This dish can be cooked in a bowl set in a steamer or in a tightly covered pot. Recently, when making this for a crowd, I tried cooking it in a roasting pan in the oven—a very nontraditional method—and it worked beautifully. Instructions for all three methods are given below.
The chicken is chopped into small pieces, on the bone, stripped of its skin, and rubbed with a flavor paste of garlic, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, and dried red chiles. Cutting the chicken into smaller pieces exposes more surface area to the marinade and results in a shorter cooking time too. The skin is added during cooking, so it releases its fat and flavor, and then discarded before serving. Whether steamed, slow-cooked, or cooked in the oven, the chicken is bathed in its own juices, emerging tender, succulent, and full of flavor.
Rinse the chicken pieces, remove most of the skin, and set aside. Place the chicken in a wide bowl.
Pound together the garlic, ginger, salt, chiles, coriander, and turmeric in a mortar to make a paste. Alternatively, mash the garlic and ginger with the side of a knife. Place in a small bowl, add the salt, chiles, coriander, and turmeric, and use the back of a spoon to blend them.
Stir the water into the paste, and add it to the chicken. Turn and mix the chicken and paste until the pieces are well coated. Set aside while you organize your cooking method.
You need a shallow bowl that will fit into your steamer basket when the lid is on and that is large enough to hold all the chicken. You also need a pot that is just about the same diameter as your steamer, so that no steam escapes.
Check one of the largest pieces of chicken for doneness after an hour or so. Also check that the pot has enough water and is not running dry. When all the chicken is cooked through, remove the steamer from the pot, again taking care not to burn yourself on the steam.
Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper third. Place the chicken pieces and the reserved skin in a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook for 10 more minutes, until tender and succulent. As with the slow-cooking method, the chicken will be bathed in a light sauce.
Remove the skin and discard. Serve hot or at room temperature, topped, if you like, with a sprinkling of scallion greens or coriander.
To Double the Recipe: If steaming, double all the amounts and cook in two bowls set in stacked steamers. If using the sealed-pot method, use a 10- to 12-inch heavy pot, so the chicken is not stacked too deep. The cooking time will be a little longer. If oven-cooking, make sure all the pieces are lying on the surface of the pan, and not stacked; if necessary, use two roasting pans and switch their positions when you turn the pieces over.
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