Monday, 14 October 2013

Semur Ayam - Chicken Stewed in Sweet Soy Sauce

The past few months, I have been having a lot of fun building my culinary repertoire of Indonesian dishes. I mean even though I was born and I grew up here for the first fifteen years of my life... back then, all I did was mostly the eating... if you've seen pictures from my childhood, you'll understand.  I have burned most of them, but I know there are still one or two around somewhere... 

But anyway, now that I am also very much interested in not just the eating, but also the cooking... it's been a pleasurable experience which I want to share with you.  It's fair to say that my cooking is Italian-French-British influenced as seen by the many recipes featured in this blog.  But my purpose of starting this blog is I want to be a better cook, and the great thing about cooking is it's a constant learning experience...

I have sampled many dishes... truly hard work, I know... (the time I spent on that cross-trainer) but I'm not complaining... it's just one of the things I'd happily do for you all; I've done my research; extracted recipes from my mom's brain (now, that's the challenge) and I played around in the kitchen trying to replicate the dishes I tried.

So, over the next few posts, I want to share with you some of my favourite Indonesian dishes and ingredients.  Some are old favourites and a few are new discoveries.  I hope you are excited... because I am! 

I want to start with a dish that is simple and homey, like semur ayam or chicken stewed in sweet soy sauce. This chicken stew can be found pretty much everywhere in Indonesia.  But depending on the region where it's cooked, the stew may varies.  I have seen other variants using plenty of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, coriander and cumin; also other ingredients such as potatoes and hard-boiled eggs may be added too to the stew. But I am keeping mine to the basic and this is how we often cook it at home.


The word semur itself derives from the Dutch word smoor meaning smothered.  Indonesia was colonised by the Dutch for over three centuries, so there are many Dutch-derived words in Bahasa Indonesia.  The chicken stew here is smothered in sweet soy sauce which later gives the distinctive dark colour.     

Sweet soy sauce or known by the locals as kecap manis is perhaps the most commonly used and well-loved Indonesian food condiment.  I certainly love it.  Give me a bowl of plain white rice, fried egg and kecap manis, and I am all set (see, I am easily pleased).  I was going to say sambal is the most popular food condiment, but to many Indonesians, sambal is another pretty much another food group, not just a condiment.  I'll talk about sambal more in the upcoming posts.

When you see 'kecap' in Indonesian recipes, or when someone asks for 'kecap' in Indonesia, they will always mean kecap manis.  It is made by cooking the fermented soy liquid with palm sugar and spices.  The sugar makes the sauce syrup-like.  The sauce can be found easily in Asian grocery store.  But UK readers, I'm sure I've seen it sold at M&S with the old Indonesian spelling of 'ketjap manis'.  However, if you can't find sweet soy sauce anywhere, I suggest using the regular soy sauce and then add some palm sugar or dark muscovado sugar.

Whilst we're on the subject, if you're interested, the regular Chinese or Japanese soy sauce is known as kecap asin (salty soy sauce), but this will often be specified... as well as kecap ikan (fish sauce) or kecap Inggris (English sauce/Worcestershire sauce).

Have a great Monday everyone!

P.S. It's my birthday and I don't have a plan just yet... but I'm sure there will be a cake at some point today. I'll keep you posted via twitter and instagram. 

Semur Ayam - Chicken Stewed in Sweet Soy Sauce
Recipe by Me

1 chicken, jointed and cut into small pieces
Vegetable oil for frying
4 small shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce / kecap manis
400 ml chicken stock
Salt and white pepper

Heat up a generous layer of oil in a pan or wok of your choice over a medium heat.  Season the chicken pieces with salt and white pepper and fry until they are nicely brown on all sides.  Depending on the size of the pan/wok you're using, you might need to do this in batches.  Overcrowding the pan will cause the chicken to braise and they'll not colour properly.  If you've done this before, you know that the oil will splatter, so please be careful... and if you haven't done this before, this is your warning :) When the chickens are browned, drain on paper towel and set aside.


Using the same pan, gently cook the shallots, garlic and ginger until they are beginning to soften and become fragrant.  Then add the tomato ketchup, sweet soy sauce, chicken stock and the chickens.  Let it comes to a boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the liquid boil down to a thick, glossy, dark syrup and the chicken pieces are very tender.  Give it a stir from time to time. 

Taste and adjust the seasonings, and serve over noodles or plain boiled rice.


17 comments:

  1. It has turned out so good! I would need more steamed rice to go with it.

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    1. Thank you Angie! I definitely had seconds :)

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  2. oh my goodness, what glorious sticky sweet chicken goodness is this.... lovely post, thank you so much for sharing x

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    1. Thank you Dom! I knew you'd appreciate it. x

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  3. Wow, the color of the chicken is just awesome, and imagining all the flavors in it...yum!
    Thank you so much for the kind words Michael, I really appreciate the support.
    Have a great week ahead :D

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    1. Thank you Juliana. I hope you're feeling much better now and please keep in touch. Have a great week ahead to you as well.

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  4. Preety damn good looking semur, finger licking good bro!
    Nice to know your blog....
    btw, you just need add coconut milk and reduce the liquid and you just made malbi ayam.....

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    1. Thank you so much! I must the coconut milk idea. Sounds delish! I will head over to your blog in a minute. Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. I adore kecap manis! We always have a bottle of it in the pantry-I even get a bit panicky if I feel as though I'm running out. I'd love this chicken! :D

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    1. Kecap manis is a staple ingredient in our house as well. Thank you Lorraine. I look forward to checking out your Halloween post :)

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  6. Happy Birthday, Michael!
    Love the rich dark color of this dish, can just imagine the flavors! Nothing better than sticky chicken! Looking forward to your new post project, we'll all benefit.

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    1. Thank you so much Barbara! New post is coming in few minutes :) I think you'll enjoy this one as well.

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  7. Oh this looks SOOOOOOO delicious - rich and completely lovely
    Mary x

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    1. Thanks Mary! It's delicious indeed. Hope you'll be giving this a go :)

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