Ayam masak merah is one of my favorite Malay dishes. Translated as "red cooked chicken", this is a mild-spicy chicken dish. Our version is made using lots of onions as well as spices and herbs such as cinnamon stick, star anise, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
I like to think that this is a healthier version as we do not deep fry our chicken beforehand and I also chose to use chicken breast meat. I call it "Express Ayam Masak Merah" as it is a dish which you can whip up in under 35 minutes, yet still produce a satisfyingly, fragrant dish. Surprisingly, our kids also enjoyed this dish with us since it is not too spicy. Am happy that they are slowly accepting some spicy food in their diet.
One of the important ingredients for this dish (which is also where the final dish gets its colour from) is the cili giling, a red chilli paste made using dried chillies (cili kering). If you cannot get hold of cili giling, you can make your own by first soaking the dried chillies in water for 10 minutes, and then blitzing in a blender for 20-30 seconds until you get a paste. This will usually last for a few days if stored in the fridge.
To all my Muslim readers, Selamat Hari Raya Haji (Eid al-Adha) to you and your family. And to everyone else, enjoy the long weekend.
Express ayam masak merah
Recipe by Baby Sumo
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
500g chicken breast meat, cut into bite-size chunks
3 large onions, cut in half and sliced
2 bulbs garlic, finely chopped
1 inch old ginger, finely chopped
4 stalks curry leaf (daun kari)
2 kaffir lime leaves (limau purut)
2 lemongrass, roughly pounded (serai)
2 cinnamon sticks (kayu manis)
3 star anise (bunga cengkih)
3 tbsp cili giling (dried chilli paste)
5 tbsp cooking oil
3-4 whole cili padi
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
3 ulam raja leaf
1/2 red chilli, cut into flower
1 stalk curry leaf
1. In a large wok, heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cili padi, curry leaf and lemongrass and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
2. Add cili giling and stir fry for 1 minute. Add onions and kaffir lime leaves and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add chicken and stir fry for 2 minutes. Season with light soy sauce and salt, and sugar (optional - I omitted this). Cover with lid and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid and give another quick stir, and cook for another 5 minutes (or more depending on how big your chicken chunks are or if using different chicken parts), until cooked.
4. Place ulam raja leaf on the plate, followed by the cooked chicken. Garnish with red chilli and curry leaf. Serve immediately with rice.
*This recipe was featured on Asian Food Channel's FB page on 31 October 2012.