Coconut and Turmeric Grilled Chicken

Simple Indonesian-style grilled chicken - the marinade consists largely of coconut milk and turmeric. The chicken is first cooked in sauce of bumbu rujak, or rujak seasoning, before it is grilled.

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Deyana Goh
Deyana was born in Singapore and lives there. She is half-Chinese, half-Arab, with a grandmother who was born to an Arab family in Bogor, Indonesia. Deyana grew up eating Indonesian food as it is cooked in Arab-Indonesian households, and has fond memories of the festive whole chicken stuffed with lamb.

Having bought a new cast iron grill pan, I decided to try cooking simple Indonesian-style grilled chicken – one of my favourite dishes.

Indonesia has many types of grilled chicken, which go by different names depending on the marinade. For example, in ayam bakar bumbu rujak, which inspired this recipe, the chicken is first cooked in sauce of bumbu rujak, or rujak seasoning, before it is grilled. There’s also ayam bakar Padang, which refers to Padang-style grilled chicken, and Bali’s famous dish, ayam bakar betutu.

Unlike other parts of the world, the way Indonesians grill their chicken is slightly different. Instead of marinating the chicken by smothering raw chicken in a seasoning paste, Indonesians tend to cook the chicken in a gravy in order to infuse the various flavours. The gravy is allowed to thicken during the cooking process, eventually coating the chicken with a thick, tasty glaze. Then, the chicken is transferred to the grill and charred over very high heat.

The drawback of this method is it requires double cooking, but there are many benefits too. For example, you don’t have to worry about timing too much when grilling, since there’s no danger of raw or undercooked chicken. Similarly, you don’t have to worry about the temperature of the grill. 

This recipe is a simplified, pared-down version of ayam bakar bumbu rujak. Like bumbu rujak, the marinade consists of coconut milk and turmeric. But I’ve omitted many ingredients, the most striking ones being shallots, chilli, and galangal. I find it doesn’t really matter with grilled chicken, since the highlight of the dish, for me, is the charred smoky flavour and not the complexity.

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Coconut Grilled Chicken

Coconut and Turmeric Grilled Chicken

  • Author: Deyana Goh
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 60 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal

Description

Simple Indonesian-style grilled chicken – the marinade consists largely of coconut milk and turmeric. The chicken is first cooked in sauce of bumbu rujak, or rujak seasoning, before it is grilled.


Ingredients

Scale
  • ½ spring chicken, portioned
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 inches ginger, peeled
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 300 ml water
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Blend the garlic and ginger into a fine paste.
  2. In a wok or a pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry till fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the lemongrass, bay leaf, turmeric powder, white pepper powder and salt. Mix well.
  4. Add the chicken. Mix well. 
  5. Add the coconut milk and water.
  6. Simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and the gravy has reduced to a thick paste that coats the chicken, about 40 minutes.
  7. Turn off the stove. Set the chicken aside. You can keep it in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, if you don’t want to eat it immediately.
  8. Coat a grill pan with oil and heat on the stove over high heat. Place the chicken on the grill pan, and grill until charred. Brush the chicken occasionally with oil to prevent sticking, about 10 minutes.

    Coconut Grilled Chicken is ready


Notes

  • To make sure the chicken absorbs the flavours well, let the chicken rest after stewing it in the spice paste. Ideally, you’d let it sit for 3-4 hours, or even overnight, before grilling it. This is also a great idea for a party or a barbeque – you can cook the chicken the day before, and grill it when your guests are coming.

Keywords: non-spicy, lemongrass, white pepper

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