Originating in East Java, ayam penyet has travelled far beyond its hometown. Not only is it famous all around Indonesia, this simple fried chicken dish is also very popular in neighbouring countries, especially in Singapore. The dish can be found everywhere, from food courts and restaurants around swanky shopping areas such as Orchard Road, to the more modest hawker centers in Singapore’s heartland, from Jurong to Tampines.
In Singapore, ayam penyet restaurants (especially those located in Lucky Plaza, Orchard Road) often serve as a gathering place for Indonesians living in Singapore. It’s a meeting point where fun, spirited conversations in Bahasa Indonesia are held over tasty chicken and spicy sambal. Indonesians go to ayam penyet joints to recreate their lives in Indonesia through language and food. Ayam penyet has become one of the ‘obat kangen’, or remedies for homesickness.
The name ‘ayam penyet’ refers to the way the chicken is prepared. Penyet is a Javanese word for pressing (an object). Just before serving, the fried chicken is gently pressed using a pestle, to flatten and tenderise the meat. This pressing method can be applied to other fried dishes too, and dishes prepared this way are referred to as ‘penyetan.’ Aside from fried chicken, it’s also common to penyet fried tofu/tempe, paru goreng, empal, etc. The dish will then be named after the ingredient, eg: tempe penyet, empal penyet, etc.
Ayam penyet or penyetan, that is, “smashed” or “pressed” fried chicken, is always served with sambal and lalapan, and often with fried tofu and tempeh. It’s a simple, yet tasty and satisfying dish. To simplify it, tofu and tempe goreng can be omitted, but the other components are necessary to form a basic ayam penyet dish.
The good thing about ayam penyet is, there is no exact standard recipe for the fried chicken and the sambal. Everyone has their own secret recipe, so you can experiment with the spices used to prepare the dish. The only thing essential here is that the chicken has to be fried and pressed before serving, otherwise it can’t be called ayam penyet.
Writing this section reminds me of my times in Singapore. Whenever I missed home, I headed to Orchard Road and had my ayam penyet with a glass of soda gembira, and I felt closer to home.Print
Ayam penyet is a hugely popular dish consisting of fried chicken that’s been flattened, served with steamed rice, sambal, lalapan, and tofu and tempeh. It’s a hit all over Indonesia and Singapore.
- Prepare all the ingredients according to the individual recipe.
- Gently press the fried chicken with a pestle to flatten it.
- Serve with sambal tomat, lalapan and plenty of steamed rice.
- Breaded chicken is not suitable for ayam penyet. It will create an entirely different dish.
Keywords: Spicy, Sambal Tomat, rice