This recipe has been passed down through generations of the family of Ibu Rohati, a Padang native we met while exploring Indonesia and the ancient Minangkabau culture. Check your local Asian market for Indonesian ingredients.
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1 tbsp. tamarind paste
- 3 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 3 red holland chiles, stemmed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 (1") piece ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 (1") piece fresh or frozen and thawed galangal, peeled and chopped
- 1 (1/2") piece fresh or frozen and thawed turmeric, peeled and chopped
- 4 shelled candlenuts, chopped
- 1 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp. peanut oil
- 1 (3 1⁄2–4-lb.) chicken, cut in half
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- Bruise lemongrass with dull side of cleaver or large kitchen knife, tie it into a knot, and set aside. Dissolve tamarind pulp in 1 cup hot water. Strain through a sieve, pressing pulp through with a rubber spatula. Set liquid aside and discard seeds.
- Crush together shallots, chiles, garlic, ginger, galangal, turmeric, candlenuts, and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle to a smooth paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add spice paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 3–5 minutes. Push paste to outer edge of skillet, add chicken, skin side down, and cook until skin begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken, then stir in tamarind liquid and lemongrass, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces by one-quarter, about 10 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer, basting chicken frequently, until it is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and continue simmering sauce until thickened and pastelike, 7–10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat grill. Grill chicken over medium-hot heat, basting with sauce and turning halfway through, until completely cooked, 15–20 minutes. Serve at room temperature, with Steamed White Rice, if you like.