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Khao Man Gai, Rich, Heady and as Good as Its Rice

Category: Food & Drink,Lifestyle

Their plates are full of dark meat, all thigh and drumsticks. Here the chicken is submerged and simmered in a broth steeped with cilantro, garlic, ginger and pandan leaves, which lend a flavor that’s half-fragrance, half-cloudy memory. Spongy panels of skin cling to the meat; the texture is intentionally slippery.

I liked their grilled chicken better, the flesh rubbed with the same herbs from the pot and brightened by lemongrass, left overnight and then turned over flame until mottled and smoky. Buttermilk fried chicken is commendable, too, although it should be eaten immediately, before its armor wilts.

But as at Eat’s, the chicken is secondary to the rice, the grains plump from chicken broth. Here the rice is wetter and more aromatic, the flavors almost blooming on the tongue. The side of soup is milder, with daikon rather than winter melon and a rubble at the bottom: corn, added at the last minute so it remains sunny-sweet.

Each version of chicken is paired with a condiment, the sugar content escalating from one to the next. Deep-fried chicken is tempered by a sticky sauce like unresolved candy, made of pickled garlic, tomato paste and defanged chiles. Grilled chicken gets a meld of tamarind and fish sauce, sprinkled with roasted rice powder for the faintest crackle.

Poached chicken is the original, the one that sells out by early afternoon. Fortunately, you can still get a side of its accompanying sauce: tao jeow and crushed ginger, which I would happily eat over rice alone, the chicken entirely forgotten.

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