500 g chicken thigh
Salt to taste
2 diced tomatoes
1/2 onion sliced
2 stalk lemongrass
1/2 tbsp belacan
Oil for sautee
5 cloves garlic
12 red chilies
2 lime leaves
The Ayam Balado - or Chicken Balado - is a spicy Indonesian dish made of succulent chicken, tomatoes and fragrant lemongrass. The key to a delicious plate of Ayam Balado lies in its paste – a fragrant chili sambal Balado made simply from a blend of shallots, chili, garlic and lime leaves. Originated from the Minang cuisine in West Sumatra, the sambal balado is referred to less as a condiment for dipping but more as the main cooking paste used to stir fry with other main ingredients in a dish. The term ‘balado’ itself means ‘with chili’, which indicates the dish is cooked with another ingredient, be they meat or seafood. The perfect example is the Ayam Balado, where the chicken pieces are sauteéd with the sambal.
The versatile sambal balado also goes well with prawns, squids, boiled eggs, potatoes and even beef. Other popular Sumatran dishes that are cooked with the sambal balado include Dendeng Balado made from thinly-sliced dry fried beef, Terong Balado made from eggplant and Kantang Balado made of potatoes.
The Ayam Balado is typically served with rice. However, if you are making this dish at home, you can consider having it with bread too. For those with a penchant for creative fusion cooking, you can prepare burritos with Ayam Balado as the filling. This makes for perfect packed lunches to school or work! For this, however, you would want to make use of smaller chicken pieces so that the burrito can hold the filling together. (Our fusion Okonomiyaki Quesadilla will serve as a good inspiration.) Another fusion dish you can create is Ayam Balado pasta - whether you toss it together or serve as a side, the combination will make for a great unique culinary masterpiece.
Here, we will show you how you can make the Ayam Balado with our simple easy-to-follow recipe. If you like your chicken extra tender, try using chicken legs! Serve it warm and with a hot bowl of rice.
It is better to fry the chicken separately first and then add into the sambal balado. This will prevent the sambal from overcooking while the chicken cooks. The stir-fry typically takes about 3 minutes which means both the sambal and chicken should already be cooked. If you prefer a healthier alternative, you can bake the chicken instead of frying before tossing into the balado mixture.
Purple onions will give a stronger pungent flavor compared to shallots which are relatively mild. Shallots are also known to lose their taste when cooked, which is why it is also often eaten raw. If you do not want the onions to overpower the overall flavor of the sambal balado, you can use spring onions instead. Other alternatives include leek and garlic scapes.
You can reduce the number of red chilis used, or add more tomatoes.
Avoid chopping the balado ingredients too finely: Leaving the ingredients in the sambal balado mixture a little course will give the sauce a good texture.
Cook sambal balado till it gives off an aroma: You must ensure that the sambal balado is properly cooked before you toss in the chicken to stir-fry. Any raw ingredient will give off an unpleasant smell which indicates that the sambal is not fully cooked. Therefore, keep cooking the sambal till it gives off an aromatic fragrance.
Marinate the chicken with yoghurt, garlic and egg before frying: You can consider marinating the chicken with other ingredients like yoghurt, eggs and garlic to add more flavor to the balado dish. You may also add more spices to the marination but do so in moderation as the sambal will already be spicy. If the dish is too spicy, it prevents you from enjoying the overall flavors of the dish.
Let marinated chicken set overnight: Leaving the marinated chicken to set overnight allows more flavors to be infused into the chicken pieces, which will go well with the spiciness from the balado mixture.
Substitute salt with light soy sauce: Adding a light soy sauce towards the end of the mixture instead of salt will give a tangy kick to the dish.
Garnish with basil leaves or coriander: Garnishing with greens adds a pop of color to the dish together with an earthy freshness.
Sprinkle salt and pepper onto the chicken cuts, and set aside for 20 minutes.
Pour oil in a wok and sauté onions for a few minutes. Add in lemongrass.
After sautéing about 3 minutes, add in the fried chicken and diced tomatoes.
Toss to coat evenly.
Serve with rice