Chef Simpson Wong culls taste memories from his Malaysian boyhood for menu inspiration at his restaurant Wong in New York City. His recipe for Bo Bo chicken, which refers to a brand of chicken popular among New York City's Asian population, calls for eye-popping amounts of lemongrass, garlic, shallots and fresh ginger. The sauce made from these punchy ingredients does double duty: first as a marinade, then as a seasoning paste. Paired with yogurt-dressed baby greens, this dish is a bite of Malaysia minus the airfare.
Malaysian-Style Chicken with Garlic and Lemongrass
Recipe adapted from Simpson Wong, Wong, New York City
Yield: Serves 4
Cook Time: 25 minutes, plus 1 hour marination
½ cup canola oil
4 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layer removed and stalk finely chopped
16 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
Four-inch piece fresh ginger, scraped and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons sambal chile paste
¼ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Juice of ½ lime
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Four 6-ounce bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3 cups watercress or butter lettuce leaves torn into small pieces
¼ cup plain yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the marinade: In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the lemongrass and cook, stirring for 30 seconds, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the shallots. Cook the shallots for 30 seconds and then stir in the ginger. Once the ginger is fragrant, after about 30 seconds, stir in the turmeric and cook for 30 seconds. Mix in the sambal, cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the coconut milk, sugar, lime juice and salt. Turn off the heat and let the marinade cool (the oil will separate from the solids).
2. Over a large bowl, pour the marinade through a fine-mesh sieve. Scrape the spice paste from the sieve into a small bowl and set aside (if marinating overnight, cover the spice paste with plastic wrap and refrigerate). Season the chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and then add to the marinade, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the skillet, skin-side down. Cook until the skin is browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, about 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat and spread equal amounts of the reserved spice paste over the top of each piece of chicken.
4. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes longer.
5. In a large bowl, toss the greens with the yogurt, season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of the salt and some pepper and toss again. Serve alongside the chicken.