It is an incredibly hot Monday and it is my last day off. Technically, I’m no longer off work but since the boss a.k.a my mum is still out of town, it gives me a free pass to do whatever until they return tomorrow. I should get back to doing some writing but despite the incredibly hot weather – I wanted some comfort food. Or at least something not so heavy after spending my birthday weekend indulging in Thai food and then the usual Eid indulgences, I wanted something basic. Like soup. Despite it being a scorching day.
After 5 weeks of working at The Curve from 10am to 10pm with no days off, my pantry is rather empty. I have two cans of mushroom soup but to have something like cream of mushroom soup (and not to mention it being Campbells mushroom soup, which is in my opinion, good enough for casserole – not for anything else) meant that soup was out of the question. I could make my own soup, like a tomato soup but I did not want anything creamy. I did not have any stock either except the damn cubes, of which, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I can’t stand the taste of.
The only soup that can be done without simmering for hours, I concluded would be a Malay style chicken soup. Think soto ayam but with much less…effort. This is the soup my mum makes and force feeds us when we’re ill or when we have braces. This is the soup that we have every morning during Ramadhan because my sister has a stomach of wool and can’t take anything other than soup and rice for sahur.
But I digress. A Malay chicken soup would be perfect, warm and very mildly spicy that somehow just works after eating hefty meals. Problem is, sup ayam is usually served with nasi impit (compressed rice cakes) or glass noodles, neither that I had on hand. I could make rice cakes and lunch would be served…tomorrow.
About to give up and just eat sausages from the freezer, a mad idea came to my mind. What if I substituted rice cakes for dumplings? As in Western dumplings. I got to devising the recipe and I checked a few sites. There was Smitten Kitchen’s Chicken and Dumplings and Simply Recipe’s Chicken and Dumpling. While they opted for a creamier soup base with a roux – I wanted a clear Asian broth. The ingredients to the American chicken soup was close enough to a Malay chicken soup that it was a risk worth taking. And dumplings are much easier to make than any Asian ones I know.
Since my pantry was bare – I had to take some liberties with the ingredients and techniques. I would have preferred to use boned chicken and fresh herbs but all I had was chicken thigh and dried herbs. The technique here isn’t strictly Malaysian either, browning chicken before chucking into a soup would be a strange process for most Malaysian women but I like chicken that has been browned first.
The end result? Chicken soup that reminded me of my grandmother’s with a lovely soft twist. The dumplings were chewy, soft and surprisingly flavourful. I missed the potatoes that usually accompany the sup ayam, but the dumplings were filling. Next time, I might actually mix mashed potatoes with the dumplings to make it more Malaysian-ized. Or not. I kinda like it that it’s fusion food.
The husband comments: ‘The soup is very nice but there isn’t stuff inside the dumplings. I want my dumplings to have stuff inside.’
Sup Ayam with American Dumplings (Sup Ayam dengan Dumpling U.S.A
Makes…loads. At least for a family of 6
600g chicken thigh with skin
2 red onions – finely sliced
1 whole head of garlic (my garlic was teeny, so about a whole head made about 4 cloves) – finely minced
2 inches of ginger – finely diced
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tsp peppercorn seeds
1 tbs coriander powder
½ tbs cumin
¼ cup water
1 tbs dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
2 candlenuts (substitute with macadamia nuts if you can’t find them) – crushed
4 tbs oil
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
½ tsp salt
½ tbs baking powder
2 tbs oil from browning the chicken
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season them. Add to large, 4 tbs of cooking oil and cook the chicken until browned – but not cooked through on both sides. Work in batches.
- Reserve 2 tbs of oil from frying the chicken for the dumplings. Add in the onions, garlic and ginger and fry at low to medium heat. All at the same time, don’t worry about burning the garlic, keep it moving around. Add in the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and star anise. Saute until fragrant.
- When the onions are lightly brown, add in ¼ cup of water. Add in the coriander powder, cumin and the crushed candlenuts. Bring it to a simmer until you can see a layer of oil. Add in the browned chicken and stir.
- Add in about 5 cups of water or until the chicken is about covered. Add in the thyme, parsley and black pepper. Simmer covered for half an hour.
- While your sup ayam is simmering, make the dumplings.
- Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add in the fat and milk and mix until just incorporated. Do not overmix or it will be tough.
- Using two tablespoons, scoop some batter, about the size of a golf ball and drop it into the soup. Leave to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The dumplings are cooked when they double in size.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately garnished with spring onions and fried shallots.