Ingredients

  • Serves 4 people
  • 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

  • 2 shallots

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 jug warm water

  • salt

  • brown sugar

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Recipe Courtesy of
Asian Food Network

Ayam Masak Lemak

Love curry? Have you heard of Ayam Masak Lemak? This popular Malaysian dish translates to ‘chicken in turmeric coconut curry’ and is thought to have originated from Sri Lanka. Today, you can find this dish at various restaurants, cafes and even hawker centres in Southeast Asia.
  • Medium
  • 15 min
  • 25 min
  • 20 min
  • 5 steps
  • 14 Ingredients
  • Medium
  • 5 steps
  • 14 Ingredients
  • 15 min
  • 25 min
  • 20 min

A Hearty Meal for All Curry Lovers

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.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ayam Masak Lemak

Which parts of the chicken should I use?

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. 

Can I store Ayam Masak Lemak for future meals?

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.

Can I find premade spice paste for Ayam Masak Lemak at the grocery store?

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.

Can I use onions instead of shallots?

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.

Is this dish spicy?

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.

Tips to Cook a Succulent Ayam Masak Lemak

  1. Use fresh spices: when cooking any type of curry, using fresh spices instead of preserved ones helps you bring an earthy flavor to the dish
  2. Control the flame: as tempting as it seems to ramp up the fire especially when you are ravenous, you might want to work with a low to moderate fire as working with a large flame could burn the condiments and leave you with a mess
  3. Use chicken breast for a healthier meal: chicken breast is high in protein and it has lower fat content than the thighs, wings and drumettes
  4. Incorporate more chicken thighs for more flavor: while the chicken breast might be one of the healthier parts of the chicken, they are not the most flavorful. If you love your poultry, use thighs instead as they are fattier and more toothsome!
  5. Cut the chicken in smaller parts: if you want to save time, cutting the chicken in smaller parts will help it get cooked quicker
  6. Cook the condiments thoroughly: the secret to a good curry is the doneness of the condiments. Make sure the paste is fragrant before adding anything else

 

Instructions

  1. Make the coconut milk

    • In a large bowl, add coconut flesh with 2 cup warm water and mix well using your hands.
    • Squeeze the coconut milk using a strainer until you get approximately 2 -3 cups of coconut milk.
    • Skip this step if you’re using store-bought coconut milk. Set aside.


  2. Blend and fry spice paste

    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.



  3. Mix chicken in spice paste

    • Add bruised lemongrass and chicken into the pan and mix well.
    Mix chicken in spice paste


  4. Add coconut milk in chili paste

    • In a pot on medium heat, heat coconut milk and 3 tbsp coconut oil until fragrant but not boiling.
    • When slightly fragrant, pour into chili paste.
    • Let it simmer for 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked.


  5. Season the curry and add turmeric leaves

    • Season to taste with salt and brown sugar if needed, then add turmeric leaves.
    • Turn off heat and keep covered for another 5 minutes.

    | Best eaten with steamed white rice.

    Season the curry and add turmeric leaves


Plate and Serve!

Transfer dish into serving bowl and garnish with large red chili slices. Serve hot.

Plate and Serve!

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Ingredients
  • Serves 4 people
  • 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

  • 2 shallots

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 jug warm water

  • salt

  • brown sugar

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