You did what?! Kaya in chicken?! Mixing Kaya (sweet coconut jam) and pesto? Yes, this is my fusion take of Chicken Teriyaki: West meets my mom’s braised cooking style — using available ingredients on hand in my fridge. When my mother braises, she uses dark soy sauce, garlic and 5-spice. Sometimes, she adds vinegar.
I missed my mother’s cooking, so I made my own version of braised chicken. It was marinated with dark soy sauce, 5-spice Mom bought from Brunei, Kaya, a bit of salt; finely sliced ginger soaked in Mirin, vinegar and pesto. The addition of ginger added a delectable texture without the ginger bite. (I loathed eating ginger as a kid, but I’d eat pickled ginger at sushi restaurants.) Adding Mirin and vinegar was actually inspired by a local Japanese restaurant on 99 Street and Argyll Road (Kyoto Sushi) in Edmonton; the sushi chef there serves his salads with this amazing wafu dressing.
Kaya in chicken is actually pretty good, but my mother might not like that the chicken being on the sweet side. I served this dish with rice, sweet potatoes and stir-fried spinach. The Chinese 5-spice really tied the Mirin, Kaya and Pesto together.
Make sure you budget a day ahead to marinate the chicken overnight. This would also make an excellent barbecued chicken. I was making this for myself, so you can adapt the proportions accordingly if you’re feeding more mouths.
Kaya Pesto Chicken (Braised)
Prepare ginger wafu mixture A in a small saucer; mix well:
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 tsp pesto (a mixture of olive oil, garlic, pine-nuts and basil — bottled pesto was what I used)
Let the ginger mixture (A) steep for 5 minutes.
1 large Chicken breast, torn or cut into strips
Sea salt, for seasoning (roughly 1/2 tsp)
Generous amount of sweet dark soy sauce (2 to 3 tbsp)
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
2 tbsp Kaya
- Mix B well; make sure the Kaya is evenly spreaded on the chicken.
- Add mixture A to B.
- Let marinate over night.
- The next day, braise or stir fry on medium-high heat. Once chicken is almost fully cooked, turn the heat down to low. This is where you can add other vegetables of your choice.
Sweet Kaya chicken can be a thing. I know it’s a bastardization of my favourite Southeast Asian jam, in an attempt to make a sweet marinade. If you don’t have Mirin on hand, honey and water mixture would work well. Honey, by itself, however — could make it difficult to cook the chicken as it browns the outer surface faster than it can cook through the chicken.