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
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 😉