I created this combination of roast chicken with pickled ambarella when I lived in England for some 18 years. As much as I really enjoyed the cuisines of the world, am not fussy and would eat anything, having been born and bred in Malaysia, I could never turn my back on my culinary heritage.
I didn’t really miss Malaysian cuisine as I could cook it any time while I was living abroad, but what I really missed were our ingredients! Especially ambarella which reminds me so much of my childhood growing up in Kluang, Johor.
Ambarella wasn’t commercialised or farmed in those days. It either grew in your backyard, or your neighbour’s! Its tangy yet sweetish characters made this fruit extra special compared to others. I love its texture and the stringy stone when you bite into it.
When preserved in vinegar, its flavour becomes more enhanced but is not as sour as pickled unripe mangoes. Pickled ambarella also retain its crunchiness and somehow its original flavour becomes even stronger compared to other pickled fruits.
This is why I paired pickled ambarella with roast chicken. Honestly, roast chicken served with plain old gravy sauce can be somewhat dull for my jaded palate. Using pickled ambarella as roast chicken stuffing really elevates the chicken, making it a much more interesting dish.
When cooked, the amount of vinegar and acidity in the pickled ambarella will also lessen. Its crunchiness and unique taste makes for a delicious contrast without masking the taste and texture of a classic roast chicken.
For the pickled ambarella:
- 20 small ambarellas (kedondong), peeled & cut into 4
- 500ml white vinegar
- 500ml water
- 300gm caster sugar
- 3” young ginger, peeled & shredded
- 3 large red chilies, deseeded & sliced thin
- 7 cardamom
- 1 tsp black pepper, roughly ground
For the roast chicken:
- 1 whole chicken, drumsticks tied together at the ends
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- In a small pot, cook vinegar, sugar, ginger, chili, black pepper and cardamom together over medium heat until it boils.
- Add ambarella and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Brush chicken with cooled pickled liquid and stuff its cavity (stomach and the part of the neck under the skin) with pickled ambarella.
- Rub some salt over the surface of the chicken and wrap with cling film. Let it marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Before cooking, remove chicken from the fridge and discard cling film. Place chicken on a roasting pan and brush olive oil all over it with a pastry brush.
- Don’t forget to heat your oven to 200°C.
- Place your chicken in the oven and let it cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn the temperature down to 180°C.
- Remove chicken and brush with butter. Return chicken to the oven.
- Repeat this process every 15 minutes by turning the chicken over and brushing it with more butter as well as the oil and melted juices that have collected in the pan. This is called basting, and it ensures the chicken remains juicy instead of drying out. This entire process will take at least one hour, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 75°C.
- Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. Remove the pickled ambarella stuffing and serve it together with the chicken on a serving platter. You can carve the chicken beforehand if you like.
Never cool any hot or freshly cooked food in the fridge. This will increase the temperature in the fridge to a dangerous level which may cause bacteria to activate, multiply and spoil the other food stored in the fridge
This recipe along with my other recipes can be found in my book, Ikan di laut, asam di darat. My new book Ke mana tumpahnya kuah is also now available. Get your hands on a copy of both books from my café, The Canteen by Chef Adu, or my Facebook page.