Ayam Masak Lemak Putih

A common perception of Malay food is that it is an invariably spicy affair; for the most part it’s absolutely true – we do love our chilies and we certainly aren’t shy about using them in eye-watering quantities.

Nevertheless, Malay food is a diverse cuisine and there are, in fact, a number of delectable dishes for those of us looking for something a little less “pedas” (hot). Despite bearing all the hallmarks of a classic Malaysian curry, Ayam Masak Lemak Putih (Coconut Milk White Cooked Chicken) is, in fact, perhaps one of our mildest offerings, and is a great option for introducing your non-Malaysian friends to our incredible flavours. Of course, mild in no way means meek, and this wonderful dish is every bit as alluring as beef rendang and kari kapitan.

Brimming with nuance, on the face of it Ayam Masak Lemak Putih resembles a traditional Indian korma. Both mild and comforting, despite their inherent similarities what really sets these dishes apart is their flavour. Unlike its more famous doppelgänger, instead of cream or yogurt, Ayam Masak Lemak Putih is braised in a fragrant brew of coconut milk and classic South East Asian aromatics such as galangal, lemongrass and lime.

Another distinction between the two is the consistency of the sauce.

Unlike a korma, which is typically thick, Ayam Masak Lemak Putih‘s rich and moreish sauce is both looser and lighter; making it perfect for either drowning your rice in it, or as I love to do, moping up it with good white bread or, better still, some flaky roti canai.

Admittedly, despite its name my version of Ayam Masak Lemak Putih tends to err on the side of gray as apposed to actually being white; please don’t get hung up on the colour, or its name – especially when it’s something that tastes as good as this! The “white” is a product of using a copious amount of lemak (coconut milk) in the sauce, but outside Malaysia this can be an extravagance too far, and frankly it’s unnecessary. Of course if you do happen to have a glut of coconut milk available, by all means increse the quantity for a truly authentic look.

Note: Like most Malaysian curries, this dish will benefit from a rest before serving. As there is little or no chili in the sauce, a couple of hours resting time should suffice, though overnight is, of course, always ideal.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Ayam Masak Lemak Putih (Malaysian Coconut Milk White Cooked Chicken)

Serves: 4 (or 6 as part of a larger meal)

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken
  • Salt
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 pieces dried galangal (sub with slices of fresh ginger)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced

Spice Paste: 

  • 1 medium sized brown or white onion, chopped
  • 5 cm fresh ginger, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass
  • 1 mild green chili, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Method: 

  1. Joint the chicken, then cut into smaller pieces
  2. Season the chicken with salt and leave to one side
  3. For the spice paste, remove the hard outer skins of the lemongrass (reserve these for later), then finely chop the core. Along with the chopped lemongrass, add all the spice paste ingredients to a food-processor. Pour in a little bit of oil to help the process along, then blitz till smooth.
  4. Pour the oil to a large wok and place over a moderate heat.
  5. Add the prepared spice paste, along with a splash of coconut milk
  6. Saute over a medium heat till the oil separates and the paste is fragrant. Take your time, and be careful not to burn the paste – add a little more oil if it seems too dry
  7. Add the chicken pieces to the paste, along with the dried galangal, reserved lemongrass skins and the fish sauce
  8. Stir fry for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk, plus 1/2 a cup of warm water
  9. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer
  10. Simmer uncovered for around 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through
  11. Stir occasional to prevent burning
  12. Check for seasoning, adding a bit more fish sauce and white pepper if necessary
  13. Stir through the lime juice just before taking the wok off the heat

Serve with: white rice, accompanied by some kari nenas, or enjoy it on its own with some flaky roti canai

Note: Like most Malaysian curries, this dish will benefit from a rest before serving. As there is little or no chili in the sauce, a couple of hours resting time should suffice, though overnight is, of course, always ideal.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

 

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