Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ayam Masak Merak — A Classic Malay Chicken Recipe

ayam masak merah recipe chicken in red sauce

When I left Singapore, I left behind a gaggle of girlfriends. Oh, how I miss them. Long conversations, gossip over food, steady shoulders for a good cry. You know those sort of friends.

Moving here, I had no expectations when it came to making new friends. I was lucky because I already had one good friend, B, who lives 10 minutes away. And I grew close to one of S's friends, L. That was enough for my social life. I was busy with moving homes, settling down and studying. After my exams, we went to a Singapore network event (because we thought they would have good Singapore food) and during the reception, while we were munching on some spring rolls, another couple joined us at our table. We introduced ourselves. She's from Singapore too and just moved with her French husband. We did small talk and being Singaporeans, of course, we chatted about food.

Fast forward 18 months later, and we — D and I — are still chatting about food. In fact, we've gone beyond that - we've both set up blogs where we talk a lot about food. So to celebrate her birthday, of course, food was involved. Last night, I made dinner for her and her adoring husband, M. I decided to make one of my mum's Malay chicken dish, ayam masak merah (recipe below). Literally it means "chicken cooked red", which sounds a little strange translated. But the sauce is a blend of red dried chilies and pureed tomatoes. The only thing different I did from my mum was to roast the chickens instead of frying them. It was a nice taste of home, in the company of semi-new friends — eating, talking, laughing. So it was a celebration not just of a birthday, but of friendship, as well.
ayam masak merah 13
After dinner, we had dessert. I always make desserts when we have friends over. But last night, I didn't because D brought some. Why would I let the birthday girl bring her own dessert? Because she's been busy making them everyday for the last month! Yup, everyday. So let's celebrate her birthday today by looking through every single of her yummy desserts on her blog — bonvivant. Watch the drool!

Chicken in Red Sauce ("Ayam Masak Merah")

3 oz dried red chilies or ½ cup of dried chili paste
1 whole chicken
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium sized onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
2 lemongrass
1 cup tomato puree or diced tomato
½ cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon sugar

1. De-seed and cut the each dried chili into 2-3 pieces. Soak in warm water for 30 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 400°F. Cut the chicken into 8-10 pieces. Marinate with oil, salt and turmeric. Roast for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

3. Peel onion, garlic, ginger and galangal, cut into smaller pieces and place into food processor. Take one of the lemongrass stalks and cut the just the white part into smaller pieces, also to be placed in the food processor. Grind until you get a smooth paste (you may need to add a couple tablespoons of water to get it started). Remove spice paste from food processor. If using diced tomato, put in food processor and puree. Remove puree into a bowl. Then place the dried chilies in the food processor and grind.

4. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a wok. Saute the spice paste for about 3 minutes. Take the bottom 8-inches of the remaining lemongrass and bruise with the back of your knife. Add the lemongrass, chili paste, tomato puree and coconut cream. Stir until all the ingredients are well-incorporated. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer for 20 minutes. In the last minute, add salt and sugar. Taste - add more salt if necessary and diced tomatoes if it is too spice.

5. Put in the roasted chicken pieces and mix until the chicken pieces are well coated with the sauce.

Serve with rice and a side dish of vegetables.

ayam masak merah recipe chicken in red sauce

ayam masak merah recipe chicken in red sauce

ayam masak merah recipe chicken in red sauce

ayam masak merah 18


Aleta said...

Thank you for sharing the recipe. Friendship and Food ~ it's a wonderful combination. The pictures of the chicken ~ looks yummy, but spicey? Wow!

high over happy said...

Hi Aleta - saw that you are on NaBloWriMo too! Actually, it's not too spicey - the predominant taste is tomatoes and the coconut cream tones down the heat.

alia said...

Mmm, just like the way mum makes it! You are definitely cooking when you come back!

Anonymous said...

Roasted or fried, this was as delicious as the ones I've tasted in Singapore. Actually, it was better because of the company! :)

jordan. said...

This looks REALLY good. Hilarie makes something similar, but I think she might have to try this recipe out.

high over happy said...

lia - no way. when i go home, i want to eat mum's home-cooked food everyday.

bonvivant - we need to be back in singapore at the same time for good makan sessions :)

jordan - let me know how it goes!

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