Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chicken Kalamungai (Marungai)

Tonight we tackled one of the things on my mom-needs-to-cook-while-we-are-here list. Growing up I was always her helper in the kitchen, usually washing the dishes as we cooked or prepping ingredients (chopping, peeling, etc.). However, since I've lived all of my adult life in a different city (mostly different state) I haven't had a chance to really learn her recipes. Therefore, I was determined to make it one of the priorities during this trip. So we started with her chicken kalamungai soup (a.k.a. chicken marungai and papayas). Pieces of chicken and green papayas in a savory broth flavored with tanglad (a.k.a. lemongrass) and kalamungai leaves--it is so good.

The most time-consuming step of this dish is picking the kalamungai leaves. We would usually sit around the table "talking story" while we did this so the time actually flew by. Brian pitched in to help during this step and we all enjoyed a great conversation.

Seeding and peeling the papaya also takes a little time as the skin can be difficult to work with. Once those two things are done though, it's just a matter of gathering the remaining ingredients and cooking. One item of note: the milk that oozes from the papaya when peeling can irritate the skin of some people. Luckily it isn't an issue for me.

The undisputed star of this dish is the distinctive tanglad (pronounced tahng-lahd) flavor of the soup. It is the knotted mass in the photo below and Mom has a big bush of it growing in the back yard. While the entire stalk is used, most of the flavor comes from the thick section near the base of the stalk rather than the actual leafy portion. The other key ingredient is the kalamungai leaves. It's a bit bitter when you bite it, similar to kale.

Mom, like many other great cooks, has a lot of her recipes in her head. As a result she "eyeballs" amounts instead of following a written recipe. Trying to get accurate amounts in order to document the recipe was rather challenging but I think we are close with this one.

3 cups kalamungai leaves, rinsed
4 green papayas, seeded-peeled-cubed
1/2 cup onion, chopped
5 lb. chicken fryer, sectioned
1 tomato, sliced
3 stalks tanglad (lemongrass)
1/2 cup patis (fish sauce)
2 Tbsp oil
handful of Hawaiian salt
garlic salt (optional)

1) In a large pot add onions to heated oil and cook until translucent

2) Add chicken and brown.

3) Add tomatoes and hot water to cover chicken. Stir and bring to a boil.

4) Add Hawaiian salt, pepper, garlic salt, tanglad, patis. Stir and bring to a boil again.

5) Once boiling add papaya and simmer until papaya is soft (about 20 minutes).

6) Add kalamungai leaves and cook for another 5 minutes.

We usually eat this served over rice with a dash of shoyu. It tastes even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to really meld together.


therese said...

this have back memories of living in hawaii.......of my grnadmother cooking all my favorite fiplina comfort food

Brandee said...

I'm sorry I completely missed your comment earlier...I have seriously neglected this blog lately. =(

Anyway, yes, this is definitely comfort food for me to. We are heading back to Hawaii this week and I am looking forward to more home cooked goodness. =)