Friday, 22 June 2012

Burmese Chicken Curry and Cock Scratchings (Recipe)

Where's your self re-cocking-spect?

Apparently people hate those posts where errant bloggers go, "I'm so sorry for being AWOL" or "So you're probably wondering where I've been". I'm just going to say I was ill which meant I stopped giving a shit, but now I'm back.

A Cock Tale

The Ginger Pig is one of those semi-legendary butchers, and one fine day, they're kind enough to offer me one of their new 100 day French chickens to play with (cook, I mean. Not befriend. That would be weird).

I can go for a cock or a pullet (Google those words, and an awful joke comes up which you can probably guess), and I choose the cock. 

They then offer me a choice of prepared or intact - I've had cockscomb in salads before, and I love me some chicken feet, so I figure I can make good use of the extra bits, so I say, "Bring it on". 

Friday, my office doorbell rings and a nice chap appears with a beautiful bag containing a small, dead body. He hands it over, and I wedge it inside the office fridge, hoping no-one asks me what it is.

Ignore the blood

Saturday morning, I wake up to see a Facebook photo by Hollow Legs saying that her cockerel (for she is also playing) is still full of guts and gore. And I go, "F*ck".

For in my gung-ho food twattery, it completely didn't occur to me that intact means intact. I panic and ask her how she intends to tackle it, and she says, "Youtube is your friend". 

I then spend the next 30 minutes watching the same video over and over again until I start to feel spiritually at one with the redneck survivalist hiding in the woods.


I disrobe my own cockerel from its Ginger Pig wrapping, and its head lolls, then clunks onto my chopping board. It's totally CSI, and I can feel myself blench. 

I grab my cleaver and I decapitate the cock. It's so not a clean cut, and, as I hack away at the gristle and then loosen its oesophagus and windpipe ("just hook them out with your finger"), I wonder what I'm doing with my life.

Poultry gang signs

And the feet - THE FEET. Like a f*cking velociraptor. These are not dainty talons to braise in soy and then nibble on. These are offensive weapons. They quickly join the feathery head in the "bait bowl".

Suddenly it looks innocuous. It's just a lovely, lovely chicken, right? Wrong, I still need to disembowel the bastard. 

Bait bowl

With a sharp, stabby knife, I cut a slit "to open up the cavity", trying desperately to avoid nicking the intestines with the blade. 

And then, with rubber gloved hand (f*ck me if I'm going to reach in there naked), I pull out its guts. 

I made a little video for you to share the experience.

It reeks.


I then yank out the rooster's windpipe and oesophagus through its arse (you're meant to do this).

It's a relief to clean up the parts I'm more familiar with - preserving the neck, the liver, the gizzard and the heart. I'll spare you what I had to do to prep the gizzard. 

These bits will be chef's treats - I deserve something, goddammit.

Have a heart

Now it looks like a lovely, safe chicken. 

I rip its skin off, Buffalo Bill-style, to make rooster scratchings, and then I joint the bird ready for my recipe.

Smug MiMi

I feel good, like I've achieved something, and I ring my mum to tell her just how awesome I am.

She says, "What did you do with the intestines?" and I say, "I chucked that shizz away", and she says, "Fool - in Burma, we clean and plait the intestines and then put them in the curry".

That's me told.

The Burmese Chicken Curry known as Gahlar-thar Hin

Gahlar-thar Hin - A Burmese Chicken Curry 

The full moon of November heralds Tazaungdaing in Burma, a festival of mischief-making where young men are encouraged to go on a kind of scavenger hunt as well as muck about. In villages, they “steal” chickens which have been deliberately left in the backyards of rich people to create a midnight feast - in towns, they're more likely to just buy the bird.

This is the festival dish they make - it's easy, and you use the bones and all.

"Gahlar-thar" means "sons of our times"; "hin" just means a dish and is usually translated as curry, though this is more of a stew. I used to call this Bachelors' Curry, till people thought I meant the Cup-a-Soup purveyors.

Serves 8


  • 1 cockerel or large chicken, jointed
  • 1 large bottle gourd / small winter melon / medium mooli (daikon) / 4 courgettes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Large white onions x 3
  • Large ripe tomatoes x 4 or 1 can of plum tomatoes
  • Garlic x 2 bulbs
  • Ginger, 4 inch piece, peeled
  • Coriander stalks, full bunch
  • Birds' eye chillies x 4
  • Shrimp paste (belacan), 2 tbsp
  • Mild chilli powder, 1 tbsp
  • Sweet paprika, 1 tbsp
  • Sugar, 2 tbsp
  • Fish sauce, 4 tbsp

Place all the ingredients in a blender, except for the meat and the gourd, and mince it roughly into a paste.

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil on medium in a deep saucepan or stockpot which you can cover with a lid, and sauté this paste for at least five minutes until it loses the raw onion and garlic smell and becomes fragrant. Then add the meat and continue to sauté till the meat browns a little.

Then add enough water that the meat is submerged. Simmer for 4 hours (cockerel) or 2 hours (large chicken) with a lid on, topping up with water whenever the meat rises above the level. 

A slow cooker is particularly useful for this - I adore the Flavour Savour which Morphy Richards gave me, because you can use it straight on the hob too.

Half an hour before you intend to dish up, chuck in the pieces of gourd so they cook through.

Serve with plain, steamed rice and the chicken scratchings (see below). 

This is a broth-like dish, and your rice should be swimming in rich gravy.

Aka Gribenes

Cock or Rooster Scratchings

I like deep-frying stuff, partly out of gluttony, and partly as I love textural contrast in my food (as all Burmese people do). 

I often make fish and chicken scratchings, and I realised that the cockerel's skin was so thick that it would work brilliantly - almost as well as the standard pork.

This requires some advance prep, but it's worth it.

  • The skin of a cockerel or large chicken
  • Plain flour, 3 tbsp
  • Salt, 1 tbsp
  • Pepper, 1 tbsp
  • MSG, 1/2 tsp

Remove the skin of the chicken/cockerel in as close to one piece as possible. Wash and then dry the skin as much as possible using paper towels (this is the key to proper Peking Duck as well).

Toss the skin in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, so it's thoroughly coated. The MSG is essential. This is why KFC tastes like heaven. If you're a pussy, use a crumbled chicken stock cube.

Then cover the bowl with paper towels rather than cling film (so it can breathe and keep drying out), and leave in the fridge overnight - or at least 6 hours.

When you're ready to make the scratchings, chop the skin into bitesize strips with scissors or kitchen shears.

Heat about two inches' depth of oil in a wok or deep saucepan with and when you can feel waves of heat coming off the pan with the palm of your hand, turn it down a little and add a handful of strips at a time. 

Turn the strips in the hot oil with a perforated heat-proof spoon till they're golden and crisp and then fish them out and dry on paper towels.

When you've fried all the skin, sprinkle a little more salt on top and then serve with the curry and rice, or just eat them as a snack.


See how the others fared with their Ginger Pig chickens:


I'm really chuffed to say that the restaurant Solita in Manchester has put my Rooster Scratchings on their menu and it looks like they're one of the most popular dishes!


  1. Welcome back MiMi. That cock looked like hard work :) loving the sound of those scratchings.

  2. Love it! Does your mum always talk like Mr T though?

  3. If you're a pussy, use a crumbled chicken stock cube.

    Haha! You've been missed!

  4. Excellent return to form MiMi, just don't leave it so long next time, you cock.

  5. @TheGlutton - Thank you! Yeah, it was hard work, but I'm glad I did it.

    @Paul Hart - That was the English translation of the Burmese she said :)

    @Mr Noodles - I asked my husband if that instruction was too extreme and he said "No, it's you - go for it" - thank you!

    @Food Urchin - Yeah yeah yeah

  6. Oh, lovely slurpy stock base to that curry. Lovely to have you back blogging

  7. Great to have you back. Learning that you have pull a cock's windpipe through it's arse has made my day. It's something I intend to bring up over beer as often as I possibly can.

    Awesome recipe too and now that I have found not one but three decent Asian grocers in Brighton, I will be giving it a go sometime soon. Sounds perfect for the weather.

  8. Good to have you back, MiMi! I really love the way you write, it's so funny! The food looks fab but I think I'll wait to watch the disembowelling video until after lunch...

  9. Oh, you make me laugh, even though 'cock scratchings' reminds me of my old flatmate. :(

    Mm, hungry now.x

  10. I really love reading your posts, your jokes always put a smile on my face :) Great to have you back Mimi.

    Now I must give that cock scratching recipe a go...

  11. How does cock meat differ from hen's? Looking at the cooking time, it seems to be tougher raw, is there a difference after cooking, too?
    That looks and sounds fantastic, except the gutting part. I'm not squeamish, it's just a case of not wanting to accidentally pierce the gall bladder etc.

  12. we weren't told about that oesophagus. Or that the cock would be 'intact'. (I actually ordered a pullet...!)

    Lovely curry, and I LOVE the idea of those scratchings. Bravo.

  13. Welcome back! All those effort that you've gone through but wwaaahhhh (jaws-dropping)... the curry and scratchings looks delicious....(now just drooling). I must get myself one of those cock (hmmm...that didn't come out right). Will attempt both recipe and then dunk the scratchings into the curry stock....yum! :)

  14. @Nicky - It's gorgeous - you can drink it as a soup too.

    @The Grubworm - It's just one of those things. None of the videos explain why you need to do this - you just do.

    @Unknown - Thank you Unknown!

    @Suz - Erm, ew ;)

    @Tang - Thanks - and the scratchings are sooo good.

    @karohemd - Yep, it needs slow slow cooking, roasting or braising but it's gamier than normal chicken. Like a cross between duck and chicken.

    @Lizzie Mabbott - Thank you - and you too! If you hadn't suggested Youtube, I would have just laid down on the floor and cried.

    @J@feasttotheworld - Yeah, ask for a whole one! ASK FOR A WHOLE ONE!

  15. Sounds like I need to try some cock!

  16. Dee-lish-ous! I'm bookmarking this one for sure.

  17. I admire your commitment. On the other hand, I feel like plaiting intestines is a task for women who don't work outside the home.

  18. Christ, I mean you disappear for ages, it's like you've come down with some crazy tropical illness... Great to see you posting again. Also I want cock scratchings x

  19. I am so impressed you took on a properly whole cockerel. And I was feeling smug for descaling and decapitating a salmon...

  20. I particularly love your hysterical giggle-swearing during the, ahem, extraction process.

    Want cock scratchings now. Now. NOW!

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  22. The Burmese Chicken Curry and Rooster Scratchings do look mighty scrummy. But I wish I had not looked through everything. I am squeamish like that. Kidding aside. Cock is delicious! LOL

  23. I'll pass on the plaited intestines but your determination and use of marigolds seems to have paid off!

  24. This is new to me ! I would love to try Burmese food. Thank you for sharing . Love from Singapore

  25. this made me laugh so much and it looks incredible! given me inspiration to start posting on my food blog again

    tell me what you think :-)


  26. I had rooster scratchings when I was back in Manc at Christmas. Had no idea they'd been directly inspired by your recipe. Fantastic.

  27. People at my office are staring at me because I'm laughing so hard at a story of someone disemboweling a chicken. I will not be able to explain this one anyone. I know this is like two years old, but seriously, thank you for making my day.

  28. Ummm was I supposed to use all the paste on one go? Because I've totally done that and don't seem to need much water! Smells epic though!

    1. Yes, you do add the lot! It's meant to be very soupy, so you drink the soup at the same time as eating the bits - the Burmese phrase is "A-yay thouk, a-hput sar" (drink the soup and eat the flesh). More pics here


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