ONE of the best versions of fried chicken I’ve tried and still can’t stop longing for it every now and then is the fried chicken slices carefully wrapped in packets of pandan leaves. The first time I had it was at an open restaurant at the Old Sukhothai City in northern Thailand. My travel buddy Rolly introduced me to it and the menus listed it as Chicken wrapped in Pandanus Leaf. It was served to us in a once-upon-a-time white plate with several chips in the corners and a small plastic dish of dipping sauce. We were very hungry and it was already dark so we dove straight into the chicken, not really seeing how it was served.
I had it again in Bangkok later and this time the restaurant menu listed it as Gai Hor Bai Toey or Thai pandan-wrapped chicken.
Then I had it again recently in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). My friend Micmic treated me to what she said is an ‘authentic Vietnamese dinner’ at the restaurant in her condo building and the menu listed it as Vietnamese-style chicken. The pandan chicken was served with fresh green vegetables and a small dish of sauce brimming with onions and soysauce and bits of red chili which carries the promise of Level 5 in spiciness.
Whatever they name it, I call it “yummylicious.” The method of cooking it escalates the taste of fried chicken to a whole new level.
Fried chicken is fried chicken, but they make this more complicated. The chunks of chicken had been marinated in coconut milk, wrapped in pandan leaves and steamed before being deep fried. The aromatic flavor of the pandan leaves penetrates the chicken slices during steaming, and deep frying caramelizes the marinade but restricts the juices of the chicken inside the pandan leaves.
The times I had this pandan-wrapped chicken were always in a restaurant where you had to daintily poke at the chicken with a pair of chopsticks or a fork and eat in a “ladylike” manner (charot :-D) but believe me, if I were at home, I’d most likely eat it with my hands and pair it off with a plate of hot rice and spicy sauce. I never had that luxury yet.
Take note, if you have yet to try the pandan-wrapped fried chicken, which you should, don’t eat the pandan leaves.