Malay Wedding-Style Ayam Masak Merah

Ayam masak merah or chicken cooked in red sauce has been such a common lunch or dinner favourite among Malaysians that its true purpose has been forgotten. Ayam masak merah is actually a dish usually prepared during huge family gatherings or important occasions like weddings. Before, most Malays could not afford to buy meat like beef, mutton and chicken since these meats were sold at a high price. Therefore, to be able to eat a meat-based dish was seen as a privilege and a sign of wealth.

Thankfully, times have change and everyone can afford to enjoy special dishes like ayam masak merah all the time to the point that most tourists actually think that this is what Malaysians used to eat every single day! Chefs in renowned hotels are always being requested to add ayam masak merah in the buffet list since it is highly demanded by guests, local and foreign alike. After all, who can resists the sweet and sour sauce, coating the moist chicken with a hint of heat at the back of your throat?

There are many different recipes that claim to be the best or the most authentic recipe you can get out there but the truth about ayam masak merah is, the simpler the recipe, the better the taste. The Malays are a community that celebrates simplicity. Their dishes are usually simple combinations of flavour that just linger in your mouth, increasing your appetite as you eat it. Therefore, after much deliberation, I wanted to share the OG ayam masak merah recipe that you would get in a Malay wedding held in a kampong.


a) To Saute

  • 5 cardamom seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, smashed
  • 5 tablespoons of chili sauce
  • 5 tablespoons of tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 60g of palm sugar or gula melaka

b) To Blend

  • 100g Indian shallots
  • 30g garlic
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 25 dried chilies
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass

c) Other Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cleaned and cut into 14 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoon of turmeric powder


  1. Mix the chicken pieces with salt and turmeric powder. Fry the chicken till it is half-cooked and set aside.
  2. Heat up 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok over a medium high flame and saute the cardamom, star anise, smashed lemongrass, cinnamon stick and cloves till fragrant. Then, add in the blended ingredients and palm sugar. Saute till the spice mix is cooked. This process will take about 15-20 minutes or until there’s a layer of oil formed on the surface. Make sure to add some water (about 3 tablespoons at a time) during this process to avoid the spice mix from getting dry and burned.
  3. When the spice mix is cooked, add in the chili sauce, tomato sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, salt and 1/4 cup of water, if the spice mix is too dry. We want a lot of that rich ayam masak merah gravy so it will coat all our chicken and still have leftover sauce to add later.
  4. When the taste is right, add in the half-cooked chicken and mix well. Let the chicken cook for about 10 minutes before removing the wok from the stove.
  5. Add some sliced onions and chopped celery leaves as your finishing touch. Serve with hot fragrant rice or nasi minyak.

Get Ready to be Wowed!

During times like these, we all need to get our hands on the original recipes of our favourite dishes from around the world without having to risk our life just for the sake of enjoying great food. Let’s start this gastro-adventure with this ayam masak merah recipe.

If you like this recipe and would love to get to know about authentic Malay-style cuisine, the flavour combinations and special local dishes, let me know by leaving a message to Butterkicap via their Facebook and Instagram pages. One more thing, don’t forget to share your success in making this dish with me by placing #butterkicap, #chefdanialrashdan and #ayammasakmerahkenduri. What are successes for but to be celebrated and shared?

Chef Danial Rashdan Hashim

Cooking is not just a job but a passion for me. So, being a professional chef is definitely a dream come true! Pushing my limits, I have participated in numerous culinary competitions in Vietnam and Jakarta. But in the end of the day, I am looking for a platform to share beloved traditional recipes of professional chefs with those who want to keep and preserve our food culture.

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