Ayam Masak Merah (Spicy Red Chicken)

Traditional dishes are greatly sought after nowadays because we are losing the art and skill of cooking such complex dishes.  Ayam Masak Merah (transaltes as Red Spicy Chicken) is much loved by Singaporeans, regardless of race. It is a juxtaposition of flavours – tangy sweetness and prickly hot spiciness – making it a popular traditional dish.


  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 whole chicken (about 1.2kg), cut into 10-12 pieces
  • 3 inches ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large bulb garlic, peeled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 large onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, crushed
  • 2 large tomatoes, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 1 cup fresh coconut milk, thin press
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 stalk coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • enough oil for deep frying chicken


  1. Clean and drain chicken pieces well. Mix together with the first 4 ingredients in the list and let stand for at least 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, blend the ginger and garlic into a paste and prep the other ingredients
  3. In a large pot or wok, heat up oil well and deep fry marinated chicken till just golden brown.
  4. Remove oil from wok, safe about 2-3 tablespoons and return wok to medium high heat.
  5. Add in cinnamon and star anise, fry till fragrant. Add in onions, fry till softened and slightly browned. Add the blended ginger and garlic paste and the lemongrass. Fry for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes and cook until soft. Add the chili powder and chili sauce. Stir for about 5 minutes, and then add in coconut milk. Cook till mixture come to a boil, then add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Reduce heat to medium low then add in yogurt and stir well. Add in the chicken and stir thoroughly to coat.
  8. Cook, stirring occasionally till chicken is done and gravy reduced, about 6-8 minutes. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and coriander leaves. Mix well, check seasoning and garnish with more coriander leaves before serving.

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