Sweet and Sour Bangkok-Style Chicken with Chiles
On my first visit to Malaysia, I found myself in Penang sitting in a small Thai cafe near New Lane, and I ordered something called Bangkok Chicken. I almost ate the plate, and when I was done, I began interrogating the chef about the dish and came up blank. Language barriers were one issue. The fact that I was a foot taller and twice this guy's weight didn't help, either. So I returned the next day with my crew, ordered the dish again, and this time positioned myself at his elbow while he made this dish.
Now, in most of Asia, when someone is stir-frying, they have a dozen or so sambals and sauces already cooked, seasoning purees of all kinds already pounded in a mortar and so on, so it took me ordering this dish several times that day to figure it out, but it was worth it. This recipe serves four to six people as an entree and can also be made with any protein imaginable. I have done this dish with halved lobsters, pork chops, quail, shrimp, even lamb chops, to much applause from the assembled hordes.
The funniest part about this recipe is the joy it brings to people who notice that Simply Heinz ketchup is part of the recipe. I love to use Heinz's corn syrup-free ketchup as an ingredient in cooking; the stuff is awesome and very traditional in many parts of southern Asia, where tomato-vinegar-sugar sauces have been used for centuries. The heat-sweet factor here is phenomenal, and I think this recipe is the one my friends clamor for the loudest when we plan dinner parties. Serve it with plenty of Asian short-grain or Thai sticky rice, a tart salad (anything from arugula with lemon and oil to spicy green papaya works superbly) and some steamed green vegetables.--Andrew Zimmern