Ayam Masak Hitam

Zen Chicken

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

My Rendang isn't Crispy

My Rendang isn't Crispy

By Zaleha Kadir Olpin

Published 2019

  • About

This is one of our family favourites! Calling it Zen chicken may seem a little odd, but we chose the name to reflect the perfect balance of flavours — sweetness from the honey, tanginess from the ketchup, spiciness from the chillies and a refreshing citrus flavour from the kaffir lime leaves. We enjoy using chicken in this dish, but these flavours are also great with fish, beef or tofu.


  • 450 g (1 lb) chicken breast meat
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 250 ml (8 fl oz) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp tamarind juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 4 Tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and sliced

Spice Paste

  • 8 shallots, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 Tbsp dried chilli paste
  • 7.5-cm (3-inch) knob ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped
  • 2 candlenuts
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 250 ml (8 fl oz / 1 cup) water


  • Place all the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender and process until fine. Set aside.
  • Cut the chicken into strips and coat with salt and turmeric powder. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Gently lower the chicken strips into the hot oil and deep-fry until brown and crispy. Do this in batches. Drain well and set aside.
  • Leave 3 Tbsp oil in the wok and reheat. Add the spice paste and cook until the oil separates. This will take 20–30 minutes. Add a little water if the paste becomes too dry.
  • Add the tamarind juice, honey, ketchup and sweet soy sauce and continue to stir for another 5 minutes. The sauce should be thick and sticky.
  • Add kaffir lime leaves and chicken strips. Stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
  • Turn up the heat and add the onion. Stir for another minute, so the sauce coats the onion.
  • Dish out and serve hot with rice and other dishes.