Ayam Masak Merah: Red Chili Gravy Chicken

This dish is so popular in Malaysia that I have never failed to find it being served at all the Malay weddings I have attended.

Having tasted the dish served by Malay chefs (at homes or restaurants), I realized that the Malay version of this is sometimes sweet as well as spicy. My mom, the expert chef when it comes to making ayam masak merah at home, usually makes the version that she has mentioned to me as my grandma’s version (her mother-in-law).

Cut chicken pieces are marinated in a spicy paste made of dried red chili paste (boiled to soften and then blended), onions, ginger and garlic. I think the best part of the marinade is the roughly chopped tomatoes that are just squished in to bring out the juices. This really adds a little zing to the dish and just a hint of sweetness from the tomatoes are infused into the dish. To the marinade also, a little turmeric for bringing out the bright color and some crushed black pepper is added for more kick. After about 30 minutes or so, the marinated chicken is cooked in oil infused with cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom and curry leaves for a wonderful aroma.

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