Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lor Chicken (Florence Tan)

This is how ah mah cooks...

I call my grandmother ah mah. Since young, ah mah and I live together and she has been cooking for me until her health started to deteriorate. Depending on her mood, I remember watching the way she cooks from different distances. When she was stressed or rushing for time, she would chase me all out of her kitchen and sometimes, I can only get a peep of her at the border outside her kitchen... Talking to my auntie makes me realised that ah mah did the same to my auntie and all ah mah's children too. Now, recalling this scenario makes me laugh because I'm guilty of doing the same with my boy too. Ops! With or without my existence, I always remember plates or trays of delicious savoury dishes, cakes, pastries or desserts eventually served from ah mah's kitchen... We were very pampered because foods that are not good enough would ended in our waste bins rather than being served.

Lor? I mean not the Singlish "Lor". Although I'm emphasising something Singaporean here, the "Lor" that I was referring is the braised soy sauce kind of dish and can be in form of chicken, meat (lor bak) or eggs (lor neng) or bean curd (lor tau pok). It is Chinese/Nyonya kind of dish that my ah mah used to cook.

I didn't have a written recipe containing a precise ingredient list and instructions on how my grandmother cooked her Lor dishes. Hiding from the border of ah mah's kitchen, my auntie saw how ah mah cooked and told me...

"Ah mah caramelises the sugar first in a wok and fry the spices until fragrant... Then add the rest of the ingredients."

We remember. This is how ah mah cooks her Lor...

Learning from ah mah and Nyonya culinary professional, Florence Tan, this is how I cook my Lor chicken... 

nyonya lor chicken
Not the Singlish "Lor"... This is Nyonya / Chinese Lor Chicken.
Lor chicken is different from Sek chicken because it caramelises sugar first.
Lor chicken is again different from Sek chicken because it doesn't contain galangal and shallot.
Next, add these...
... plus water and cook until sauce is syrupy

Dad: I love lor but I like this dish more with hard boiled eggs, potatoes and carrots...
Boy: Mum, you should cook this with apple juice...
Mum: Guys, guys, please! This is Nyonya lor chicken. Not chicken stew or roast chicken!!!

I guess that my husband and son can never appreciate lor chicken as much as I do because they don't grow up eating this traditional dish.

The reason why I cooked and wrote this because I remember...

To my dearest Ah Mah (June 1930- April 2013): 
I have lost and found you in my cooking. You are always in my heart with the way you cooks.

Here's the recipe from the book, Florence's Tan Best Nyonya Recipes by Florence Tan

(with my modification and notes in blue)

Serves 6
4 tbsp cooking oil
4 1/2 tbsp sugar

5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cinnamon stick, 5cm length
1 star anise
5 cloves
2 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp five-spice powder

400ml water (reduced to 250ml for a thicker gravy)
1 kg chicken, cut into pieces

(I used skinless boneless chicken thigh fillets)


1 tsp chilli flakes
1 stalk spring onion
(I garnished my dish with cut fresh chillies and a handful of salad leaves)

Heat oil in a wok (or a deep cooking pan) over low heat. Without stirring, allow sugar to caramelise until slightly golden brown.

Stir in garlic, cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves. Fry for half a min (or until fragrant). Add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and five-spice powder. Cook for half a min. Pour in water slowly and bring to a boil. Add chicken. Cook over medium heat until chicken is tender and sauce becomes a thick syrup.

Garnish with chilli and spring onion (or salad). Serve with chilli sauce if desired.

Happy Cooking 
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  1. When I see the word "lor", I thought of "lor mee", the authentic Penang one, with black "lor", served with a spoon of garlic & cili sambal on the noodles.. Here in KL, very hard to find those "lor mee", usually they cook in "wat tan hor" gravy and just add "dai look mein" (fatty noodles).. I love your "lor" chicken Zoe, but if I were to cook these, I would add a few hard-boiled eggs, hehe... When I see dark-coloured meat dish (especially the fatty meat), I always associate them with hard-boiled eggs.. Coz my MIL puts hard-boiled eggs in every dark-coloured meat dish (except chicken)..

  2. I agree it's beautiful chicken u hv there... Ur lor-ing skill is very good....

  3. New recipe to me..Itz very interesting!!

  4. I love reading the part of the conversations of dad and son....hahaha, just because they love having eggs, potato or apple juice, they thought this dish could just simply add those ingredients in. My dad the same too....he will comment of saying adding some carrot or potato in a braised dish...
    I believe this lor chicken is flavourful. Love to give this a try.

  5. Oh, though I had my lunch today but I still feel like having another go of your "Lor" chicken!

  6. Such a pretty spoon. Your chicken looks so yummy, lor ;)

  7. The chicken looks very tasty with all the spices...great color as well.
    Hope you are enjoying your week Zoe :D

  8. Hi Zoe,
    This is such a lovely dish! A wonderful tribute to your ah-ma.
    I love eating this dish too. We would usually cook the chicken as a whole, and then cut them up to pieces before serving. So funny reading about your hubby's response and your little boy is so cute, cook with apple juice! I can't help laughing!
    Must cook extra rice for this dish, a definite second helping! Looks delicious! Yum!

  9. Hi Zoe, really must cook more rice to go with this yummy dish. I remembered my late mom cooked something similar with pork instead and we simply enjoy bowls of rice just mixed with the fragrance gravy ... those were the days !

  10. Oh, this is beautiful Zoe and I have learned something new today - lor. I will be trying out this recipe soon! ^.^

  11. Zoe, I feel so touched when you mentioned about your Ah Ma, reminds me about my Popo. She also did the same as your Ah Ma... hahaa that was 40 years ago. She always called me supervisor when I watched how she prepared meals for the family.
    Thanks for sharing this lovely lor chicken. Will follow your recipe to T when I cook this, definitely no apple juice :D

  12. My husband is not fond of sweet meat dishes, but I would love such dish!

  13. Very new to me, and I want to try it :)

  14. I like this lor chicken :)
    Whenever i had lor chicken / lor bak sure can finish a big bowl of rice,hehe...

  15. This dish will definitely spur me to have a second helping of rice!

  16. So much about eating is about memory, isn't it? Lovely dish, terrific tribute. Thanks for sharing this.

  17. My grandmother didn't cook, I'm so jealous you had someone to work with in the kitchen.

  18. Oh, Zoe! What you wrote to your Ah Mah brought tears to my eyes. My Ah Mah whom I call Mah-Mah is still alive but she has Alzheimers. It is sad to see her in that state but her memories live on. My Mah-Mah was a good cook too and yes, I too used to hang around in the kitchen. But I was of not much help hah...hah....Your lor chicken looks so delicious and reminds me of my Mah-Mah's Kay Hong which is the Terengganu version of lor chicken. I should get cooking soon :)

  19. Wow just love this dish! Definitely reminds me of my granny too.

  20. This dish looks lovely. There is a very similar chicken dish with some more spices added called chicken kosha. Your pics are making me drool.

  21. Thanks everyone for sweet comments. Nice to know that we all have grandmothers that live forever in our hearts :D

  22. Hi Zoe, got to know about this post from Soke Hah today. How could I have missed this lovely 'Lor' dish? Now I can come here for Lor Chicken dish. Looks delicious with the thick gravy which must be very aromatic. I will try and maybe add some 'cekur' roots to this dish.