Mmm… assam pedas… there’s just something about this spicy and sour dish that will have you licking your fingers and rubbing your stomach in absolute post-meal delight. While its birth in the context of Malaysia’s culinary history is vague as best, assam pedas is widely acknowledged to be a Malay dish that is most popular in the states of Malacca and Johor, with Malacca edging out ever so slightly in its claims over this dish with its Nyonya background. And like many other dishes in Malaysia, assam pedas has crossed many borders with tweaks and adjustments made to appeal to local state-based taste buds.
Traditionally cooked with meaty fish such as red snapper, stingray, mackerel, and, when one is feeling extra spendthrift, salmon, it is not unusual to find other types of protein getting the assam pedas treatment. There’s seafood assam pedas, beef, oxtail, mutton as well as another nation-wide favourite – assam pedas chicken.
Chicken is undeniably Malaysia’s favourite meat and an especially good option for those who don’t enjoy things on the fishy side. Made with just the slightest of tweaks to the more typical assam pedas recipe, assam pedas chicken is easy to prepare and doesn’t require a lot of fiddling. Chicken, as a meat, is also very forgiving and less temperamental than fish, making this an excellent recipe to try out if you’re venturing into making assam pedas from scratch for the very first time. Trust us, your family is going to be pretty impressed you made this on your own without needing to resort to a packet of premade sauce. And it takes only a few minutes longer to cook!
A healthier twist
If you’re one for healthy or clean eating, assam pedas chicken is a great recipe to adjust without losing any of that authentic flavour. It contains no dubious ingredients and all you need to swap out is regular cooking oil for one of the healthier oils like grapeseed or rapeseed oil, switch regular table salt for sea salt, and make sure your tamarind pulp is 100% tamarind and contains no other additional additives.
And if you like your assam pedas hot, hot, hot, feel free to add on more dried chilies for extra heat. Our assam pedas chicken recipe is spicy but not overly so – unless you’re a complete lightweight, most Malaysians should be able to handle the heat in this recipe without any problems.
Serve your assam pedas with some freshly cooked rice, soft bread, or even roti canai. The sauce is ever so slurp worthy and needs to be wiped cleaned! Assam pedas also tastes better the next day as the flavour sits and intensifies overnight. Don’t be afraid to make a big batch either as it’s great for freezing for a quick and comforting meal when you’re short on time.
- 950g (1 whole) medium chicken, cut into 10-12 pieces
- 14g (2 sticks) lemongrass, white part only, bashed
- 50g (2) torch ginger flower
- 6g (2 tsp) turmeric powder
- 30g tamarind pulp mixed with 240ml (1 c) water
- 210g (3) tomatoes, blended
- 480g (3) eggplant, cut into large chunks
- 11 pcs kaffir lime leaves
- 20g (1/2 c) Vietnamese coriander (daun kesum)
- 10g (1 ½ tsp) salt
- 120ml cooking oil
- 1 L water
- 50g (30 pcs) dried chilies, cut into 3cm length, tips removed and soaked
- 100g (1) large red onion, peeled and quartered
- 12g (5) candlenuts
- 20g (5 cloves) garlic, peeled
- 120ml water
- Blend all base ingredients until smooth and fine.
Cooking assam pedas chicken
- In a large pot, heat cooking oil on high heat. You’ll know the oil is hot enough when bubbles start forming on the base of the pot.
- Add in blended base ingredients, lemongrass and torch ginger flowers. Stir and cook until you can really smell the ingredients. The aim is to release the aroma of the base ingredients and not to cook it until the oil starts to separate from the ingredients. This should take about five minutes. We added our lemongrass and torch ginger flowers a little later as we forgot to add them in here, but don’t mind us.
- Add turmeric and stir to mix thoroughly.
- Add chicken pieces and stir until the chicken is coated evenly.
- Squeeze and mix tamarind pulp with water to remove the pulp from the seeds.
- Using a strainer, pour the tamarind pulp and water mixture into the pot, squeezing out as much liquid as possible from the pulp.
- Add blended tomatoes, then give everything a really good mix.
- Next, add salt and stir to mix through. Turn down the heat to medium.
- Add 1 litre water, or just enough to cover most of the chicken.
- Finally, add kaffir lime leaves and Vietnamese coriander. Mix the ingredients together and let it cook until everything comes to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Once the assam pedas chicken has come to a boil, add chunks of eggplant and cook until the eggplant is soft and squishy.
- Serve with rice, omelette or any of your favourite dishes.
- If you’re the kind of person who only likes drumsticks, feel free to swap out a whole chicken for your favourite cuts instead.
- Some tamarind pulps have salt and/or sugar added as a preservative. Adjust the amount of salt used in the cooking accordingly.
- Besides eggplant, ladies fingers/okra also goes really well with this dish. Add it in when you add the eggplant.
- If you’d like to adjust for saltiness or sourness, give your dish a taste after everything comes to a boil but before the eggplants go in.
Assam pedas chicken doesn’t take very long to prepare, so if you’re clicking around on the internet figuring out what to eat and have some spare time to grab a few groceries on the way home, why not make this? Its spicy-sour goodness is the perfect way to end the day, plus you can easily make an extra big batch for freezing. Enjoy our recipe and tag us with the #butterkicap hashtag so we can check out your assam pedas chicken!