Ayam Masak Merah (Malay-Style Red-Cooked Chicken with Pandan)
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."
Yield: serves 4
- 1 (2 1/2–3-lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- <sup>1</sup>⁄<sub>2</sub> 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
- <sup>1</sup>⁄<sub>2</sub> small yellow onion, sliced
- 12 fresh pandan leaves, rinsed, or 18 frozen
- <sup>1</sup>⁄<sub>4</sub> cup canola oil
- <sup>1</sup>⁄<sub>2</sub> cup tomato paste
- 1 <sup>1</sup>⁄<sub>2</sub> tbsp. honey
- 1 stick cinnamon
- Cooked white rice, for serving
- 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.
- 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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