Not long after we were married, Dad and I traveled to Vientianne to visit Claudia and Geoff. Geoff was working on an FAO ( Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) project. Claudia was busy as well, working with womens’ co-ops, trying to help in whatever creative way possible to get that poor little war ravaged country back on its feet again.
We arrived at their charming blue and white bungalow in the late evening. Geoff and Claudia were heading out to an event. After showing us around the house, Claudia, famous amongst her friends and admirers for being an amazing cook, gave us some quick instructions about our dinner which was in the oven.
We were ravenous after our flight. The aromas wafting through the house were just insanely good. ‘Chicken Everest’, Claudia called over her shoulder as they dashed out. What was this Chicken Everest?
We were soon to find out: one of the most delicious chicken dishes I have ever eaten, a perfect combination of fresh and dry herbs, made piquant with soy, mango powder and lemon juice.
To this day, it is one of my most favourite things to prepare for guests. This recipe, published in Charmaine Solomon’s Asian cook book bible: The Complete Asian Cookbook is what Claudia had cooked for us all those years ago in Laos.
It is the book that introduced me to proper weights and measurements for the delicious food of Southeast Asia I pined for when I left home to attend high school in Australia. To this day, it is my trusty kitchen companion, even as more beautiful recipe books join it on the shelf from all over the world.
Chicken Everest is an interesting dish: it is not Indian or Malay, Thai or Chinese. Somehow a combination of ingredients commonly used amongst all these cultures makes this unique dish quite special.
As you well know, Izzy, I serve Chicken Everest in so many ways: with white rice, or with a rissoni salad. Wrapped in a piece of nan bread with lettuce, onion, mint leaves and a drizzle of yoghurt, it makes a fantastic lunch. It keeps well, for about three days in the fridge but don’t try to freeze it.
Charmaine Solomon’s Chicken Everest – my simplified version
- 3 lbs chicken pieces
- In a food processor, blend the following ingredients together:
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger
- 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika powder or chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon amchur or mango powder, or 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- about 6 to 8 curry leaves
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons ground rice
- a little warm water (1/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped spring onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro)
- When all the ingredients are nicely ground into a paste, rub it well into the chicken pieces and set aside for at least three hours. Best to cover tightly and leave overnight.
- Set the oven to 350 degrees and roast chicken pieces on a rack set in a shallow tray. Bake for 30 minutes
- Turn the chicken pieces over and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Also delicious when grilled on the bar-b-que.