I first came across khao mok gai on one of my Flickr contact’s photostream and after a bit of investigation, I found some a very informative post on the dish by Austin Bush. The name translates to “buried chicken rice” and is a Thai version of a biryani and it’s notoriously difficult to replicate at home. Of course, not having tried the original on the streets of Thailand, I was happy to give it a go! From the ingredients, you can see that it’s a Thai-Muslim dish made with a number of spices not typically associated with Thai food. Some recipes use coconut milk while others use regular milk and butter and I went with the latter, as suggested by the recipe I adapted.

Khao Mok Gai

Now, I love my rice and I love me some Indian biryani. I found this version to be more subtly spiced than what I was used to but what really made the dish was the accompanying sauce. Spicy and sweet and fresh and green, it went really well with the rice and chicken and I found myself dousing it on the cucumber slices too. So if you do make this recipe, don’t leave out that sauce! And the fried onion (really it should be shallots but I had none to hand) slices – you also need this.

Khao Mok Gai

The recipe uses a rice cooker to cook all the ingredients together. Of course, if you don’t have a rice cooker, you could easily make this on the stove. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until done.

Khao Mok Gai
Adapted from this recipe.
Serves 4.

4 whole chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
2 cups (500mL) basmati rice, washed/rinsed
water (use the ratio that your rice cooker calls for)
1 small onion, quartered lengthwise and then sliced across thinly (or a few shallots)
1 tbsp butter
sunflower oil
1/4 cup single cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
2 bay leaves
2 green cardamom pods, lightly smashed

For the Spice Mix
2 tsp curry powder (I used a Malaysian meat curry powder)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

For the Sauce
2 green onions (mine was humongous so I used 1)
4 sprigs fresh coriander
1/4 cup ginger
1 long green chili
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup plain vinegar

I found it easiest to marinate the chicken in a large ziploc bag (due to the size of my fridge) but you could also do it in a bowl. Trim the chicken pieces of any extraneous fat, poke the thighs here and there and place them all into the bag. Mix together all the spice mix spices and place half of the mixture into the bag along with the chicken. Set aside the other half. Add the single cream into the bag and zip it up. Toss the bag around, massaging the chicken with the cream and spices, until coated evenly. Place in the fridge for at least an hour (up to overnight).

To make the sauce, roughly chop the green onions, coriander, ginger (peeled), and chili (destem) and place all into a blender or mini chopper. Process until finely minced. In a small pot, heat the sugar, salt and water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and salt and dissolved. Take off the heat and stir in the vinegar (keep your face out of the way!). Keep stirring until any sugar that’s hardened has dissolved again. Add the green onions, coriander, ginger and chili and stir well. This will keep well in a jar in the fridge for at least a couple days.

Heat a couple tablespoons of sunflower oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add half the sliced onion and fry until brown. Drain the fried onion well on some kitchen paper. They’ll crisp as they cool. Set aside.

Return the saute pan to the stove and reduce the heat to medium. If there’s any oil left in the pan, leave it or else add another tablespoon of sunflower oil. Add the butter too. Toss in the rest of the onion and cook until it’s translucent. The other half of the spice mixture is added to the pan now along with the bay leaves and green cardamom pods; fry for about a minute. Add the washed rice and continue frying for another few minutes. Transfer all the now seasoned rice to your rice cooker pot.

Rice in the Rice Cooker

Place the saute pan back on the stove and increase the heat to medium-high. Add a tablespoon of oil and allow it to heat. Add a layer of the marinated chicken pieces and allow to brown all over. When the pieces are browned, place them in the rice cooker with the rice and continue frying the remaining chicken pieces. As before, transfer all the browned chicken pieces to the rice cooker.

Frying the Chicken

Add enough water to the rice cooker for the amount of rice inside and set it cooking. When it’s done, both the rice and chicken will be cooked through.

Serve with the sauce alongside.