Coconut milk chicken


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

The Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr, known locally as Lebaran, is celebrated with much joy and festivity. People buy new clothes to wear, travel back to family villages and break the long fasting of Ramadan with a feast. Chicken poached in a creamy, luscious sauce is traditional, as well as being a Javanese favourite year round. With delicate spicing rather than chilli heat, opor ayam is perfect for those who like their curries both mild and enchanting.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 salam leaves (optional)
  • 4 lime leaves
  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed
  • 3 lemongrass sticks, trimmed, bruised and tied in a knot
  • 3 cm ( inches) galangal, skin scrubbed, bruised
  • 240 ml (1 cup) coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons dark palm sugar (gula jawa)
  • crisp-fried shallots, to serve

Bumbu spice paste

  • teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 7 small red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 3 can dlenuts or 6 blanched almonds, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Start by making the bumbu spice paste. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and grind to a paste, adding a little water to help the blades do their work.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole pan. Fry the bumbu, salam and lime leaves for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until very fragrant. Add the chicken, lemongrass and galangal and turn to coat in the spice paste. Stir in 100 ml (scant ½ cup) water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and palm sugar to the pan, bring up to a simmer and continue to braise uncovered for another 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Taste for salt. Leave to rest and cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

Serve scattered with crisp-fried shallots (the sort you can buy in Asian stores).