Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nyonya Sek Chicken (Florence Tan)

Sek Chicken?

Is there a Nyonya dish called Sek Chicken? Not that I know of...

I have tried Googling for an answer but has no clue at all with this Nyonya name.

I know. I know. I will ask. Let me ask Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Lena from Frozen wings... Like me, Lena can't find any information about Sek Chicken but Joyce knew everything!

"Try Google for Sek Kay..." That's what Joyce said but Google can't tell me much about sek kay too... Never mind. I don't even need Google anyway because Joyce knows all. Everything that she describes how she cooks Sek Chicken is exactly the same as how the recipe from the book, Florence's Tan Best Nyonya Recipes cooks.

Based on Joyce's and the recipe, Sek Chicken is a braised soy sauce kind of chicken dish with bean curd puff and hard boiled eggs. Typically, it is cooked with shallots, galangal, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and sugar. Traditionally, it is best to enjoy this dish with homemade chilli sauce and so I like to make mine from scratch too. Joyce also mentioned that this dish can be cooked with pork belly as Sek Bak but I like to cook mine with skinless and boneless chicken thighs.

Is Sek Chicken the same as Lor (meaning braised) Chicken? NO! I was confused initially, thinking that they are the same and they are not! As mentioned in the same book, Florence Tan has an almost-similar version of braised soy sauce chicken dish called Lor Chicken which uses no galangal and shallots and contains no bean curd and eggs. The gravy of Lor Chicken is very different being a thicker and syrupy finishing sauce.

Traditional Nyonya or not, we are loving this dish... for homely style and its rich braised soy sauce taste. What should I cook next? Lor Chicken!

nyonya sek chicken
Nyonya Sek Chicken
Unlike Lor Chicken, this dish is cooked with galangal and lots of shallots.
A few preparation steps before cooking... First, marinate chicken with soy sauce and sugar.
Shelled hard boiled eggs
Drain and set aside the bean curd puff to cool
One more thing to do before cooking...
Finally, I can start cooking...
Only the premium soy sauce, please!
Add water and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes
Now, it's time to make my own chilli sauce!
Add both bean curds and hard boiled eggs and cook until gravy is thick... Ready to feast?
This is ultimate! Eating Sek chicken with homemade chilli sauce is a must!

Here's the recipe from the book, Florence's Tan Best Nyonya Recipes by Florence Tan
(with my modification and notes in blue)

Serves 8 (to 10)
1.5 kg chicken, cut into pieces
(I used 1.5 kg skinless boneless chicken thigh fillets) 
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
16 pieces fried bean curd puffs (tew pok)
(plus 350g high protein firm tofu)
150 ml cooking oil
(I used only 1/4 cup of canola oil)
galangal, 1.5-2-cm knob, peeled and sliced into five 3-mm slices
20 shallots, about 200g, peeled and finely blended
4 cups or 1 liter water
(I added 3 1/2 cup)
6 hard boiled eggs, shelled and halved
(I added 8 x 60g size eggs)

1 cinnamon stick, 1.5cm length
5 cloves
2 star anise

4 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
(I like to cook this with the best quality dark soy sauce for its deep caramel flavours)
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Chilli Sauce
120g fresh red chillies, seeded and finely blended
(I used a mixture of 6 large fresh chillies plus a handful of extra hot little chillies which are 120g in total)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely blended
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp kasturi lime juice
(I used just an ordinary lime, not kasturi ones)
6 tbsp sugar
100g ground peanuts, toasted and finely pounded
(I didn't add that)

Salad leaves a handful

Marinate chicken with light soy sauce and sugar for 1 hour.

Blanch fried bean curd puffs in boiling water for 3 mins. Drain and set aside to cool. Squeeze dry of water and cut into halves.

Heat oil in a wok (or a large and deep cooking pot)  Fry spices for half a min. Add galangal and shallots. Fry until fragrant, Add marinated chicken and fry for 3 mins. Add water and seasoning. Bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for chilli sauce.

Scoop 250 ml (1 cup or slightly less) gravy out of the wok into a bowl. Mix with chilli sauce. Set spicy sauce aside.

Add fried bean curd puffs and hard boiled eggs into the wok. Continue cooking until chicken is tender and gravy is thick. Remove from heat and transfer chicken pieces onto a serving dish first, then pour gravy from saucepan over chicken.

Garnish with salad leaves and serve with spicy sauce.

Happy Cooking
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  1. Yummy...... ^_^
    Maybe next time i shall try this too

  2. When you mentioned "sek chicken" I was thinking all sorts of languages already.. Mandarin (altho I dunno Mandarin), Cantonese, Hokkien, etc.. But nope, still dunno what is "sek chicken", tee hee... When I see the word Nyonya, and then chicken, I immediately think of "ayam pongteh"... Had it once when I went to Malacca few years ago before I was pregnant..

    My MIL always cooks this dish too, using "sam chang bak" (fatty pork), minus the bean curd puffs.. Oh yes, and with more than 15 eggs inside! One person can wallop 2-3 eggs when she cooks this, and our rice will be like "gunung" (mountain).. Can wallop two bowls of rice with just the gravy..

  3. Hi Zoe,
    Haha! You make me giggle! My mother used to cook too this with pork belly, and sometimes chicken, though the chicken will be braised as a whole, and when it is cooked and done, chop it to pieces with the delicious gravy poured over before serving. Same as pork belly, big chunks of pork belly is cooked till tender, then sliced and served with the sinfully delicious gravy and the eggs. We love the eggs too! We however did not use tau fu pok. I love eating tau fu pok, maybe next time, I'll add it in!
    And homemade chilli sauce to go with this is so good! With slices of cucumber, I could eat two plates of rice with this dish!
    In a Nyonya household, we would usually cook this dish for Chinese New Year makan, though nowadays, we cook it anytime we feel like eating it. And I feel like eating it soon!
    Drooling, looking at your dish!

  4. This one ho chiak for sure! Wonder what does Sek means here, as in Cooked in Hokkien?

  5. Wow! I've never heard of so many of the ingredients or this dish, for that matter, but it looks incredible! Wish there was "taste-testing" available through the screen! Wouldn't that be lovely?!

  6. I first came across sek chicken posted in food blogs many years ago. Bookmarked the recipe and forgotten about it. Now that you have cooked it, and it looks so delicious, I think I will try to cook it too.

  7. heh heh.. sek or no sek, it looks too yummy... i will "sek" (cantonese for eat) this dish anytime :D

  8. I have never heard of it before, but it sounds delish none the less. I have never had those puffed bean curds either, need those. I wish we had an Asian grocery closer to us. I can make the chicken though. Hope all is well with you.

  9. yumm I want to try this!!. By the way I didnt try a bill granger recipe it was a Nigella one

  10. Great recipe for a different treatment of chicken .......very lovely and delicious :)

  11. Zoe, I have not heard of this dish before. I wonder what the "sek" means. In Hokkien "sek" is colour. I am sure this dish is yummy with all the shallots and aromatics. And of course, I will zero in on the eggs!

  12. Hi Zoe, I've never heard of sek chicken before too, but the descriptions sounds very similar to tau yew bak, except chicken is used right. It looks comforting and yummy!

  13. Hi Zoe,
    This looks so good. I always love syrupy soy sauce chicken and eggs.
    My mil use to cook pork belly or duck like this. Talking about duck the ingredient in your sek chicken looks similar to the Hakka Lor duck, only no spices added.
    Now drooling like Joyce over your sek kay :D

  14. Ive never heard of this diah before but I can see from the photos here that this dish is aboslutely delicious and fragrant with the spices ingredients. Really sounds good to try out.

  15. Zoe, Same as Yen, I've never heard of sek chicken too but your chicken dish looks very delicious! Definitely love to try it out for sure. Thanks for sharing :)

  16. oh wow thats some spicy and flavoursome magic u did here....Happy to follow u too :)
    Thanks for dropping by:)

  17. Zoe, when reading the "sek" for the first time, it is the chinese "食," came into my mind, which means eat in Cantonese. So "Sek chicken" to me is "eat chicken," hahaha! I love both version of the recipes, I like "lor chicken," also like the "sek chicken," but I think I must confess that I prefer the pork may be little bit more than chicken, hehehe. Love your bowl.

  18. Spicy and flavorful.. This chicken looks yummy!

  19. Hiya, tonight have to eat alone, wish can have some of your sek kay (in hokkien it can also means cooked chicken, depending on how you pronounced it lol!)

  20. Hi Zoe!
    Whatever it's called, it sure looks and sounds delicious! Thank you so much for sharing, Zoe...

  21. I'm new to this too, but it looks amazingly good! I love tau pok & I'm sure I'll enjoy this dish as much.
    Hey dear, come & take part in my giveaway to Win NuStevia Products For Your Baking/Cooking!

  22. Isn't it weird when google doesn't have the answer? How did we ever cook 20 years ago? ;)
    My running is coming along. My foot only hurts for about 5% of my runs, so that's good. I have a 10K race I'm running in 10 days. I'm looking forward to it. Oh, and yes! Make those spicy chili chocolate cookies now that autumn is around the corner for you. :)

    1. Good luck with your race!

      I can't bake chocolate cookies with spicy chilli because my chilli-hating son will protest :p

  23. New dish to me, but one Ill be trying. This looks terrific! Fun recipe -- thanks.

  24. Sek chicken is new to me, I haven't seen it on any menus before - but I love the beautiful colour and flavour :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  25. Wow! My kids will love this. Looks like braised soy sauce chicken that my mum used to cook for my family.

  26. Never heard of Sek Chicken before but it does looks mouthwatering though ! Will definitely give this ago soon. BTW I've cooked your Indonesian Ayam Kicap Manis yesterday & BOY ! It was soooooo GOOD! My sons love it so much that they even ate all the gravy with more rice! LOL

    1. Hi Kit, Happy to hear that you and your boys like the ayam kecap manis. They are very easy to cook and very delicious to eat! Cheers!


  27. What an interesting chicken dish! After going through the ingredients I can tell that it has to be good!!! Those chillies are beautiful!

  28. I can almost taste it across the screen.... mouth watering!

  29. Zoe, This looks wonderful! This is a one of must try recipe.

  30. hi my late mom she hails from Malacca true bred Straits Chinese(Pernankan)
    she did this with Pork and I used to helped her. she used to called this dish sek bak.
    Today I do chicken so all my friends can sample some,