Ayam Masak Merah (Malay-Style Red-Cooked Chicken with Pandan)

  • Serves

    serves 4


Fragrant leaves of pandan, a perennial grass with an intoxicating vanilla-like aroma, bring a floral dimension to this Malay dish of chicken simmered in a thick chile-spiked tomato gravy. Seasoned with coriander, cinnamon, lemongrass, and ginger and sweetened with honey, it first appeared in our June/July 2014 issue with Christopher Tan's story "Blades of Glory."


  • 1 (2 1/2–3-lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 12 tsp. ground turmeric
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 5 red Holland chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 candlenuts or 4 unsalted macadamia nuts
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 (1") piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 12 fresh pandan leaves, rinsed, or 18 frozen
  • 14 cup canola oil
  • 12 cup tomato paste
  • 1 12 tbsp. honey
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Cooked white rice, for serving


Step 1

Toss chicken, lime juice, turmeric, and salt in a bowl; let sit 40 minutes. Purée coriander, garlic, chiles, candlenuts, lemongrass, ginger, onion, and 2 tbsp. water in a food processor into a paste. Gently crush pandan leaves; divide into 2 bunches and knot each bunch.

Step 2

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Fry reserved paste until slightly caramelized, 6–8 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute. Add chicken; stir to coat. Stir in pandan, honey, cinnamon, and 1 cup water; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, slightly covered, until chicken is cooked through, 25–30 minutes. Uncover; cook until sauce is thickened, 6–8 minutes. Serve with rice.

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