A chicken nugget story
An interesting twist on a classic Thai dish
I was telling my friend about how I had a craving the other day for Chicken McNuggets but, given that I would have to take a 1.5 hour flight in order to satisfy that craving, I had to make my own. And they were ridiculously good. They were so damn good that you don't even need to eat them with dipping sauce. Every bite is a big little explosion of flavour in your mouth.
Well, my friend, having lived in Korea for Spaghetti-Monster-knows-how-long, asked for a picture. And, you know, even though I've lived in Asia for a full QUARTER of my life*, I still have not developed the habit of taking photos of every morsel of food that I put into my mouth. So I promised that the next time I made my super special chicken nuggets, I would take a picture for him, which is exactly what I've done here. In fact, I took several photos of the whole dang process, and I've decided to share it as a recipe blog post with photos because I think these nuggets are so dang good that everyone should be able to have them.
Not to get all hipster on y'all, but the preparation and cooking time for this recipe from start to finish is exactly all of City and Colour's 2008 "Bring Me Your Love" album from beginning to end.
*I am still in shock after the realisation that I have spent a quarter of my life in Asia. If my life were a pie chart, time spent in Asia would be a full quarter of that pie: a delicious kimchi- and keffir lime-flavoured slice of pie.
You will need 500 grams of minced chicken, one egg, 8-12 keffir lime leaves, a handful of green beans, one teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of sugar, and a very generous tablespoon of Thai red curry paste.
Interesting fun fact #1: The original recipe which my Thai friend taught me was for Thai fish cakes. Instead of minced chicken, you're supposed to use minced fish. I don't have a food processor at the moment, so I can't make my own minced fish, and explaining to the girls at the meat and fish counter in my local supermarket that I want minced fish is more trouble than I'm keen to put myself through. I used minced chicken (a) because I wanted chicken nuggets and (b) to avoid the frustrating experience of having to mime to a non-English speaker the concept of minced fish. BUT, if you ever feel inclined to make Thai fish cakes, there you have it, now you know what to do: substitute fish in for chicken.
Finely slice the green beans in rounds. Roll up the keffir lime leaves lengthwise and cut them into very fine strips with some scissors. Lightly beat the egg.
Mix all the ingredients together extremely well. At this point in the process, I was singing along (loudly) to Body in a Box, which is the song which was playing on my City and Colour album at that point. If you feel the urge to sing as loudly as possible during the food preparation process and, if you're like me and use your mixing spoon as a makeshift microphone, if what your mixing spoon happens to be coated in is raw minced chicken, RESIST the impulse to lick the spoon. It is definitely not a good idea.
Shape the minced chicken mixture into nugget shapes. Make sure your hands are wet. If your hands are dry, the chicken will stick to your hands and making these nuggets will be a frustrating, unpleasant endeavour. If your hands are wet, everything slides nicely and easily. Lubrication is a good thing.
Interesting fun fact #2: My point about lubrication is also, so I hear, what the proverbial "she" said.
Gently slide the nuggets into suitably hot oil. Regarding what, exactly, constitutes "suitably hot", well I'm not a goddamn chef. I don't know. Hot enough that the chicken cooks but not so hot that the chicken burns. Adjust the fire as necessary throughout the cooking process.
Once the nuggets have turned a golden colour, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon. The slotted spoon is important. The first time I made these, I did not have a slotted spoon, so I had to use a regular spoon. It was not fun. There may have been an impressive stream of invectives coming from my kitchen at some points in the cooking process. My walls are paper thin. To prevent further damage to my reputation within my apartment building, I've invested in a slotted spoon to ease the removal of nuggets from hot oil process.
Put some paper towel on a plate and lay your cooked nuggets on the plate to drain off some of the oil while the nuggets cool to eating temperature. This is an important step. I may be all different kinds of bitchy at times, but one thing I am not (or almost never am) is a Skinny Bitch. But I also don't want to be a fatter bitch than I need to be. So draining off some of the oil to minimise the amount of oil that you actually ingest is probably a good idea.
The inside of a freshly made Thai chicken nugget. I've convinced myself that, despite the fact that these are deep fried, they are very healthy (please nobody destroy my delusions). Chicken is lean, eggs are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids and are therefore good for you, and green beans are VEGETABLES (or legumes or whatever-I don't know, I'm not a botanist). I've also convinced myself that if I accidentally eat the entire batch over the course of, say, a day, it's okay because I'm just ingesting a bunch of very healthy ingredients which happen to be delicious and irresistible.
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Great stuff! I would love to have a section on the ajarn website for teachers all over Asia to submit their easy-to-do recipes. I'm not a great cook in the kitchen but I've got one or two nice Chinese stir-fries I like doing from time to time - and ingredients are not expensive!
By philip, (9th June 2013)