Classic grilled chicken recipe

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This is one of Indonesia’s most traditional dishes that is served on special occasions everywhere throughout the archipelago.


  • 1 fresh chicken (2¼ lbs/1 kg)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2-3 bird's eye chilies or finger-length chilies
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, thick bottom third only, outer layers discarded, inner part bruised
  • 2½ cups (675 ml) thin coconut milk
  • 2 cups (500 ml) Chicken Stock
  • 2 salam leaves (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepperSweet Indonesian soy sauce (kecapmanis), for glazing
  • 1 portion Sambal Kecap
Spice Paste
  • 3 macadamia nuts or candlenuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ in (1 cm) fresh kencur root, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 1 in (2½ cm) fresh galangal, peeled and sliced
  • 1 in (2½ cm) fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 shallots, peeled
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons shaved palm sugar or dark brown sugar
How to Make It
  1. Clean and cut the chicken into serving pieces and press to flatten.
  2. Make the Spice Paste by grinding all the ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar or blender, adding a little oil if necessary to keep the mixture turning.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium heat and stir-fry the ground paste, together with the chilies and 2 stalks of the lemongrass until the mixture is fragrant and changes to a golden color, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, Chicken Stock and remaining lemon-grass, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, salam leaves, salt and pepper, and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken frequently in the pan to cook it evenly and allow the spices to penetrate the meat. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the sauce to room temperature.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the sauce and dry in an open, airy place for 30 minutes, then grill the chicken pieces over hot charcoal or under a preheated broiler for 3 to 5 minutes on each side and brush with a little sweet Indonesian soy sauce to glaze the skin. Serve the grilled chicken with steamed rice, vegetables and a bowl of Sambal Kecap on the side.

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