Easy Ayam Pongteh (Chicken, Potato and Mushroom Stew)
Living in Singapore has given us the luxury to grow up with food from different ethnic groups. One of my favourite cuisines has got to be Peranakan food. Oh, and since I’m at it, I’ve noticed many people, English teachers included, using phrases like “one of the most delicious pie I’ve eaten” or “one of the best cafe in Singapore” and it really bothers me. “One of the most delicious pieS” because this pie is ONE pie out of the MANY delicious pies you’ve eaten. “One of the best cafes” because it is one of the MANY cafes that’s really good.
Reading it is like having a phantom itch, an itch that can’t be found and can’t be scratched. It is nightmare.
If you’ve been using it wrong all along, then at least you know now! If you’re that kind who come and say I look down on people’s English and think I’m perfect (I’m hardly), then go away la, you super narrow minded and taking it the wrong way.
Sorry for the rant. It’s one of those things that I have to get off my chest before I can give you the recipe for Ayam Pongteh.
Back to the chicken. With CBB being more predictable nowadays, I’m starting to find some time for cooking. It helps that I love cooking stews and braises, where ingredient preparation usually takes 10-15 minutes and the dish cooks by itself on the stove or slow cooker. It’s the case with Ayam Pongteh.
I first tried this soy-bean based chicken stew at a good friend’s place when I was in university. Her mom is a really good cook. That afternoon, she prepared a feast of Nyonya favourites like Bakwan Kepiting (pork and crab meat balls), Jiew Hu Char (vegetables fried with shredded cuttlefish), Kuih Pie Tee (crispy shells filled with jicama) and Ayam Pongteh (chicken and potato stew cooked with fermented soy beans). I found myself almost scrapping the pot of Ayam Pongteh at the dinner table. Before I left, I asked auntie for her recipe. How could I not?
Years later, this is the first time I’m cooking this dish with the recipe I scribbled in my old note book. It is important to use fresh small shallots for this dish and not those pre-peeled/vacuum sealed ones. Please also don’t substitute shallots with red onions! I love cooking with aromatics but hate preparing them. I hope someone invents a garlic and shallot peeling machine which give us the options of “slice”, “chop”, “pound” with the push of a button. Then I will get to cook (and eat!) this dish more often!
What you need:
500g chicken wings or parts
2 large potatoes cut into pieces
8 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked till soft and stems removed
3 tablespoons preserved soy bean paste (tau cheo)
12 shallot cloves
6 garlic cloves
1 stick cinnamon
A few drops of dark soy sauce for colour
Sugar to taste (the original recipe called for gula melaka)
2 tablespoons oil
Peel the shallots and garlic and pound into a paste. Alternatively, you can use the food processor/blender and blend till almost 70% smooth.
Heat up the oil and fry the paste for 3-4 minutes till fragrant. Add the chicken and tau cheo and lightly brown the chicken pieces. Follow with the cinnamon, mushrooms, potatoes and water.
Bring to boil and turn down heat. Drizzle in the dark soy sauce. Simmer for 45 minutes till ingredients are tender. Add sugar to taste, stir well and serve hot with rice.