past the chicken section. There must have been hundreds of hens cooped up in their tiny plastic cages, clucking away noisily, awaiting their fate. I would cup my hand over my mouth to "filter" the air so that I didn't inhale any bits of chicken feathers floating around. I was relieved once mum finished her marketing and we could move on to the real purpose of the trip - which was to buy breakfast! There were street vendors outside the market who sold "yu tiao" (deep-fried dough fritters) and "muah chee" (glutinous rice balls with crushed peanuts and sugar) and getting to eat them always made the trip so worth it!
I haven't been to a wet market since I came to Sydney. Here, you can buy nicely prepacked meats in all shapes, sizes, grades and cut, which is convenient for those who have no time (or skill) to trim and debone meat. However, one thing I don't understand is why deboned meats don't come with the skin attached. I love using chicken thighs, though I had to debone them myself as I needed them with skin on for this Yurinchi dish. Yurinchi is a Japanese version of Chinese "oil-drenched chicken" and this recipe was based on Adam's Big Pot cookbook, by Adam Liaw. It is a simple dish of fried chicken fillets with a sweet and sour scallion dressing. As the chicken is coated in flour and deep-fried, the skin turns golden, crunchy and chewy at the same time.
The sweet and sour dressing for the chicken is superb. When you eat the chicken together with the lettuce, it all tastes so fresh and absolutely delicious, it's hard to believe all that talk about fried chicken being unhealthy. But then again, if you prefer a healthier alternative, try using poached chicken breast instead.
Adapted from Adam's Big Pot by Adam Liaw
4 chicken thigh fillets, skin on (about 800g)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup potato/corn flour
Oil for deep frying
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2-3 large spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp grated ginger
Rub the salt over the chicken. Toss chicken in the flour to coat, shake off any excess.
Heat oil to 180C (medium to high heat) and deep fry the chicken in batches until golden brown and cooked (about 3-4 minutes each side). Drain on a wire rack.
To prepare the sauce, mix all ingredients together until the sugar dissolves.
Arrange the lettuce on a large serving plate. Slice the chicken into 2cm slices and place on the lettuce. Drizzle all over with the sauce. Serve immediately with steamed rice or enjoy on its own!