If you cannot find plums Indian plums (genus prunus) are smalL, dark and often confused with a local fruit, jamun, also called Malabar or Java Plum. Plums came to India 4,000 years ago from China. While they are now a commercially important crop in China, in India they are grown as quickly flowering fillers for mangoes and litchi. Cultivated mostly in the temperate zones of north India and all over Punjab, India is the 9th largest producer of plums like the Satlej purple, Kala Amritsari, Triton and Alu Bukhara, the latter is also a generic term used to describe dried plums or prunes. City markets only get plum varieties unsuitable for drying.
Chinese 5 Spice is a classic staple of the Chinese kitchen. You can buy it anywhere, but it’s also easy and fun to make at home since an Indian kitchen has most of these spices anyway. This mix traditionally contains Schezuan peppercorns, which I substitute with its close cousin teppal or trifal, used in Konkan fish curries.Plums can range from sweet to very sour. Taste your marinade and adjust sweetness before you bake the chicken.
1 kg chicken with skin and bone in 8 large pieces
6 red plums pitted
4 red plums whole
3 small white or red onions peeled and quartered
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
4 tsbp honey (if plums are on the sour side add more honey)
3 tbsp chinese red chilli paste or a red chilli hot sauce
1 teaspoon orange zest
juice of one orange
FOR CHINESE 5 SPICE
1 .5-inch stick cinnamon/6 cloves/ 1 teaspoon fennel or saunf seeds/1 teaspoonSichuan peppercorns or use Teppal/1 whole star anise all seeds removed
Fronds of fennel or young celery and some raw plums (optional)
2 heads of bok choy, washed and separated (prepare just before chicken is taken out from the oven)
1. Toast all the spices for the Chinese 5 Spice in a dry skillet on medium heat about 2 minutes. Cool and grind to a fine powder.
2. Puree 6 plums with the Chinese 5 Spice, ginger, garlic, soy, sesame oil, orange juice, zest and red chilli paste or sauce. Stir in a teaspoon of salt and sesame seeds. Taste the marinade for salt, sweetness and spice levels. Adjust.
3. Toss chicken, quartered onions and remaining plum halves in this sauce, cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Lightly grease a baking tray. Place the marinated chicken skin side up, onions and plums in the tray and spread about. Cover with foil, prick the top of foil with a fork and bake 30 minutes.
Remove foil, raise heat to 375F and contine to bake another 25-35 minutes until chicken skin is golden brown, partially blistered and fully cooked.
Stir in the bokchoy leaves and stems. They will wilted in the heat of the casserole. Garnish with green herbs of your choice, a raw plum to add color if you wish.