Creating dishes for a party at home can be simple, flavourful, and delicious with inspirations from Moroccan cuisine like Chicken Tagine. Traditionally, the recipe calls for marinating chicken in onions, fresh turmeric, black pepper, and lemon zest before grilling.
But the first time Chef Thaninthorn 'Noom' Chantrawan, head chef of One MICHELIN Starred Chim by Siam Wisdom, tried Chicken Tagine, he tasted flavours similar to Thai food. His creativity took over, and now we have Turmeric Benja Chicken with Pickled Lime. Sour, spicy, aromatic, and most importantly, it can be made in any home kitchen. This mouthwatering dish is ideal for a small weekend gathering.
Benja chicken thighs and breasts
1 pickled lime (using only the peel)
Black sesame leaves
1 handful of hog plums (Alternatives: bilimbi fruit or star gooseberries)
2 bulbs of garlic
1 teaspoon of white pepper and 1 teaspoon of black pepper or peppercorns
Roots and leaves from 3-4 coriander stalks
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
½ cayenne pepper (for colouring)
3-4 chilli peppers
3-4 dried peppers
2 small turmeric roots and turmeric powder
1 small ginger root
1. Prepare the Benja chicken marinade by peeling the pickled lime and then coarsely slicing the red and yellow onions.
2. Pound together the garlic, peppercorns, coriander root, fresh turmeric, chilli peppers, cayenne pepper, dried chilli peppers, a pinch of salt, black pepper (use enough peppers to suit spiciness). Modern cooks may prefer using a blender or food processor instead of a mortar and pestle. Add the hog plums last.
3. Combine the chicken with the aromatics and the paste (from steps 1 and 2 above) together. Add chopped coriander leaves and then black pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Using your hands, stir and squeeze the mix thoroughly to ensure the chicken absorbs the pickled lime and sliced onions. Let marinade sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
4. Grill over medium heat. If you do not have a grill, cook in a pan with some olive oil, waiting for the olive oil to heat first before adding the chicken. Cooking time should be 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces.
5. Fry any leftover marinade to serve with the grilled chicken.
6. Finely chop the black sesame leaves. Plate by placing the grilled chicken on top of the cooked marinade. Then sprinkle the chopped black sesame leaves to complement the intense flavours from the chicken.
- If using wooden skewers for the chicken, soak them in water beforehand to prevent them from burning over the heat.
- If you want to get the full fragrant effect from the pickled lime, the chef suggests pickling the limes yourself. It’s easy. First, thoroughly clean the limes, making sure to use green limes that have not ripened to yellow yet. Cover the entire fruit in salt and leave for about half an hour. If you prefer a little sweetness, add a little sugar to the salt. Then, thoroughly wash the salt off. Use a clean needle and poke 5-6 holes in each fruit. Wash with water. Then immerse the limes in boiling water for 3-5 seconds. After that, cover in salt again and place in an opaque container. Store away from sunlight and heat. You can also pickle in brine with a 1 to 1 ratio of salt to water. For those who want a more herbal fragrance, you can add bergamot (kaffir lime) leaves or lemongrass. Let it all pickle for about 15-20 days, allowing the inside of the limes to soften. Then you can use the pickled limes for cooking.
Hero photo: © Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand