This recipe is difficult, not because of the method of cookery or anything like that, but because of the distinctive and rare ingredient that ‘makes’ it. It’s kencur, the root of the resurrection lily and you’ll only generally find this very distinctive and camphorous little aromatic in Bali. So if a friend’s going there on holiday or you’re off yourselves, get a pack of kencur brought back for you and then pop it in the freezer – it freezes like a dream.
This is basically a marinade that's built around many of the ingredients in a Balinese spice mix, or basa genep. I've omitted candlenuts (macadamia), which are used in most Balinese cookery in one way or another, for reasons of sheer saturated fat content if nothing else.
The resulting grilled chicken breasts are uniquely Balinese in flavour and composition – Asian and yet mind-blowingly distinctive. If you're barbecuing, of course, you can use thighs, legs or anything as long as you lengthen the cooking times. The end result remains explosively aromatic.
This, playmates, is a dish that will stay in your memory long after its last, lingering Asiatic notes have played out their sensory threnody.
If you can't get kencur, I suppose you could try galangal instead, but it's really not the same... If you can, give it a scrub, but don't bother skinning it. The Balinese certainly don't!
- 900g (4) chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp kencur, washed
- 1” fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 large red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp palm sugar (date syrup or ‘dibs’ will do)
- ½ tsp powdered turmeric
- 100ml lime juice
In a small blender bowl, mix all the spices and lime juice but not the turmeric and then whizz them to a smooth, slightly watery pulp. Put the turmeric in a roomy bowl, add the whizzed stuff and then stir in the chicken breasts. I’ve laid it out this way purely because turmeric is so messy and stains every utensil, and your fingers, yellow.
Let the chicken marinate at least an hour, then grill it, basting with marinade, for about 5-7 minutes each side so that it has just firmed up, started to brown and is cooked through.
Serve with rice and salad and perhaps a spoon of mayonnaise blended with red chilli.