Posted by: Brian | April 20, 2009

Mango Chicken, A Hot Plate, And Some Rain

There are plenty of small details that completely elude you when preparing to live in a foreign country. How is the internet access? Will I be able to find my favorite snacks? If the opportunity to cook arises, can I approximate any familiar dishes from local ingredients?

That last one was something I got to struggle through Friday night. It was one of my friend’s birthdays, and he requested that I grill something. I agreed without really thinking through what that would require, and found myself adapting, compromising, and experimenting my way through ten chicken breasts. Here’s how it went down:

1. Went to a local supermarket to buy ingredients. Spent five minutes locating chicken that didn’t still have the head on it, ten minutes trying to decide what sauce/spice to use (BBQ sauce and black pepper), and twenty-five minutes waiting outside the store while the birthday boy engaged in a shouting match with another man over heaven knows what.

2. Returned to friend’s apartment, marinated the chicken for a couple of hours. Decided that the closest way to approximate a grill would be with a grooved, cast-iron skillet and a hot plate.

3. Spent thirty minutes periodically scrutinizing the cloudy sky and declaring that no, it wouldn’t rain. Spent thirty seconds moving everything in-doors when the hardest, heaviest rain in China came pouring down.

4. Tried to figure out whether the numeric indication of temperature on the hot plate’s display was in Celsius or Fahrenheit. Later determined it was neither when someone accidentally bumped it up to 2000 (somethings), which is an entirely unreasonable temperature by either standard.

5. Spent 90% of time cooking unsure whether the chicken was actually tasting any good, because everyone else at the party kept eating it as soon as it came of the grill/hot plate. Was told it tasted good… didn’t trust them. Tried some, was pleasantly surprised.

6. In trying to find a good balance between the thickness of the meat (aka making sure it cooked all the way through), the heat of the hot plate, not burning the chicken, and not starving the other attendees, found that cutting the chicken into small pieces while using generous amounts of BBQ sauce made for some great finger food. Additionally, mango doesn’t grill well, but it does blend perfectly with BBQ sauce. Threw in some butter, and a little salt and sugar; perfect.

7. Ate. Enjoyed. Was thoroughly pleased with the results.

It definitely wasn’t the smoothest cooking experience I’ve ever had, but it was far from the worst. The chicken came out pretty well, and as I assured my friend, who is Thai and was somewhat suspicious of my cooking technique, all’s well that ends well. We’re doing it again next weekend.

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