They call this 'underwater chicken', quite literally the chicken is cooked dry in its own juices under a pan or pot of cold water. It sounds very weird, but it's an excellent way of making tough house chicken into tender juicy chicken. The chicken is cooked in a pot on a barbecue, and its cooked dry, or nearly dry. There are some juices from the marinade but not much. Yet after cooking it comes out soaking in juice.
It's like magic, it's almost as if the water magically makes its way from the top pot into the chicken pot!
You've lost none of the flavors, and all the juice is from the chicken and seasoning. Understanding how it works is the key to this. At the bottom, a regular barbecue heat source, I use charcoal, it can be gas or even electric. Above that a metal pot, in Thailand we usually use the rice steamer pot. Finally on top a tight fitting metal pan or pot filled with cold water.
The top pot must be metal, and it must have a decent seal to the pot the chicken is cooking in. If it doesn't, well I've seen banana stalks used to seal it, grease proof paper and all sorts of things, but ideally getting a good seal is essential.
The chicken goes in dry, the heat cooks out its fat and juices. As these juices evaporate, they condense on the upper pan containing the cold water and fall back into the chicken. So the chicken is cooking slowly in its own juices. It's like a slow simmer, but instead of lots of liquid diluting the flavors, only the chickens own juice cooks it.
Ingredients For Paste
3-4 Small Red Onions
5 Garlic Cloves
2 Stalks of Lemon Grass
1 Galangal Root
3 Strings of Green Peppercorns
6 Dried Red Chillies
1 Star Anise
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Coriander Roots
5 Kaffir Lime Leaves
Preparation For Paste
1. You'll need a Thai mortar and pestle for this, the ingredients need to be pounded. If you don't have one, used a blender.
2. Peel the garlic, add to the mortar. Peel the onions, slice and add to the mortar.
3. Peel the outer leaves off the lemon grass, trim, chop and add to the mortar.
4. Strip the green peppercorns off the stalk and add to the mortar.
5. Peel and chop the gallangal root, note a root is size of your thumb, its not the full stalk and root, a thumb sized piece is enough. Add the chopped pieces to the mortar.
6. Cut the dried red chillies into the mortar, I usually cut them with scissors.
7. Break the cinamon into the mortar, and drop the star anise into the mortar.
8. Pull the stalks out of the kaffir leaves and thingly slice the leaf, adding it to the mortar.
9. Throw the coriander roots into the mortar. Add the salt.
10. Now its all in the mortar, it's time to bok, bok, bok till you've broken the mix down to a course paste. It doesn't need to be fine, the chicken will cook in a liquid flavored by this, the liquid will mix the flavors.
Ingredients For Marinade
1 Large Chicken
The Paste you Pounded
1 Pickled Head of Garlic
2 Tablespoons the Pickling Juice of the Garlic
1 Tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Chicken Seasoning Powder (e.g. Rot Dee)
5 Kaffir Lime Leaves
1. Joint the chicken, we use all of the chicken except the head. I like to use the feet too, but perhaps you prefer to discard these.
2. Place into a large plastic bowl.
3. Take the pickle garlic head, chop it, add to the bowl.
4. Remove the stalks of the Kaffir leaves, slice finely, add to the bowl.
5. Add the other ingredients, including the paste you made earlier, add to the bowl.
6. Now mix the chicken and the other ingredients so its well coated.
7. Cover and leave to marinade for 1 hour.
1. Light your charcoal, to get it hot.
2. Into the (rice steamer) or metal pan goes the marinaded chicken.
3. Onto that goes a pan or metal pot filled with cold water.
4. Leave the chicken to heat up, you should be able to hear it boiling in the middle pan.
5. Check the top water, if it gets too hot, pour it out and pour in new cold water. This can be 15 to 30 minutes. The more water in the top pan, the longer it takes to heat up, obviously the colder the water to start with, the longer it takes to heat up. Warm water is fine, hot water is not.
6. Cook for 1 hour. 1 Hour is enough to cook this chicken and get all the juices out. But as long as you have cold water in the top pan, you can cook it longer.
The water needs to be cold (or at least cool) for the cooking method. As you cook it heats up, and when its too hot, the juice from the chicken stops condensing on it. So you need to replace it when it gets hot, with a new batch of cold water. That's the key to this cooking method.