Pandan (screwpine pandanus) is a type of tree that grows in Southeast Asia. Pandan leaves have a sweet, unique flavor, and the green dye from their leaves makes for colorful dishes and desserts. Pandan chicken is made by marinating the chicken in a pandan sauce, then actually wrapping the chicken pieces in pandan leaf (this step is optional) for a colorful, flavorful dish that's beautiful to serve as an appetizer or main dish at a potluck or party.
- 1 package of a dozen chicken wings ("drumlets", or small chicken drumsticks)
- Optional: 1 package pandan leaves (usually found in the freezer section of your local Asian food store)
- 1 cup oil (for deep-frying; canola works well, or you can barbeque the chicken)
- For Pandan Marinade Sauce:
- 1/2 can coconut milk (good quality thick)
- 2 tsp. coriander seeds (ground, grind them yourself in a coffee grinder for the best flavor)
- 2 tsp. soy sauce (dark)
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 galangal (or ginger thumb-size, peeled and sliced)
- 1/2 a lime (squeezed for juice)
- 1/2 tsp. pandan paste (available in a tiny bottle at Asian grocers and food stores)
- Optional: 1 chili (green or red, minced)
Place all marinade/sauce ingredients in a food processor, OR simply mince and stir everything together by hand. Note that you should be left with a sauce that is quite green in color.
Taste-test the sauce for salt and spice. If not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce. If too salty, add a little more lime juice. If too spicy, add more coconut milk. And if it's not spicy enough, add more chili.
Pour 1/3 of the sauce over chicken and mix to combine. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking, or preferably overnight. Note that the longer the chicken marinates, the more "green" it will appear. This is a good sign, as it means the chicken has been infused with the flavor and color of the pandan.
Pour the rest of the sauce into a bowl or container. This will be used later as a dip (if you plan to let the chicken marinate overnight, cover sauce and store in the refrigerator).
If Using Pandan Leaves: After the chicken is done marinating, take a long pandan leaf in your hand and use it to "wrap" the drumstick or chicken piece. Start wrapping several inches down the leaf to allow enough extra for tying ends together when you're done. The leaf needn't cover the chicken completely. Start and end the wrapping at the end of the drumstick (on the bone). If frying the chicken, discard any remaining marinade. If grilling, save the marinade to baste the chicken.
If Frying the Chicken: Pour 1 cup or more canola oil into a small to medium-size frying pan over medium-high heat (oil should be at least 1 inch deep). When oil starts to "snake" across the bottom of the pan, try dipping a corner of one of the wings into the pan. If the oil starts to sizzle, it is hot enough. If nothing happens, the oil needs more time to heat up.
Once oil is hot enough, reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to place the chicken in the oil. If the oil splatters or "pops", try reducing the heat or adding a little sea salt to the oil.
Turn the chicken pieces after 5 minutes to cook the other side. Chicken will take between 10 and 18 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the pieces and the heat of your oil. Chicken is done when it turns golden brown and pandan leaves have turned brown and crispy-looking.
If Grilling on the Barbecue: Place chicken pieces over a hot grill and cook until the juices run clear and pandan leaves have turned brown and crispy-looking.
Serve chicken together with the pandan sauce you made earlier. This sauce can be served at room temperature or gently heated up (1 minute over medium heat). Tip: don't overheat or boil the sauce, as you will lose most of the flavor and nutrients.
If serving as an appetizer, place the sauce in a bowl in the center of your serving platter for dipping. If an entree, serve with plenty of Thai jasmine rice, the sauce served on the side.
To eat, unwind the pandan leaf from the chicken piece (if using) and discard. Dip the chicken into the pandan sauce and eat. This makes a terrific party finger food! Or pour some of the sauce over the chicken and rice.