Monday, April 8, 2013

Five Spice Cornish Hen with Tamarind Sauce

Nothing beats chicken!  Hot, cold, roasted, fried, a juicy chicken thigh is among the most delicious items available.  Personally, I like it cold and fried, but everyone has a preference.   

For centuries, poultry has remained atop the list of cuisines throughout the world, which along with pork makes up over 60% of the human diet.  From Southern Fried Chicken to Tikka Masala to Yakitori, we are in love with the domesticated bird.  This version is a Vietnamese favorite which blends earthy tones from Chinese 5 spice (fennel seed, saigon cinnamon, star anise, clove, szechuan peppercorn) with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce with a crispy Rock Cornish game hen (a cross between the White Rock and Cornish Game chickens).  

Ga Ro Ti- Five-Spice Rock Cornish Game Hen with Tamarind Sauce
2 Rock Cornish Game Hens
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp Chinese five spice-*
4 tbsp canola oil

Tamarind Sauce
2 tsp tamarind concentrate-*
4 tbsp fish sauce-*
1 ¼ cups water
4 tbsp palm sugar-*
5 cloves garlic
2 Thai chilis-*

accompaniments- rice, coriander, perilla
*- ingredients can be found at your local Asian Market



In a small bowl, mix the 5 spice and salt then dry off the hens.  Place them on a baking rack to air out for a moment.  Using a pair of scissors, cut the spine out and flatten the birds skin side up.  Then rub them thoroughly with the salt and 5 spice blend.  


The process of cutting them open is called spatchcocking or butterfly, and it will allow the birds to get a crisp skin and cook evenly and quickly.


In a heavy skillet, heat up the canola oil and add the birds skin side down.  Gently place them into the pan and avoid splashing the hot grease.


When the skin becomes golden brown, carefully flip them over and cook through on the underside.  Clear juices will begin to run from the hen as it is thoroughly cooked.  


While we cook the hen, put a small pot on the stove, add the fish sauce and tamarind paste and mix to dissolve.  Add the sugar and gently warm and stir until fully incorporated.  


Once the fish sauce is blended with the sugar and tamarind, add the garlic and chili; turn off the heat and let it rest.


When the birds are done, remove from the pan and serve with a bowl of rice and a side of tamarind sauce.  The traditional garnishes are perilla, a purple/green mint, and vietnamese coriander which has a lemony mint flavor.  Both herbs are abundantly used in Vietnam and add a beautiful aroma and freshness.