Singapore Cooks

Learn to make Peruvian chicken with green sauce

Filipino, Korean and English cuisines are part of the repertoire of healthcare professional Lin Tian Min

Healthcare professional Lin Tian Min starts each day with an 8km run, but the slender 37-year-old is not afraid to indulge in one of her guilty pleasures: fried chicken skin.

She says with a chuckle: "Whenever I visit a fast-food restaurant, I go for the chicken skin first and pass the meat to my children. I love the balance of fat and crispiness in the skin."

The self-confessed carnivore's love for crisp skin and crackling is also the reason that roast pork belly appears regularly on her dining table.

It is also "all about the skin" when it comes to one of her favourite meat dishes, Peruvian-style chicken with green sauce.

She zeroes in on the crisp, roasted chicken skin as it is intensely seasoned with a marinade of lime juice, soya sauce and spices such as paprika, oregano and cumin.

The dish, also known as pollo a la brasa in Spanish, is one of the most popular dishes in Peru. It was created in the 1950s by Swiss residents there, who made tweaks to a rotisserie chicken recipe. The chicken is served with a tangy and fiery green sauce that is blended from coriander, jalapeno peppers and mayonnaise.

Ms Lin chanced on the recipe in January while looking for ideas for family dinners. The prominent use of aromatics such as coriander and paprika in the recipe caught her eye.


Ms Lin Tian Min with her Peruvian-style chicken, which is served with a tangy green sauce. ST PHOTOS: DAVE LIM

"Coriander injects a fresh fragrance to the chicken, while the smoked paprika powder gives the meat a barbecued edge without having to sweat it out by the charcoal pit," she says.

True enough, the scent of smoked paprika wafted through the kitchen as the chicken was roasting in the oven during this interview.

Far from "being a kitchen purist", Ms Lin tweaks the recipe "whenever a brainwave hits".

To give the roasted bird a more bronzed look, she adds Worcestershire sauce to the marinade for a more robust caramelisation effect.

For the green sauce, she tweaked the concoction by adding Greek yogurt and apple cider vinegar so the mixture becomes slightly more tart and acidic. As her two daughters, aged nine and seven, do not eat spicy food, she has replaced the jalapeno peppers with mild capsicum.

The versatile green sauce has become a family hit and is also used as a salad dressing, a pasta sauce and a topping on baked potatoes, grilled meat and spring rolls.

Ms Lin's cooking repertoire covers a melting pot of cultures from around the world. She goes to recipe websites, such as The Kitchn, and Instagram for inspiration. Her favourite dishes include pineapple adobo, a vinegared pork stew from the Philippines; steamed pork ribs in plum sauce; shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce); and wanjajeon (Korean egg-battered meatballs).

She also has a soft spot for Southeast Asian food that features aromatics such as coconut, coriander and lemongrass. Some of her family's must-haves include baked chicken in coconut milk, coriander, basil and lemongrass; and steamed cod with lemongrass and shallots.

Occasionally, she whips up English food for her British husband, a 45-year-old television producer. She makes bread-and-butter pudding with sausages and sun-dried tomatoes and cornflake tart served with custard whenever he feels homesick.

The couple met in Britain, where she attended university and worked in the healthcare industry. They relocated here five years ago to settle down.

She says: "Adjusting to the food in Singapore was not an issue for my husband. He has a good tolerance for spicy food from eating at many curry houses in the UK."


PERUVIAN-STYLE CHICKEN WITH GREEN SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

For the chicken marinade

3 Tbs olive oil

3 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs ground cumin

1 tsp ground oregano

1 Tbs brown sugar

4 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 Tbs light soya sauce

1/2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

3 chicken legs (drumstick plus thigh)

For the green sauce

2 Tbs olive oil

100g fresh coriander, roughly chopped (set aside a few sprigs for garnishing)

120ml mayonnaise

60ml Greek yogurt

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp brown sugar

1 clove of garlic, minced

Ground cumin to taste

80g green capsicum, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp olive oil (to oil the casserole)

METHOD

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. Using the back of a spoon, carefully separate the chicken skin from the meat to create a small opening. Insert 1 tsp of marinade into the opening and rub to distribute the marinade under the skin. Repeat this for the other chicken legs. Rub the remaining marinade over the chicken legs.

3. Place the chicken in a resealable bag and refrigerate overnight. Move the chicken legs around the bag once or twice to ensure the meat is evenly coated with marinade.

4. To make the green sauce, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for about a minute until the mixture becomes smooth. Refrigerate.

5. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and let sit at room temperature.

6. Preheat the oven to 200 deg C.

7. Oil a casserole dish with 1 tsp olive oil. Place the chicken legs in it, skin side up, and roast for 45 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven and baste the chicken by spooning the cooking juices evenly over the meat. To ensure the chicken is evenly cooked, turn the casserole around (180 degrees) and roast the chicken for another 25 minutes.

8. Remove the casserole from the oven and baste the chicken again. Insert a metal skewer into the chicken. If the chicken juices come out clear, the legs are cooked. If the juices are red or pink, roast for five to 10 minutes more.

9. Let the chicken cool for 10 minutes, garnish with sprigs of coriander and serve with chilled green sauce.

Serves three to four

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Cooking across cultures'. Print Edition | Subscribe