Spicy Chicken In Coconut Milk (Java, Indonesia)

I’m discovering the Southeast – from a classic cookbook. I guess that’s what foodmaniacs do. I’m on an adventure to explore Southeast Asian cuisine and, while I have tried a few Malaysian dishes, I’ve never done justice to the region. So this time around, the recipes are from an authentic cookbook Southeast Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden) and prepared as passionately as I had gorged during my visit to Malaysia. I’m starting the series with Ayam Bumbu Rujak – a dish from Indonesia’s Javanese cuisine. Although I’ve tried to suggest substitutes, you will have to hit the Asian grocery store for the traditional taste. Enjoy!


500 grams chicken

1 tbsp oil

1 cup thin coconut milk

1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised with a pestle or the side of large knife (If you don’t have it handy, you can substitute with zest of half lemon)

2 kaffir lime leaves

1/2 cup thick coconut milk

1 tsp brown sugar

Dark soy sauce to taste (optional)

Salt to taste

Spice Paste:

1 tsp coriander seeds/ 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

4 medium-length red chilies, chopped

1 inch piece galangal, peeled and chopped (If you don’t have it handy, substitute with equal amount of ginger)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

3 roasted raw almonds or macadamia nuts, chopped

2 cloves garlic

4 shallots, sliced


  1. Prepare the spice paste.

  2. Heat the oil in a wok on medium heat. Fry the spicy paste until fragrant. Stir to prevent the paste from sticking to the bottom.

  3. Add the chicken. Mix and simmer for about 5 minutes. Allow the chicken to absorb the flavor of the spices.

  4. Add the thin coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and salt. Simmer on low heat till the chicken is almost cooked.

  5. Stir in the thick coconut milk, the sugar, and the dark soy sauce. Bring it to a boil and cook uncovered till the chicken is completely done.