Everyone can cook ayam goreng, or ayam bakar, but not everyone can prepare ayam masak lemak cili api. Simply because it requires so many different ingredients, and each recipe you can find will have its own signature component that gives the ayam masak lemak cili padi some fangs.
This dish is popular among Nogori people, who are mostly from the Minang lineage – known for dishes that are extra spicy. Even though this recipe has travelled outside of Negeri Sembilan, the best masak lemak dishes will always be from the state itself. But no worries, we assure you this recipe is good enough for a wholesome lunch with your family and friends!
- 1kg chicken portions
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp OR 1 Tbsp lime juice OR 1 Tbsp clear vinegar
- 4 Tbsp water (for the tamarind)
- 400 ml (1 3/5 cup) canned coconut milk OR equivalent amount from 1 coconut
- I red onion
- 1 small clove garlic
- 10 or more chili padi (depending on how spicy you want it to be)
- 1” fresh turmeric OR 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- Coat the chicken pieces with 1 tsp ground turmeric and salt. Set aside while you get all the other ingredients ready.
- Cut the lemongrass in half, discarding the top half. Using the back of the knife, pound down on the base (bulbous end) of lemongrass to split it roughly.
- Make a paste with the tamarind pulp and the 4 Tbsp of water. Mix well with your fingers. Strain through a medium mesh sieve and set aside.
- Place all the ingredients to be ground in a chopper and chop to a fine paste.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok on medium-high heat and brown the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the chicken as you add the chicken to the saucepan/wok. You may have to brown the chicken in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan. In that case, tip the first half onto a plate and do the second batch before going on to step
- Divide the oil and sugar in 2, as well. You don’t really need much oil to brown the chicken.
- When the chicken has taken on some colour, tip in the ground paste and the lemongrass and fry for 2 minutes, coating the chicken well.
- Pour in the coconut milk, reserving about 2 Tbsp of the thick cream at the top. If you are lucky enough to have freshly squeezed coconut milk, add only the second and third pressings, reserving the thick coconut milk to finish off. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium.
- Bring everything to a gentle boil and then lower the heat down and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until your chicken is cooked.
- When done, check seasoning and add more salt, if needed. That’s it, dish up with some plain rice and a side vegetable dish.