Written By : Jivan Daniel Louis
Imagine a ship travelling amidst the distant seas, along the Straits of Malaya, when the Silk Road was rich with trade of every spice you could possibly imagine.
Aboard this ship, the cooks would prepare meals with an extravagant mix of spices gathered from their travels.
As the story goes, the cooks would head down to the lower cabins to beckon hungry sailors to come to the table for their meal. The cooks would call out, “Encik dalam kabin…makan sudah siap” (Mister in the cabin… dinner is served).
At the table, the sailors would be greeted by beautifully crisp and magnificent morsels of chicken, laced with the flavours of a myriad of spices.
At first bite, they would find the world had arrived on their palate, making the journeys and adventures to come all the more exciting.
And so they say, this is how the name of ‘Inchi Kabin’ came to be. It’s the kind of dish that will make you hum the tune of Rasa Sayang, remembering times past and dancing a little, as you prepare a meal for those you love.
Flavours and pairings
A classic Nyonya favourite for good reason. Notes of clove and cinnamon bring added elements of something special to this dish.
The perfect pairing is a unique dipping sauce which speaks to British influences on our shores, with elements of tamarind and mustard that bring extra layers of sourness and heat to that first bite.
1 tsp chilli powder
0.5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp fennel powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp black pepper powder (or ½ tsp whole black pepper, ground until fine)
¼ tsp clove powder (or 6 whole cloves, ground until fine)
100 ml (5 tablespoons) coconut milk
1 medium red onion (or 3 shallots), ground to a paste
1 lemongrass stalk, white base only, finely ground (*optional)
6 chicken wings, drumette and wing split (or 800g chicken)
3-4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp English mustard
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
½ large red chilli, finely sliced
Combine the spice mix, coconut milk, onion paste, ground lemongrass, coconut milk and chicken in a bowl. Add salt. Mix together well. Allow to marinate for three to four hours or ideally overnight.
Heat a good amount of oil in a pot for deep frying on a medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches, frying a few pieces at a time, ensuring not to crowd the pot.
Fry once for three to five minutes, until lightly golden. Remove and set aside to rest for five minutes.
While the chicken is resting, prepare the dipping sauce by combining Worcestershire sauce, English mustard and lime in a bowl.
Whisk together well. Then add finely sliced red chillies. Set aside.
Fry the chicken a second time, again in batches for about three to five minutes until they reach a darker gold hue and become even more crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Serve immediately, with an extra flourish of finely sliced kaffir lime leaves. Enjoy while hot and crisp.