Ayam Masak Merah – Chicken in Spicy Tomato Gravy
This month’s Malaysia Food Fest brings us to Johor, the nearest Malaysian state to us. Despite being just across the Causeway and so frequently packed with Singaporeans especially over the weekends, I must admit that I know very little about the true blue Johorean fare. Well, there are some really popular local delights, like otak otak from Muah, Ogura Cake from Batu Pahat, Fishballs from Yong Peng, Railway bread from Kluang and durians from Segamat. Wait, the last one doesn’t count! LOL
I begin this month’s exploration with Ayam Masak Merah, a purportedly popular dish throughout the Peninsula (judging by the number of times this dish has actually being cooked and blogged) which has its roots from the southern state. Not quite a fan of tomato ketchup, I was rather curious about how it would taste when I saw it being featured in Wendyinkk’s blog last August. The combination of a simple rempah, together with coconut milk and a generous dousing of tomato ketchup… very curious indeed.
Ayam Masak Merah – Chicken in Spicy Tomato Gravy (serves 3-4) from adapted slightly from Wendyinkk
6 large drumsticks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
Dash of pepper
5 cloves of garlic
1 cm ginger
2 red chilli
2 inches cinnamon
3 cloves (bunga cengkih)
3 cardamom pods (buah pelaga)
1 red onion sliced
1. Marinate chicken with salt, turmeric and pepper for at least 30 minutes.
2. Blend shallots, ginger, garlic and chilli into a fine paste
3. Heat wok and put in ½ cup of oil. Pan fry chicken pieces until the skin turns golden. The chicken may not be cooked through and still oozing blood near the joint but that is ok. Dish up and set aside.
4. Pour away most of the oil, leaving behind about 2-3 tbsp in the heated wok.
5. Saute cinnamon, cardamon and cloves slightly until fragrant, add sliced red onions and saute until translucent and soft, finally add the blended ingredients on medium heat until it looks glossy.
6. Add the rest of the ingredients into the wok, together with the partially cooked drumsticks. Cook until the gravy reduces to preferred amount. Check that the drumsticks are thoroughly cooked. Adjust the taste again with more salt and sugar if necessary.
7. Serve with rice.
I had adjusted the original recipe slightly by increasing the rempah proportions. But I left the red chilli alone and it turned out that the dish doesn’t have the “kick” which I was anticipating. I tried to add two red chillies into the gravy towards the second part of the cooking. That did help to bring the heat up by a small notch, but the next time I cook this dish, I’ll probably double the dose of chilli into the rempah directly! That would also help to make the dish more “merah” as it should be!
The sauteeing order of some ingredients was also changed. I added the dry whole spices to the oil first, followed by the sliced onion to perk up the aromatics and it did just that! So I think this probably works better for me.
On the whole, I liked the dish, though I must admit that a tad more spicy would probably provide more oomph. Pleasantly surprised to how the load of tomato ketchup eventually worked out. Not too bad at all, adding a prominent hint of tang to the dish making it all the more enjoyable on the whole.