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Ayam Bakar

Updated: Jan 24

This dish is more than just grilled chicken; it's a culinary legacy that dates back centuries in Indonesia, where it's not only a popular street food but also a celebration of the region’s rich spice heritage.

Smoker version

Ayam Bakar's (which literally means 'grilled chicken' in Indonesian and Malay) roots are deeply intertwined with Indonesia's diverse culinary traditions, influenced by a myriad of cultures from Javanese to Sumatran. It epitomizes the art of blending spices and herbs to create dishes with complex, multi-layered flavors that are characteristic of Southeast Asian cuisine.

Oven version

What I love about Ayam Bakar is how it represents the harmony of different cultures through its flavors. The dish is a mosaic of Indonesia's historical spice trade, showcasing ingredients like galangal and lemongrass, which were once as valuable as gold.

Each family, each street vendor, has their own version of Ayam Bakar, passed down through generations, each telling a story of their heritage and regional influences. When I made Ayam Bakar for the first time, it felt like I was connecting with a piece of history, bringing to life the aromas and tastes that have been savored for hundreds of years.

Oven version

To finish, the chicken gets a smoky char, either in a smoker or under the broiler, glazed with the rich, reduced marinade for that perfect sticky sweetness. Each bite of Ayam Bakar is a delightful mix of smoky, savory, and sweet – a tribute to the vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia.

It's more than just a meal; it's an experience, a journey through the rich culinary landscapes of Indonesia. Whether for a family dinner or a special occasion, Ayam Bakar is a dish that's sure to impress and bring people together around the table.



(Serve 4)

  • Marinade:

  • Chicken Legs, 4

  • Kecap Manis Homemade, 1/4 Cup

  • Tamarind Juice, 2 TBSP

  • Fresh Lime Juice, 1 Lime

  • Fresh Lime Zest, 1 Lime

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • Mushroom Powder, Pinch

  • White Pepper, Pinch

  • Rempah:

  • Garlic, 8 Cloves

  • Red Onion, 1

  • Candlenuts / Macadamia, 4

  • Galangal, 2"

  • Chilies Deseeded, 3

  • Coriander Seeds, 1 TBSP

  • Shrimp Paste, 1 TBSP

  • Grapeseed / Sunflower / Canola / Peanut Oil, 2 TBSP

  • Braising:

  • Lemongrass White Parts Only Smashed, 2 Stalks

  • Kaffir Lime Leaves Coarsely Sliced, 4

  • Unsalted Butter, 1 TBSP

  • Gula Melaka Syrup Homemade, 1 TBSP + More For Brushing

  • Scallions Coarsely Sliced, For Garnishing





  1. Please visit my "How To Make Kecap Manis" page for the recipe.

  2. Please visit my "How To Make Gula Melaka Syrup" page for the recipe.

  3. Prepare the marinade.

  4. Slit some cuts on the chicken legs.

  5. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.

  6. Add in the chicken and mix until well coated.

  7. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

  8. Prepare the rempah.

  9. Blitz everything in a blender until smooth.

  10. Transfer to a skillet.

  11. Add 750g of water to the blender to "clean" out all the nooks and crannies.

  12. Transfer to the skillet as well.

  13. Turn the heat up to medium.

  14. Add in lemongrass, kaffir and butter.

  15. Stir to combine well and until the butter has melted.

  16. Continue cooking until the sauce has slightly reduced.

  17. Add in the marinated chicken, skin side down, and all the marinade.

  18. Stir to combine well and continue cooking until the liquid has thickened and almost evaporated, about 20 to 30 mins, flipping the chicken half way thru'.

  19. *Stir occasionally to prevent burning.*

  20. Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate. Discard the lemongrass.

  21. Taste the remaining sauce in the skillet and adjust for seasonings with gula melaka syrup, salt or fresh lime juice.

  22. Give it a final stir and remove it from the heat. This will be your glazing liquid.

  23. There are 2 ways to finish the dish.

  24. Smoker:

  25. I am using Nordic Ware's Personal Size Stovetop Kettle Smoker.

  26. Glaze the chicken legs on both sides, with the glazing liquid.

  27. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to smoke the chicken legs. I smoked mine for 40 mins.

  28. Transfer onto a serving plate.

  29. Glaze the chicken legs with some gula melaka syrup and the glazing liquid.

  30. Garnish with some scallions.

  31. Serve immediately.

  32. Oven:

  33. Glaze the chicken legs on both sides, with the glazing liquid.

  34. Broil in the oven for about 5 to 8 mins or until lightly charred.

  35. Flip and broil for another 3 to 5 mins.

  36. Transfer the chicken to a large pot.

  37. Burn some charcoal on an open stove fire.

  38. Transfer into a small metal bowl and add in 2 TBSP of butter.

  39. Immediately transfer to the pot and cover.

  40. Smoke for 15 mins.

  41. Transfer onto a serving plate.

  42. Glaze the chicken legs with some gula melaka syrup and the glazing liquid.

  43. Garnish with some scallions.

  44. Serve immediately.

I personally adore the smoker version...

The oven version tastes just as great...


Recipe Video:

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