Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ayam siyow - stewed chicken in thick tamarind sauce

For me, cooking is very much a going-with-the-flow kind of thing.

Most days, I cook what I feel like eating. Other days, it's what's in my fridge that dictates what gets served for dinner.

Today, it was the cooking method that inspired me.

I wanted to pound on something. I woke up with the need to "TOMBOK" (pound) something! Really, I am not a violent person. I just like the nostalgic feelings the mortar and pestle evokes.

To cook something that requires pounding meant looking into my Peranakan guide - since most Peranakan dishes involve tombok-ing.

This dish is really simple to make. REALLY!!

To start, I peeled and cut some shallots into smaller pieces.

Then I bashed them up in a mortar and pestle. You can always use a blender if you wish.

I prefer a little texture in my food, so I did not totally grind the shallots into nothing-ness.

I toasted some coriander powder in a skillet - this took a minute. DO NOT walk away!

And combined this with dark soy sauce, shallots, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl.

This was placed in a bowl with the chicken.

Along with the water from soaking the tamarind.

Everything was mixed, and the chicken was placed in the fridge, covered, to marinate for several hours.

When I was ready to cook, the chicken and all the liquid was placed in a casserole, and the chicken was cooked, covered, on medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken was cooked through and had become tender. I gave the chicken a stir occasionally.

Then the chicken was removed, and the gravy was left to thicken in the pot.

I deep fried the chicken until they turned golden brown and drained them on kitchen towels. I guess you can always choose to skip this step if you do not want your chicken to be a little crispy.

Alternatively, you can also shallow fry the chicken using 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

Or, as a reader suggested, you can roast the chicken in an oven too! (Thanks, Michelle Quah for the suggestion!) And another suggested to air fry the chicken, which is also a great idea! (Thanks, Audrey Sim :) )

Finally, just before serving, I added the gravy to the chicken and garnished the dish with some chopped spring onion.

The LAM said this tasted a little like Chicken Rendang, but sweeter (because of the shallots).

Well, this is a whole lot easier to cook than Chicken Rendang!!

Yep, I shall be cooking this again!

Ayam Siyow (Serves 4-6)
Adapted Irene's Peranakan Recipes

1 chicken (about 1.5kg), cut into serving pieces

For the Marinade:
2 tablespoons tamarind, mixed with 450ml water
10 shallots, ground
1 tablespoon coriander powder, toasted
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon vinegar - I used rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper - I used ground white pepper

For the Garnish:
1 sprig spring onion, chopped

1. Marinate the chicken pieces for several hours.
2. Place the chicken and liquid in a casserole and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, on medium heat, until chicken is cooked through and tender.
3. Remove the chicken and set aside. Allow the gravy to continue to simmer (uncovered) until it thickens.
4. In a skillet, fry the chicken pieces in a little oil, or deep fry them until golden brown. This step is optional.
5. Add the thickened gravy to the chicken, garnish with chopped spring onions and serve immediately.

I am submitting this recipe for Cook-Your-Books hosted by Kitchen Flavours.


  1. Great recipe, it sounds so tasty yet looks really easy. I love it.

  2. Thank you Linno! It was so easy, do try making it one day :)

  3. Hi Diana,
    This looks really delicious!
    But I will probably skip the frying part, due to laziness! :)
    Thanks for sharing with CYB!

  4. Hmm... yummylicious. I like the sourish taste of this dish.