Minced Chicken with Galangal and Tomato

Every evening in Mrauk U I had the luxury of eating at a small guesthouse on the edge of town, where the innkeeper’s wife, Shwe Nwe, served a multidish supper. The food was so varied and so fresh tasting that I think of those dinners as some kind of eating-Eden experience. Best of all, I was able to go to the kitchen daily and learn as I watched Shwe Nwe cook.

This dish has become a favorite in my family. Like many dishes from Rakhine State, it has a marked chile heat, a little hit of galangal, and a balanced complexity. Serve over rice or as a delectable nontraditional sauce for pasta. Accompany with a chopped cucumber salad or lightly dressed greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless chicken or ground chicken
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced galangal
  • 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes or canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (ngapi), or substitute 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Red Chile Oil or store-bought, or to taste, or 2 teaspoons Shallot Oil plus ½ to 1 teaspoon Red Chile Powder or cayenne
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander (optional)

Method

If using boneless chicken, thinly slice it, then chop with one or two cleavers until it is reduced to a coarsely ground texture, about 5 minutes. Or coarsely chop, place in a food processor, and pulse several times to grind it. Set aside.

Place a wok or wide heavy pot over medium heat and add the oil. Add the turmeric and stir, then toss in the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the galangal and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir to blend, then cook for a minute.

Add the chicken and cook, stirring to break up lumps and blend the chicken into the sauce, until all the chicken has changed color. Add the shrimp paste and stir well. Add the salt and stir, then stir in the chile oil. Cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so, to give the flavors time to blend. The oil will rise to the surface.

Serve hot or at room temperature, topped with a sprinkling of chopped coriander if you wish.

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