Tamarind Chicken with Za'atar Eggplant

I tried to combine South East Asian food with Middle Eastern food with this meal and it surprisingly worked well. The chicken is baked in a very savory sauce that comprises of tamarind, funky fish sauce & soy sauce (worry not though, the fishy smell goes away and the fish sauce just adds umami and more depth). The side dish is some grilled eggplant in middle eastern spices like za'atar and finished with a yogurt-tahini sauce. There's also lots of lemon juice involved.

The end result of both these components resulted in a tender, moist chicken bathed in a super umami sauce along with some bright, lemony & herb-y eggplants. The chicken is pretty easy to make. While it's baking you can start on the eggplants so both the components will be ready at the same time.

Tamarind Chicken recipe adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game, Melissa Clark
Makes 6 servings

3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tamarind paste
zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)
3 serranos, thinly sliced
1 cup tender cilantro stems with leaves

Mix fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, tamarind paste, lime zest, pepper and garlic in a wide oven-proof container that can fit the chicken in one layer. Add the chicken pieces and coat it with sauce on both sides. Let marinate overnight. Preheat oven to 450 F. Bake the chicken starting skin side up first for 10 minutes. Our the chicken pieces so it's skin side down and bake it again for another ten minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up for the last 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. I let it go for 15 minutes to ensure proper cooking and caramelizing. Sprinkle on serranos and cilantro and serve chicken pieces with accumulated sauce drizzled on top.

Za'atar Eggplant recipe adapted from Cook Beautiful, Athena Calderone
Makes 6 servings

3 lb Chinese long eggplants, cut into quarters
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp za'atar
1 heaping tsp sea salt, or to taste
zest and juice of 1 lemon
90 gm greek yogurt
60 gm tahini
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
za'tar to sprinkle
sumac to sprinkle
1 cup tender dill and cilantro sprigs, coarsely torn

Preheat grill.  Toss eggplant with olive oil, za'atar and sea salt in a large wide bowl. Make sure the oil and spices coat each spear properly. On medium heat, grill eggplant skin side up, for 7 minutes. Using tongs and a wide metal flat spatula, turn the pieces over to grill on the other cut side (still skin side up) and grill for another 7 minutes. In the meantime, make tahini sauce by whisking greek yogurt, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water and salt. Make sure it's drizzleable. If not, add another tbsp of water. Once the eggplant is done, using the wide spatula, carefully scrape the eggplant slices off onto a serving platter. Make sure you don't break any slices. Sprinkle lemon zest and lemon juice over it. Sprinkle za'atar and sumac and drizzle with tahini sauce. Finish with a topping of herbs and serve!


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