Until I started leafing through my new Vietnamese and Malaysian cookbooks, I never realized how much similarity there is among the cuisines of Southeast Asian countries. For instance, there is a Malaysian dish very much like our own nilagang baka but comes with whole caps of black Chinese mushrooms and is served with soy sauce spiced with slices of finger chilis.
Then, there is the Vietnamese chicken and pineapple dish that I cooked last night with a little tweaking, of course, to suit my taste. A very close relative of pininyahang manok except that the sauce is flavored with oyster sauce and thickened with corn starch. I’m encouraged to try and cook more Southeast Asian dishes because they’re not really all that unfamiliar.
To make this chicken and pineapple dish, you will need about 700 grams of boneless chicken thighs or legs (skin on), 6-8 tablespoonfuls of fish sauce (patis), 400 grams of fresh pineapple chunks (I don’t know if canned pineapple will work), 1 large bell pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 onions, onion leaves (cut into 1-inch lengths), 4 tablespoonfuls of oyster sauce, 1 to 1-1/2 cups of broth (chicken, beef or pork), 2 tablespoonfuls of cornstarch, 2 teaspoonfuls of sugar, 2-3 chili peppers (seeds removed then chopped), 4 tablespoonfuls of cooking oil and salt (optional).
Cut the chicken fillets into bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl and pour in the fish sauce. Work the fish sauce into the chicken meat. Cover the bowl, put it in the fridge, and let the chicken marinate in the fish sauce for at least an hour. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Peel, crush, and finely mince the garlic. Peel and cut the onions into quarters (or into eighths if they are rather large). Split the bell pepper, cut off the veins then dice.
Disperse the cornstarch in the broth.
Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan (a wok is best). Add the chicken to the hot oil and cook over very high heat until lightly browned. Add the garlic, chili peppers, onions, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, for about two minutes. Add the oyster sauce, pineapple chunks, and the sugar. Stir. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. No, there is no need to add water. The natural juices from the pineapple are enough. You don’t want to dilute the flavors.
Turn up the heat and pour in the starch solution. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for a few minutes to make sure that any trace of flour taste in the sauce is removed. Add the onion leaves and stir. Taste the sauce and add salt is rather bland. Cook for another 30 seconds then turn off the heat and serve with rice.