Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Ayam Masak Merah – Chicken in Spicy Tomato Gravy

DSC_9927 s
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.

DSC_9904 s
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 shallots
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

2 red chilli, deseeded and coarsely chopped
½ cup tomato ketchup
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup frozen green peas
DSC_9866 s

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.
DSC_9885 s
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.
DSC_9913 s

I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest, Johor Month hosted by Annie of Annielicious Food

13 responses

  1. Hi Alan! Another very well executed dish! Congratulations!

    March 9, 2013 at 9:46 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks Alvin, you are too kind 🙂

      March 10, 2013 at 1:54 am

  2. I made this dish too and loved it! But have to leave out the peas, my hubster avid hater of peas.

    March 9, 2013 at 10:31 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha can still leave those petite poi in la… just dish them out later and enjoy them by yourself! :p

      March 10, 2013 at 1:55 am

  3. This looks so good! I have to try it.

    March 9, 2013 at 11:21 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks! please try and let me know if the recipe worked out fine for you!

      March 10, 2013 at 1:56 am

  4. teo ai li

    Hi Alan, I will be going to Penang in June and I will be staying at Bayview resort Hotel. Can you recommend some great eating places? Sorry this is not linked to your ayam masak merah. Thanks!

    March 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Sorry, but I’m from Singapore. Not familiar with Penang 🙂

      March 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm

  5. teo ai li

    Its ok then. Thanks!

    March 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

  6. Drew

    Thanks for all the wonderful recipes and stunning photos, a small recommendation for this recipe would be to use quite a bit of cili boh and a few stalks of lemongrass in the rempah. I also find a 50/50 mix of tomato puree to ketchup lends it a more natural flavour. Greetings from Ireland, I love the cuisine of Singapore and Malaysia, you’re very lucky to live in a part a part of the world were such an obsession for food is so prevalent.

    April 8, 2013 at 1:10 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      ah thanks for dropping by. Interesting tips that you have shared! Is it easy to assemble the ingredients needed for this dish back in Ireland?

      April 10, 2013 at 1:27 am

      • Drew

        Hi Alan

        Yeah, I live in Dublin, which like most Capital cities in Europe has become very multicultural the past 12 years. The ingredients tend to be quite expensive and perhaps a little less robust in flavour by the time they reach our shores, I also have to freeze them due to not having much time to travel to the city centre to purchase them from the Asian markets. An entire freezer shelf in my home is stocked with lime leaves, fresh turmeric, galangal, curry leaves, bundles of lemongrass…and never enough pandan leaves 😉 Certain fruits, vegetables and herbs can be very hard to find however and in the these cases I do have to substitute, something I am loathe to do.

        Eating out in Ireland can be quite expensive, so I think foodies here are quite quick to learn how to prepare food themselves. Which can lead to some disappointment when we do frequent restaurants. I’ve a bit of an obsession going on the past few years with Nyonya and Malay cookery, some weeks in our home the only time a potato lands on our plate is in an Ayam Pongteh! Not very Irish of me 😉

        I’m actually visiting Malaysia next month, four days in KL and then on to Tioman island. My partner is partially dreading the KL section of the holiday as she knows that will be all about me getting my makan on…relentlessly! 😀 Unfortunately we’ve no time in the itinerary for Singapore, maybe next year.

        Take care and please don’t stop blogging!

        April 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

  7. Pingback: Rendang Ayam – Chicken Rendang | travellingfoodies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s