I had fond memories growing up in Malaysia and one of them is food. A multi-cultural country, Malaysia has a global reputation offering delectable variety of food with so many different flavours. Whether it is a fancy restaurant or just a hawker stall, every corner of the street you will find someone selling something to eat. Herbs and spices used in its diverse range of dishes not only satisfy ones tummy but also a feast to the eyes and makes every taste bud tingle.
Did I mention how much I love food? Just for the record, I love food…especially spicy food and this is one of my many favourites. In Malaysia, Ayam Masak Merah was once commonly cooked at home, but now it is one of the popular dishes served during festive occasions or kenduri (weddings).
For this recipe, I would normally use a whole chicken and cut it into about 8 pieces. But because we were entertaining a couple of guests, I chose chicken thighs instead which I feel makes it easier to eat. I started off by preparing the chicken, pat them dry and season with salt. Then the fun begins where I ground the herbs and spices with my mortal and pestle. The recipe requires dried chillies but by all means, feel free to use normal chilli paste or reduce the amount to your preferred heat level. I would suggest that you get all your ingredients ready before you start cooking so you don’t accidentally burn the spice paste. Here goes…
Chicken Cooked in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Ayam Masak Merah)
1 – 1.5 kg chicken thigh
3 stalks lemongrass, bruised
1 large spanish onions, sliced into rings
1 cm piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 teaspoon tamarind paste
410 gram tomato puree
250 ml water
3 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoon sugar
Some green peas
To make Spice Paste
About 20 dried chillies, soaked
5 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon fennel
2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1. Using a food processor or mortar & pestle, ground ingredients to form a paste.
2. Prepare chicken, pat them dry and rub with a little bit of salt. Heat oil and fry the chicken pieces until it is half-cooked. Set aside.
3. In the same pot, sauté the blended paste, lemongrass until fragrant and the oil separates from the paste. Add tomato puree, water, tamarind paste, chicken pieces, sugar and season with salt. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer, cook until the gravy thickens.
4. Just before serving, stir in green peas and onion rings. Serve with steam rice.