1/2 chicken (chopped into 16 pieces)
1 grated coconut flesh (substitute with 2 cups coconut milk)
1 stalk lemongrass (bruised)
1 turmeric leaf (thinly sliced)
3 tbsp coconut oil
6 chili padi
2 large red chili
1 cm fresh ginger
1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
4 cloves garlic
1 jug warm water
Unlike most curries you might see around Southeast Asia like Kapitan Curry Chicken and Thai Beef Curry, Ayam Masak Lemak has its own unique aroma and yellow-green colour from the turmeric powder, ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk combination. What makes this dish particularly unique is its subtle sweet and peppery ginger flavors.
It might not look like it at the first glance, but the curry is slightly spicier thanks to the chilis used in it! Even though most of the spicy flavors are masked by the lemongrass and coconut milk, some cooks prefer adding more bird’s eye chilis for an extra kick of spice.
While most enjoy this curry with a plate of rice, you could also enjoy it with roti prata or chapati for a lighter meal. You could even use the gravy as a dip for papadum and bread for a tea time snack. It is the perfect dish for a rainy day as it warms your tummy and keeps you full. Not to mention it is also a great one-dish meal for a family dinner too!
While there may be numerous places to get your curry fix, why not try whipping up your very own Ayam Masak Lemak?
Cooking curries might seem a little intimidating at first because they are always cooked in large portions, but the trick to nailing the dish is controlling the flame and preventing any ingredients from getting overcooked. The quality of the dish depends heavily on getting the ratio of the ingredients on point. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use too much coconut milk and end up with a milky mess. Similarly, adding too much turmeric powder could make the dish too peppery.
While our recipe calls for half a chicken to be used, you could also use specific parts like the thighs, wings, breast and drumettes depending on your preference.
Bear in mind that the texture of the chicken varies from part to part. For instance, the chicken breast tends to feel dry when overcooked while the wings tend to be fattier than other parts of the chicken.
The coconut milk might turn sour if not consumed within a week after use. You might want to finish any Ayam Masak Lemak within a maximum of 2 days before it goes bad.
Alternatively, you could also freeze the leftovers and reheat them in the future.
While this dish is well-known in Southeast Asia, you probably won’t be able to find any premade paste for the dish.
No worries though, the dish isn’t as intimidating as it seems! Read on for more tips to nail that rich flavor.
If you prefer a stronger flavor, feel free to swap the shallots for onions. Onions have a stronger aroma and a more umami taste than shallots, which are sweeter and lighter.
Ayam Masak Lemak is spicier than it looks. But if you can’t handle spicy foods, you could forgo the bird’s eye chilis and replace them with large ones that are less spicy than the former.
In a blender, blend 6 chili padi, 1 large red chili, ginger, ½ tsp turmeric powder, shallots and garlic until smooth.
If the mixture is too dry, you can use water to help you achieve a smooth consistency.
In a pan on medium-high heat, fry spice paste for 5 minutes.
| Best eaten with steamed white rice.
Transfer dish into serving bowl and garnish with large red chili slices. Serve hot.