My late mum started travelling overseas only in her late 50s and yet she seemed to be able to embrace every cuisine that she encountered. I remembered when she returned from her first visit to the US and Canada; steaks, mash, pickles, salads, ham, bacon and cheese became her staples. From a tour of Europe, she acquired the taste for pasta.
This dish is neither Chinese nor western but it was one of her favourites. I never did find out where she learned this from but I imagine her trying to duplicate a curry; couldn't get all the necessary spices and ended up with this simple yet endearing dish.
It has very few ingredients but that, I think, is where simplicity ruled. Each complimenting and harmonising with one another to create this delicious combination...
2 kampong chicken or 1 meatier chicken, chopped into small pieces
1L santan + water (from 1 coconut)
4-5 stalks lemongrass, bruised
4 thumb size fresh turmeric, peeled
3-5 fresh chilli, seeded
10 shallots, peeled
2-3 tablespoon oil
1. Blend turmeric, chilli and shallots into a fine paste (I did it the hard way like mum used to - pounded in a mortar).
2. Heat wok, add oil and fry the paste until fragrant. Ready when the oil surfaces.
3. Put in the lemongrass and chicken pieces, mix well. When chicken pieces are browned, add santan, bring to boil and quickly lower heat to simmer.
4. Simmer until chicken is soft and season with salt to taste. Serve with rice.
Note: Potatoes can be added; boil, peel and put in half way through the simmering (mum liked to use those small ones from Ranau).