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Ayam Masak Merah

Updated: Apr 10

Ayam masak merah might just be one of Malaysia's tastiest exports. The name literally means "red-cooked chicken," which pretty much sums up its appearance. It is like a culinary postcard from Malaysia, a dish that's as rich in history as it is in flavor. It's said to have roots in the Malay community but you can see a blend of influences in there—some say there's a touch of Indian cuisine, thanks to the use of spices, and others see a hint of Chinese cooking in the method.

It's a perfect example of how Malaysia's diverse culture is reflected in its food. Traditionally served during Hari Raya and at weddings, this dish is all about celebration and bringing people together.

When I decided to tackle ayam masak merah, I skipped the usual tomato puree and tamarind, focusing instead on a blend of chilies, onions, and a kick of Sriracha to get that rich, red color and depth of flavor. The result? A dish that's got all the spicy, savory goodness you'd expect but with a unique twist that makes it my own.

Pair it with some turmeric rice, and you've got a meal that's as vibrant on the plate as it is delicious.

Giving this recipe a go is a great way to dive into Malaysian cooking and shake up your usual dinner routine. It's about bringing a piece of Malaysian celebration right to your table, with flavors that are bold, aromatic, and sure to get your taste buds dancing.

So why not bring a bit of festive spirit into your kitchen with this dish? It's a tasty way to travel with your palate and experience the richness of Malaysian cuisine, no passport required.



(Serve 4)

  • Marinade:

  • Chicken Legs, 4

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • White Pepper, Pinch

  • Mushroom Powder, Pinch

  • Turmeric Powder, 1 TSP

  • Spice Blend:

  • Star Anise, 2

  • Cinnamon Stick, 1

  • Cloves, 3

  • Green Cardamom, 4

  • Rempah:

  • Dried Chilies, 20g

  • Red Onion Coarsely Sliced, 1

  • Shallots Halved, 6

  • Garlic Crushed, 6 Cloves

  • Ginger, 2"

  • Braising:

  • Grapeseed / Sunflower / Canola / Peanut Oil, For Frying

  • Lemongrass White Parts Only Smashed, 1 Stalk

  • Pandan Leaves Coarsely Cut, 2

  • Red Onion Thinly Sliced, 1

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • White Pepper, Pinch

  • Gula Melaka / Coconut Sugar, 1 TBSP

  • Tomatoes Wedged, 2

  • Tomato Ketchup, 2 TBSP

  • Sriracha, 2 TBSP

  • Oyster Sauce, 2 TBSP

  • Scallions / Coriander Coarsely Sliced, For Garnishing

  • Turmeric Rice Homemade, For Serving



  • Blender

  • Skillet

  • Spice Grinder



  1. Please visit my "Turmeric Rice" page for the recipe.

  2. Prepare the marinade.

  3. Slit some cuts on the chicken legs.

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

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

  6. Cover and marinate in the fridge until ready to use.

  7. Prepare the spice blend.

  8. Add the whole spices to a skillet.

  9. Toast until aromatic and transfer to a spice grinder.

  10. Blitz until powder forms and set aside until ready to use.

  11. Prepare the rempah.

  12. Soak the dried chilies with some hot water and set aside until they are soft.

  13. Deseed the hydrated chilies if desired and reserve the soaking liquid.

  14. Transfer the chilies and soaking liquid to a blender.

  15. Add in the rest of the ingredients and blitz until smooth.

  16. Braising the chicken.

  17. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add 2" of oil.

  18. *To check if the temperature of the oil is ready, place a wooden chopstick into the oil. 

  19. If bubbles start to form, the temperature is ready for frying.*  

  20. Add in the chicken.

  21. You may have to fry the chicken in batches.

  22. Shallow fry until lightly golden crispy brown on both sides.

  23. Drain off excess oil on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

  24. If your skillet is big enough to braise 4 chicken legs, remove the oil, leaving about 1/4 cup of oil.

  25. If not, add about 1/4 cup of oil to another larger skillet.

  26. Turn the heat up to medium.

  27. Once the oil is heated up, add in lemongrass, pandan and onion.

  28. Season with salt and white pepper.

  29. Add in the spice blend as well.

  30. Saute until aromatic and the onion is translucent.

  31. Next, add in the spice rempah and saute until well combined.

  32. Add in gula melaka and saute until dissolved.

  33. Continue stirring and cooking until the mixture is thickened and turns a darker shade of red.

  34. Add in ketchup, sriracha and oyster sauce.

  35. Stir to combine well.

  36. Add in the tomatoes and stir until well combined.

  37. Followed by the fried chicken legs.

  38. Give it a mix to combine well.

  39. Turn the heat down to low and cook for about 15 to 20 mins.

  40. *Stir occasionally to prevent burning, turning the chicken as well.*

  41. The sauce should reduced and thicken further.

  42. The chicken should cook thru' as well.

  43. If you desire a soupy consistency, you can add some chicken stock.

  44. Final taste and adjust for seasonings with salt, pepper, mushroom powder or gula melaka.

  45. Serve with turmeric rice.

  46. Lastly, garnish with some scallions or coriander.

  47. Serve immediately.


A flavor-bomb...


Recipe Video:

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