Pandan leaf chicken is one of the best specialty chicken dishes in Thailand. The chicken is moist, tender, infused with refreshing pandan aroma and encased in the leaf packets.
The Thai people wrap the marinated boneless chicken meat inside a large piece of pandan leaf and deep-fry it. The amazing aroma of the leaves is infused into the chicken meat, giving the ordinary chicken a distinct flavor and unique presentation.
Pandan leaf is also called screwpine leaf. It is long and slim with the length reaching 50 cm. It is widely available for cooking in all South East Asia countries. The local people use pandan leaves to flavor the rice, to make drinks and preparing desserts.
Pandan leaves are not widely available in Western countries. Unfortunately, you need to wrap the chicken in pandan leaf. Therefore it cannot be substituted with pandan extract. If you can get pandan leaves in Asian grocery stores, try this recipe that is so different from any chicken dishes. After all, it is a relatively easy recipe to follow. The flavor is neither too spicy nor exotic which is ideal for someone who wants to enjoy Thai food but is put off by the other hot and spicy Thai foods.
Thai pandan leaf chicken is served with a sweet and salty sesame dipping sauce which complements the subtle flavor of the chicken. The Thai people serve it as the main dish or appetizer that is ideal for party hors-d’oeuvre.
It is challenging wrapping the chicken the first time, but it is a breeze after some practice. There are two ways to encase the chicken. You can fold the leaves to form a pocket to hold the chicken or simply roll the chicken inside the leaf and secure it with a toothpick. The best way to understand how to do it is by watching the embedded video.
There are many versions of pandan chicken recipes. Some recipes include typical Thai spices like lemongrass, turmeric, coconut and shallot. Thai people also add curry powder and dry chili for an extra hot and spicy flavor. My recipe is more of the Malaysian style, which does not use chili.
I have improvised the pandan leaf chicken recipe by adding pandan extract as part of the marinade. The Thai people usually steam the chicken before deep frying. This process helps to keep the chicken moist after frying, and infuse the pandan aroma into the chicken. I blend some chopped pandan leaves with a small amount of water to form a concentrated paste to extract the juice. The juice is used as part of the marinade to increase the intensity of the pandan flavor. This improvisation yields pandan chicken that is moist, tender and packed with pandan flavor.
Watch this video (3.14 min)
My pandan leaf chicken recipe:
Cut the chicken into 4cm chunks, skin on.
Blend the pandan leaves with 3 tablespoons of water. Extract the juice through a sieve.
Marinate the chicken with the pandan extract and ingredients in B for 2 hours.
Wrap each piece of chicken with the leaves. (Refer to the video in this post)
Steam the chicken tor 10 minutes.
Deep fry the encased chicken for 4 minutes until the exposed area of the chicken become golden brown.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
Toast the white sesame seeds in a wok or pan without oil until they become light brown. Set them aside.
Put the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and simmer over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thicken. Remove from heat.
Add the toasted sesame seeds into the sauce and serve with the pandan chicken.
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10 Tips to cook a perfect pandan leaf chicken
- Marinate the chicken. The marinade provides a slightly spicy and earthy flavor, while the pandan leaves impart the delicate, inviting aroma to the chicken.
- The pandan leaves also help to keep the chicken moist during deep frying to guarantee each piece is succulent and tender.
- The chicken should be wrapped securely in the pandan leaf, with a little tip peeking out through the top.
- Use the broad and long pandan leaves for easy wrapping.
- After wrapping, pull the leave tight so that the juice will not leak out and the chicken will remain juicy.
- Do not add too much water to blend the pandan leaves. It should yield a thick extract so that it will not dilute the marinade.
- Use the side of the leaves that is not shiny as the inner part to wrap the chicken. There are two ways to do this. The first method is to fold the leaf forming a pocket to hold the chicken, and then fasten the pocket by inserting the tip of the leaves through the gap between the leaf and the chicken meat. The second method is to roll up each leaf with the chicken inside and fasten with a toothpick.
- You can use chicken breast or chicken thigh meat for this recipe. I have tried both and are equally delectable.
- Since the chicken is already steamed, you just need to deep fry it until it turns golden brown. Prolonged frying will result in hard and dry pandan chicken.
- Fasten the pandan pocket tightly by pulling the ends of the pandan leaves as the chicken will shrink during deep frying.
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