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When the shocking news of Anthony Bourdain’s death broke late last week, I thought first of the episodes of his CNN television series, “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” that took place on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

When I visited Sarawak twice in 1998, there had been a total of just nine tourists from North America, my guides told me. There were more Germans than any other Europeans, and a few Brits, too. It was there, in both the capital city of Kuching and smaller towns along the Trans-Borneo Highway, that I enjoyed some of the best foods I have ever eaten.

It took a while to convince my guides that I did not want to go to the usual places requested by the few American visitors they saw.

Finally, growing frustrated, I said, “I don’t eat at McDonald’s or KFC at home. Why would I want to eat there here?”

Somehow, these words convinced them that I wanted to eat what they eat. Suddenly, they were taking me to food stalls in night markets, tiny little restaurants tucked down alleyways, and deep in the forest alongside a small river in a little cafe that specialized in river snail soup.

I ate congee and roti with dal for breakfast and was served mysterious looking sweets in an Iban longhouse (think of a horizontal building with more than a hundred separate apartments under one long roof with a common area that stretched the entire length of the dwelling), where I was also offered the rice wine they made themselves.

Luckily, I was not there during the rice harvest festival, as Bourdain was, because then the drinking could go on for days. My only regret, other than not having enough time there, was not having a kitchen.

A spice stall in a huge food emporium featured colorful mounds of aromatic spices mixed with coconut oil that made me long to cook.

Bourdain and I ate many of the same foods: black pepper crab, all manner of noodles, the freshest and most tender chicken imaginable and delicious dishes with names that were impossible to translate.

His eating and mine took place away from fancy hotel restaurants and shared more with indigenous cooking, and home cooking, than with chef creations. That’s where you find the best food, which I have always felt was at the heart of Bourdain’s message and passion.

One of Bourdain’s talents was the way he connected with just about anyone over a plate of something good to eat. He asked all the right questions, ate with enviable gusto and seemed fearless in the way he would jump right in, sometimes literally, to whatever the moment demanded.

Keep savoring every mouthful with that gusto, Tony, wherever you may be.

“Do you want to go to chicken rice for lunch?” my guides, Ramlee and Taliq, asked me as we were heading up the Trans-Bornea Highway.

Honestly, it sounded so dull that I asked for other suggestions but, in the end, chicken rice is what it was and that’s a good thing. Chicken rice is a universe of flavors unto itself, with little dishes of rice, sauces and condiments orbiting a plate of the most succulent chicken ever.

Chicken rice is easy to reproduce here, though you absolutely must have the freshest chicken possible. Don’t be put off by the length of the recipe; it is not complicated and all and the only special skill you need is the ability to shop for good products.

Malaysian Chicken Rice

Serves 4

4 chicken leg-thighs or 8 large thighs (preferably fresh, local, pastured chickens)

For the marinade:

6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

2 shallots, peeled

1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons black soy sauce (available in Asian markets)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon bottled Thai chili sauce

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon chile powder or chipotle powder

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

For the rice:

1 1/4 cup long-grain white rice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 large garlic clove, peeled

1 -inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

— Black pepper in a mill

For the condiments:

1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 cup black soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

— Thai chili sauce, in a small serving bowl

For the chicken: Rinse chicken under cool water and pat it dry with a clean tea towel. Prick the skin of the chicken all over with a fork or the tip of a very sharp knife. Set aside and cover.

To make the marinade, put the garlic and shallots into a large suribachi or mortar and use a wooden pestle to crush and pound them into a paste.

Add the ginger and pound until nearly smooth. Stir in the soy sauces, chili sauce, kosher salt, chile powder or chipotle powder and the white pepper.

Put the chicken into a large freezer bag. Add the marinade and seal the bag, pushing out all the air as you do. Massage the chicken for 2 or 3 minutes to be certain every inch of it is slathered with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and as long as overnight.

To finish the chicken, remove it from the oven 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

For the rice: Rinse the rice in several changes of water, until no more starch leaches out into the water. Pour 2 cups water into a small saucepan and add the rinsed rice, along with the teaspoon of salt and the butter. Working quickly, pound together the ginger and garlic to form a paste and stir the paste into the water and rice.

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Without lifting the lid, remove the rice from the heat and let rest, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.

While the rice cooks, set the chicken on a roasting rack set on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through but still juicy.

Remove from the oven, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.

Meanwhile, prepare the condiments. Combine the grated ginger with the coconut oil in a small bowl and set it aside.

Combine the black soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, minced shallot and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan, set over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a small bowl, add the cilantro leaves and set aside.

To serve, mound the rice in the center of a large serving platter and surround it with the cooked chicken.

Garnish the platter with sliced cucumbers and enjoy right away, with all of the condiments alongside for dipping.

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