Thursday, September 12, 2013

ayam assam tumis: chicken in tamarind gravy

I had never cooked a Peranakan dish.

When the idea for this blog train came up, I was not really keen on joining in for the Peranakan session because, well, I have no Peranakan dish in my repertoire.

In addition, my idea of Peranakan cooking = loads of hard working pounding or grinding lots of ingredients. I thought, "Nah, too much trouble!"

Then, the more I thought about this, the more it started to bug me. How hard can this be? And if I do not push myself to do something that I have never done, I would simply be stuck in what I have been doing.

So I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone, and cook something Peranakan!

This turned out to be such an easy recipe to cook, I had to read and re-read the recipe to be sure that I had not got it wrong!

The ingredients for the rempah (spice paste) needed are dried chillis, bunga kantan (ginger bud), galangal, turmeric, shallots, garlic and shrimp paste (not in picture).

I had never worked with ginger buds before. They are such pretty looking things though. Such a shame to have to cut this one up!

To start, I placed the tamarind pulp in water and mixed. Then the pulp was strained and the liquid was set aside.

I cut the dried chillis and shook the seeds out. (Wear gloves when you do this.) Then I soaked the chilli in boiling water for about 5 minutes to soften them.

As for the rest of the ingredients for the rempah, I peeled and sliced everything into small pieces and placed them in the blender with the chilli and a little water. Then I simply blitzed everything into a paste.

I added the shrimp paste and blitzed to mix.

In a heated wok, I added some vegetable oil. Once hot, I added the rempah and fried until it became fragrant.

Then the chicken was added.

And fried for a few minutes.

The tamarind water was added to the chicken and brought to a boil. I added salt and sugar to taste.

Then I simmered the chicken until they were cooked through.

My mom came into the kitchen when my dish was done. She tasted the sauce (without being invited to do so, no less!) and proclaimed, "This is tasty!!!"

So I guess I will be cooking a lot more Peranakan dishes in the future. :)

This is my contribution to the 'What's Cooking' blog train hosted by Alicia from Beanie N'Us. To see more recipes by other moms-who-cook-fabulously, do click on the linky button below!

Please join us tomorrow as Jennifer Lim from Dinomama will be sharing her recipe for Fish Head Curry. A Peranakan version of everyone's favourite fish head curry using spices & tamarind for the sweet-sour taste. Not to be missed!

Ayam Assam Tumis (Serves 4)
Adapted from Irene's Peranakan Recipes

1 chicken (1.5kg), cut into serving pieces
1 tbs tamarind, with with 450ml water and strained
1/2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbc cooking oil

Spice paste:
10-15 dried chillis, seeds removed and soaked in hot water to soften
3 cm length galangal
3 cm length turmeric
4 stalks lemon grass, use only white portion
1 stalk bunga kantan (pink ginger bud)
10 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp shrimp paste (belacan)

1. Soak and drain tamarind. Reserve liquid.
2. Grind together all ingredients to make the spice paste. You may need to add a little water.
3. Heat a wok or deep skillet until hot. Add the grounded ingredients
4. Stir fry until fragrant.
5. Add chicken pieces and fry for a few minutes.
6. Add tamarind water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and salt.
7. Lower heat and simmer until chicken is tender.


  1. Thanks for sharing Diane, the recipe looks great and it really looks pretty simple to attempt. :) I will try this out and will tumbok tumbok too! LOL

    Thanks for linking up!

    1. We can tumbok tumbok together haha. Thanks for hosting - I had fun cooking something new!