Ayam Masak Merah Madu (Red Honeyed Chicken)

July 22, 2007

Ayam Masak Merah, or Red Chicken, is a common dish found in Malay food eateries. In general, Ayam Masak Merah is a sweetish savory dish made from tomatoes and spices. It is a dish that goes very well with rice but during the Ramadan months in the Ramadan bazaars (in Malaysia, every race celebrates every festival as far as how I was brought up!) you will find Ayam Masak Merah Madu, which is Red Honeyed Chicken. That means on top of the already sweet dish, it is sweetened some more with caramelized honey.

I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not suppose to be candy sweet, it’s just savory sweet – like honey bbq-ed ribs, for example. Caramelized and deep in flavors from the spices used. I have to admit, I wasn’t particularly fond of this chicken recipe when I was back in Malaysia. I would eat it but it’s not my favorite, if you know what I mean. But for some reason, I started craving now – just for the sweetish honeyed taste in the deep, thick, red sauce. Mmm…

I checked out several of the Ayam Masak Merah recipe online and finally concluded on a method, by referring to Amy Beh’s Ayam Masak Merah recipe from Kuali.

Usually the chicken is marinated in tumeric, salt and pepper and it is first deep fried until crispy golden brown before it is added into the thick red honeyed sauce and further stewed until all the flavors marry.

So this is how my recipe goes:
5-6 chicken drumsticks (you can use other chicken parts if you wish)
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon flour
a few dashes of pepper
Enough oil for deep frying/shallow frying

B for blending:
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 inch of ginger
5 red chilis, de-seeded
1 tablespoon cumin powder
2 tablespoon coriander powder

C for etCetera:
1 small can of tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, minced*
1 inch of ginger, minced*
4 pods of cardamom
3 cloves
1 star of anise
1 stick of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of water
salt to taste
1 Onion, sliced in rings
*cook’s note: you don’t really need the extra garlic and ginger but I like more of it in my dish 🙂

1. Let’s start with ingredients in A. In a ziplock bag, add all of the ingredients in (except oil) and start squishing until the chicken pieces are well coated. Let it marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a pan with medium heat. When oil is hot, add your chicken pieces and fry until all sides are golden brown. Drain them off the oil on a plate lined with paper towels and set them aside until they are ready for the next level.3. Now blend all the ingredients in B and set aside.
4. Discard most of the oil used for frying you chicken and leave about 2 tablespoons of oil in. With the same pan on medium high heat, saute your cardamom, cloves, star of anise and cinnamon until fragrant (approx 1-2 mins). After that, add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and blended ingredients from B. Saute the all the ingredients together to form a thick paste. Add water, to thin the paste a little.
5. Now you can add your chicken and onion rings in. Start combining the sauce and chicken well, making sure every piece of chicken is coated and then add your honey in. Mix well again.
6. Let the sauce thicken and reduce, lower heat, cover the pan and continue cooking for about 15 minutes.
7. Your Ayam Masak Merah is now ready to serve! 🙂
I ate mine with steamed white rice and some fresh lettuce with my fingers. It cannot be a more satisfying meal.

BTW, save the sauce if you have leftovers and add hard boiled eggs into it. It’s a whole new dish of its own 😉

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July 20, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

This looks soooo good. I don’t like pre-frying though, can I just cook the chicken with the spices?

July 20, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

That looks lovely. I love the step by step photos! It’s the sort of dish that leaves you licking your fingers and wanting more!

The Expedited Writer
July 20, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

mallika: Actually, the pre-frying part ensures that the chicken absorbs all the gooey goodness of the sauce 🙂 But I don’t think it should be a problem if you didn’t pre-fry your chicken. Taste wise it should still be good 🙂

wokandspoon: thanks! 🙂 Yea, that’s why I ate my rice with my fingers. It gives me perfect excuse to lick ALL 10 of my fingers and maybe the palms too lol!

July 21, 2007 @ 5:51 am

Can I do this without frying the chicken first ? I know the chicken won’t be so crispy but err….just asking if it’s feasible ;p

The Expedited Writer
July 21, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

It is feasible. But you can pan fry the chicken first if you don’t want to deep fry. But i don;t think it’ll compromise the taste if you don’t do the initial frying. The chicken isn’t even crunchy when you put it in the tomato honey sauce after. The frying is done so that it will hold the sauce better. 🙂

July 22, 2007 @ 1:58 am

This is one of my all time favorite dish! Looks mouth watering. Despite the color, it is really not that spicy. Wonderful job!

The Expedited Writer
July 22, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

kwoky: thanks man! 🙂 It’s quite easy to make too, surprisingly.

May 19, 2008 @ 1:21 am

Good stuff! Made ayam madu and I was browsing to see if I missed out any ingredients. Been some time since I made this dish. You put a lot of effort into your blog. Please keep it up. Smiles, from Austin, Texas.

July 16, 2008 @ 11:55 am

This looks delicious, I will have to try it. I hadn’t seen your blog before but followed the link from Let Them Eat Chicken. I love Malaysian food so will be regularly dropping in now!

August 22, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

Wow! That looks amazing. I just had lunch and now I am hungry again.

August 22, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

Am just wondering if I am able to use five spice (since it has three of the abovementioned spices – cinnamon, star anise and cloves or four if you count the ginger) instead of buying spices individually. Would that be ok?

Spices are just expensive in this part of the world 🙁

The Expedited Writer
August 22, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

Anonymous: Actually I am not sure although theoretically speaking it should be fine. I am concern, however, about the different amounts of each spice used to make five spice powder, it might change the flavors a little and not to mention, there is also the addition of Szechuan pepper that is part of the 5 spice mix. Hmm… why don’t you try out and let us know how it fared? It would not be inedible for sure, for all we know, it could be the secret to the best Ayam Masak Merah ever 🙂

The Expedited Writer
August 22, 2008 @ 11:43 pm

judyfoodie: thanks for the nice words 🙂

November 22, 2008 @ 7:26 am

hey there, i just tried your recipess…taste wonderful except that the onion flavour is a bit way too strong….could it be that we shouldnt have to put too much onions?

November 22, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

Anonymous: Hi glad you like the recipe 🙂 It is suppose to be a very sweet and spicy flavor – with the onion lending much of the sweet-spiciness to it. If you think the onions are too strong, at step 5 onwards, prolong your cooking time even more or just use half an onion next time 🙂

February 10, 2009 @ 5:12 am

Looks delicious! May I know what’s the frying pan you’re using? It’s non-stick, deep enough for frying but it’s not a wok, and wide enough to fry all the pieces together in a single layer! Thanks.

May 16, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

This is such a great recipe! I bake the chicken in the oven instead of frying. I do spray it with oil so that they’re crispy. I dont remove the seeds from the chili – it’s nice and spicy. My husband constantly requests this chicken dish.

Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

October 14, 2009 @ 2:51 am

hai.. like to c ur recipe… its nice thanx i hope can do it better…

Gladys Kock
October 24, 2009 @ 2:42 am

I just have my Ayam Masak Merah days ago and two of us took 2 days to finished it off. I over-sized the dish a bit. 🙂 Yours looks enticing with those picturesque photos! Awesome!

December 30, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

Hi there!
I've been craving for this dish and googled the recipe and yours came up.
Just made the dish and it's just as how I remember it from back home in Malaysia.
Thank you for the recipe you clever woman! 🙂

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  • April 22, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    This was novel. I wish I could read every post, but i have to go back to work now… But I’ll return.

    April 23, 2011 @ 3:27 am

    Thanks for the recipe.. I tried it yesterday , n I was awesome! I m so happy n proud to say , the best ayam mask me rah in town ( I always ve high expectation on Malay dishes , mine beat most of the mamak stall ) . The chickens were so flavorful in the mixture of rempah , taste even better when i left some overnight !
    Thanks again for sharing


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