This is a classic dish for Indonesian Chinese one-month-old baby celebration. They are not normally prepared at home. Family with new-born babies are expected to send a complete dish of yellow sticky rice, grilled chicken, red bean cakes and red boiled eggs to relatives and friends who have sent their best wishes during the first month. I love the grilled chicken pack, although some families now choose to send overly decorated cupcakes, which I think are only good to look at. I would pick over grilled chicken over cupcakes any day.
This way of preparing Indonesian grilled chicken (or ayam panggang) was from our grandmother’s trick. It is not always fun to start up open fire to cook off the chicken, so the last charring period is done in oven.
Don’t expect the grilled chicken to be the much expected juicy roast chicken. Chicken, both fried and grilled, in Indonesian cuisine is meant to be cardboard hard, served with elaborated chili sauce or sweet soy sauce-based sauces. So do expect the chicken to be slightly tough and dry with succulent spicy sauce. The chicken with such strange texture may taste unpalatable, but it is to be served with well-cooked turmeric-scented rice or sticky rice.
Wash sticky rice thoroughly and soak it in a big bowl with a lot of water, until the rice is fully immersed. Grate the turmeric finely and put in a small muslin bag. Toss it in the bowl. Add white peppercorns in there too. White peppercorns are just peppercorns with the black skin removed. We use white pepper in all our cooking.
On the day of cooking, drain the soaking water off and remove the turmeric muslin.
Season the rice with salt.
Line the bottom of a steamer with some pandan leaves. Boil it over high heat for … minutes. The water should not touch the rice at all times, so it is important to watch the water level, start with middle level of water and add more boiling water if the water level starts to run really low.
Quickly remove the sticky rice together with the steamer and pour coconut milk into it. Mix the rice to incorporate the milk well with a wooden spoon.
Return steamer to the pan and continue steaming for 10 minutes.
We roasted a whole chicken for the dish. Indonesian grilled chicken is usually cooked with half a chicken or whole as the chicken needs to be braised and grilled, so small pieces of chicken won’t work that well.
Freshly ground curry paste and some more additional shallots for that extra kick, so that the chicken won’t taste too much like curry. For those with extra time at hands, this is the basic paste I used.
Heat cooking oil in a big wok. When the oil is hot enough, toss in curry paste, ground shallots and curry paste.
Quickly stir-fry the paste for 2-3 minutes over high heat.
When the spice paste starts to curdle and the oil turn red, add chicken into the wok. Lower the heat and slowly baste chicken with the sauce for about 5 minutes.
Turn the chicken and continue cooking for a couple of more minutes.
Cover the wok and simmer for 15 minutes.
Pour diluted coconut milk into the wok. Baste chicken with liquid.
Turn the chicken and pour some sauce on top.
Cover the lid and simmer for 25 minutes.
At the end of the braising period, the sauce would be greatly reduced. The leftover would be this thick and full of flavor curry paste. Pour the rest of the coconut milk into the wok and cook for 10 more minutes.
The chicken would be fully cooked by now and ready to be grilled.
We didn’t start open fire to grill this. Instead I roasted it in a preheated oven, at 180 degree celsius. Remember to scrape the sauce off the chicken as the sauce will cause the chicken to burn prematurely. The leftover sauce is to be serve as side dish by itself later.
Roast one side for 15 minutes, pull it out and baste the skin with a bit of oil.
Turn the chicken over and roast for another 15 minutes. It is still not quite dry, so I added 5 more minutes,
The chicken is nicely charred along the edges.
Serve warm with yellow sticky rice and curry sauce on the side.
Makes 4-6 servings
- 500 g sticky (or glutinous) rice, soaked overnight
- 50 g turmeric, grated
- 1 tbsp white peppercorn
- 1 tsp salt
- 50 ml coconut milk
- 1 whole chicken, about 600 g
- 250 g curry paste, homemade or store-bought
- 5 shallots, ground smoothly
- 5 curry leaves
- 500 ml coconut milk
- 250 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 100 ml vegetable oil
- 50 g fresh red chilies
- 10 g dried chilies
- 40 g galangal
- 5 candlenuts
- 10 shallots
- 3 garlic
- 3 g fresh ginger
- 5 g coriander seeds
- 5 g tamarind pulp
- 1 tsp salt
Combine sticky rice, grated turmeric and peppercorns in a big bowl. Cover the bowl with water up to the rim.
Leave overnight at room temperature.
On the day of cooking, drain the water off.
Steam the rice over boiling water and high heat for 25 minutes.
Pour coconut milk into the hot steaming rice and stir well.
Continue steaming for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm.
Heat cooking oil in a wok.
Stir-fry curry paste, shallot paste and curry leaves till fragrant, about 5 minutes over high heat.
Add chicken into the wok and cook for 2 minutes, turning once.
Cover the wok and let the chicken simmer for 5 minutes.
Add water diluted with 50 ml coconut milk into the wok. Put the lid back on and turn down the heat. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
Uncover and pour the rest of the coconut milk and cook for 10 minutes, basting chicken with the sauce.
Reserve the sauce for serving later.
Grill the chicken to get nice char over open fire, or in a preheated oven of 180 degree celsius for half an hour, turning once or twice.
Serve warm with leftover sauce and sticky rice.