Semur Ayam: Dutch-Indonesian Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce

This wonderful dish of chicken braised in soy sauce is classic Indonesian home cooking! It’s a great treat for the whole family.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Today, we’re featuring a second semur recipe, cooked with pieces of chicken and potato chunks. Compared to our first semur recipe (semur tahu telor), this version is lighter. Fewer spices are used, creating a less intense flavour. Red tomato is added to give the dish a fresh, slightly tangy flavour. For an extra kick to the dish, some halved bird’s eye chillies are added, but that’s optional. Kecap manis or sweet soy sauce is definitely a must, as the dish won’t be called semur without it. 

Traditionally, when cooking this dish, spices (shallot, ginger and garlic) are usually prepared by grinding them into a fine paste,  but to save time and energy, I sometimes just slice them thinly. This method allows me to use a minimum number of kitchen equipment during the prep, so I don’t have to do a lot of washing after the cooking is done. 

Both methods are equally delicious. I think the secret lies in the correct temperature when the spices are sautéed. It’s important that the oil is hot enough (not cold or burning hot), so when the spices are fried, they immediately release a wonderful fragrance. The aroma will really affect the result of the cooking as flavours are perceived by smell as well taste.


Semur ayam, or chicken semur, is definitely a popular dish among home cooks in Indonesia, especially in Java. The dish is simple to make and it’s very tasty, and is regularly eaten with rice in many Indonesian households.

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Semur Ayam: Dutch-Indonesian Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce

Semur Ayam: Dutch-Indonesian Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Poultry, Soups & Stews
  • Method: Braising
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


This wonderful dish of chicken braised in soy sauce is classic Indonesian home cooking! It’s not spicy at all, but tasty, and great for the whole family.


  • Half chicken, cut in pieces and washed thoroughly.
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, cut to big chunks and soaked in cold water
  • 6 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cm ginger, peeled, chopped
  • 1 lemongrass, bruised, knotted
  • 0.5 tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 5 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 big red tomato, chopped
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, halved, remove the seeds (optional)
  • 700 ml water
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil


  1. Grind or blend into a fine paste: shallots, garlic and ginger.
  2. Heat the oil over medium high heat in a wok, and then sauté the ground spices and lemongrass until fragrant, around 3 minutes.

    sauté the ground spices and lemongrass

  3. Add the chicken pieces, and fry for about 4 minutes.

    Add the chicken pieces

  4. Add salt, nutmeg and white pepper powder.
  5. Add water.
  6. Add sweet soy sauce. Mix and bring to boil.

    Add sweet soy sauce

  7. When the soup boils, add the potatoes. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for around 20 minutes.

    add the potatoes

  8. Add the chopped tomato and chillies, and continue cooking for around 5 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the semur rest for a while before serving.


Keywords: Non-spicy, common ingredients

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