Have you ever looked at a bowl of chicken stew and wondered, how can I make this a little more exciting? What can I bring to this dish to make it exotic, and interesting, but still wholly comforting and perfect for rainy evenings or days when you feel a little under the weather? Well, after an interesting cooking trial where we planned to make one thing but ended up making another, we may just have an answer for you – slow cooker creamy coconut chicken stew. Yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful to say and rightly so, because one sip of this soup may have you keenly shovelling mouthfuls of this rich yet refreshing stew into your mouth.
If you’re Malaysian (or know your Asian cuisines), you’re probably familiar with korma. In fact, we even cooked up some really good mutton korma in our slow cooker recently. This slow cooker creamy coconut chicken stew isn’t korma and doesn’t make use of korma powder either, but the flavours are reminiscent of korma meets tom kha gai in a subtle but very pleasing way. Maybe it’s the cumin powder and ground white pepper mixed in with all that coconut milk. Either way, it’s the kind of soup you want to eat with rice, and lots of it. Yes, forget the pasta or crusty baguette. It’s time to cook up some plain white or brown rice for this hearty, soupy meal.
Slow cooker magic
You’d ordinarily make soup or stew with chicken, beef or vegetable stock, depending on your protein of choice. The good thing about making stew in a slow cooker is that there is no need for stock. The slow cooking process releases the meat’s yummy juices into the liquids, giving you a super tasty soup without the added expense of boxed chicken stock or having to use up that precious few frozen packs of homemade stock tucked deep in your freezer. The slow, lower heat also means you don’t have to wait until the very end of the cooking process to add in the coconut milk in fear of it splitting. Plus, the chicken soaking in all that liquid over three or more hours as it cooks allows it to get succulently juicy.
One important thing though – while two pieces of tamarind peel may not seem like a very big deal, it adds an essential hint of sourness that cuts through the richness of this stew, making it lighter and fresher on the tongue. However, don’t add it at the start of the cooking process as it will disintegrate into smithereens and may not be pleasant to accidentally bite into while you’re busy enjoying your slow cooker creamy coconut chicken stew. And as far as stuffing the chicken goes, we were following the techniques of the original recipe we were trying to make that didn’t quite happen. So, feel free to let the stuffing swim freely in the pot and add more potatoes, onions and egg if you like, as long as you ensure there’s enough liquid for the potatoes to absorb.
Got that? It’s time for some chicken stew with a coconuty twist!
- 1.6kg (1 whole) chicken
- 155g (1 medium) potato, peeled and cut into 8
- 120g (1 large) onion, peeled and halved
- 1 egg, boiled and peeled
- 500ml coconut milk (santan)
- 3g (2 pcs) tamarind peel (asam keping)
- 480ml (2 cups) water
- 7g (1 tsp) salt
- 9g (4 tsp) ground white pepper
- 24g (3 tbsp) cumin powder
- 35g (1 whole head) garlic, roughly blended or pounded
- 200ml water
- 80ml (1/3 cup) cooking oil
- Small wooden skewers
- Clean and drain chicken thoroughly.
- In a bowl, combine all spice mixture ingredients except for cooking oil. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Set your slow cooker to sauté/sear on high heat and add cooking oil.
- When the ‘maintain pressure’ light comes on, add in the mixed spices.
- Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly so the spices don’t get stuck to the bottom and sides of the pot. You want the spices to cook until they turn dark brown and looks quite thick. You’ll also notice the spices and oil will ‘separate’.
- Add onion, potato and boiled egg.
- Cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes until the onion is roughly half cooked. Turn off the slow cooker.
- If you’re stuffing your chicken, remove onion, potato and egg from the pot.
- Minding the heat, stuff the ingredients into the chicken cavity.
- Seal the cavity with wooden skewers.
Making slow cooker creamy coconut chicken stew
- Back to the slow cooker, add coconut milk and salt. Give everything a good stir, making sure the fried spice mixture is thoroughly mixed through.
- Lower in your whole chicken.
- Finally, add 480ml water and gently stir to mix it with the coconut milk and spices, ‘bathing’ the chicken as you go along.
- Cover your slow cooker and set it for 3 hours on high temperature.
- Once the cooking is done, add tamarind peel, mixing it into the gravy. Adjust for salt if necessary.
- If your slow cooker has the sauté/sear function, select that and let the stew continue to cook for another 5 minutes while uncovered. If your slow cooker doesn’t have that option, let it ‘keep warm’ for 10 minutes while covered to allow sufficient time for the tamarind peel flavours to seep into the gravy.
- Carefully remove chicken from the pot and transfer to a deep platter or serving bowl. If you stuffed your chicken, don’t forget to remove the skewers and, preferably, dig out the stuffing before serving.
- Serve with freshly cooked rice.
- Don’t buy those extra-large chickens for this dish as you want to make sure your chicken will fit into the pot!
- If you’re planning on freezing your soup, shred chicken meat so it takes up less storage space. It’ll heat up easier that way too.
- You can also shred the chicken before serving as it’s a lot neater and easier for guests to handle if you’ve got people coming around for dinner.
- We used a slow cooker with a sauté/sear function. If your cooker does not have this function, sauté your spice mix and vegetables in a pot or wok over a stove on medium heat before transferring to the slow cooker.
- If you prefer a lighter slow cooker creamy coconut chicken stew, add a bit more water. However, be careful not to exceed the water level in your slow cooker.
- If you don’t want to stuff your chicken, feel free to use chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken if that is more convenient for you. Just make sure to include bony chicken parts though to ensure maximum flavour.
- If you have more time or would like to cook the stew overnight or while you’re out at work, set it for 6 hours at low temperature and let it keep warm until you’re ready to dig in.
Feeling keen for some creamy, coconutty soup? It may look dreadfully pale but this stew is surprisingly comforting and tasty – like wrapping yourself up in a warm, fluffy blanket on a cold day. And if you’re lactose-intolerant, slow cooker creamy coconut chicken stew is dairy-free, making it perfect for when you’re longing for a rich and creamy soup without the consequences.
Yes, we admit, this dish isn’t the most insta-worthy. But why not take it as a challenge and show us how you’ve made this as pleasing on the eye as it is on the tongue? Just remember to share your pictures with us by using the #butterkicap hashtag.