Asian recipes/ Chicken/ Dinner/ Stir-fry

Ayam Masak Sambal Tumis (Indonesian Stir Fried Spicy Chicken)

23 January 2022

I was actually planning on making Nasi Lemak, which is a Malaysian dish with coconut milk rice, ansjovis sambal, toasted peanuts and sliced cucumber. I changed my mind last minute because I had some chicken pieces and I wanted to make something with these. In the end I opted for this spicy & hearty stir fried chicken dish. Super tasty!

The rice I cooked in salted water, but I added a few lime leaves for fragrance and flavour. I served it simply with some crispy fried ansjovis (ready bought from the toko), crispy sambal tempeh, fried & salted peanuts and some cucumber slices. It would also be great with Ikan Bilis which is an crispy ansjovis sambal.

All in all very simple but very tasty. The one thing I’ll do differently next time though is use smaller chicken pieces. The chicken we have in the Netherlands are way bigger than in Indonesia. So a chicken leg is quite big and will take longer to cook. I think I’ll stick to chicken thighs and wings next time. 

Ayam Masak Sambal Tumis (Indonesian Stir Fried Spicy Chicken)

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Dinner Indonesian, Malaysian, Asian
By Saffron Serves: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 35 minutes Total Time: 45 minutes


  • The Chicken
  • 1 whole small chicken, cut into 8 - 10 pieces (see notes)
  • 2-3 tsp of turmeric powder
  • Pepper & salt
  • The Sauce
  • 1 tsp trassi (shrimp paste, you can also use salt if you can't get your hands on trassi)
  • 4 big yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 2 inches of ginger, peeled & grated
  • 3-4 lime leaves
  • 20 - 30 small dried chili (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 2 lemongrass, outer leaves removed and pounded
  • 1 cup frying oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar (caster, brown or palm)
  • Half tablespoon of tamarind mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 1 medium tomato
  • To Serve
  • 1 cup basmati rice (1/2 cup pp)
  • 3-4 lime leaves
  • Toasted peanuts
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Crispy fried tempeh (optional)
  • Crispy fried ansjovis (optional)


The Prep


Cut the chicken into smaller pieces, slightly bigger than bitesize.


Add the turmeric, salt and pepper and coat all the pieces. Set aside.


Prepare all the ingredients for the sauce.


Chop the tops off the dried chilis and by rubbing the chilis between your fingers remove most of the seeds.


Add the chilis to a bowl with hot water and let soak for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest.


Cook the rice according to the packaging. Basmati rice I boil for 8 minutes, then drain and let steam with the lid on until I'm ready to serve. For extra flavour add some lime leaves to the water.

The Sauce


If using trassi: Heat a wok or large frying pan, don't add any oil yet. When hot add the trassi and dry roast in the pan until just starting to smoke, ± 1 minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.


In the same wok or frying pan heat a good glug of oil and then add the onions.


Sauté until translucent and fragrant and turning slightly golden, ± 7-8 minutes.


Add the garlic, ginger, lemon grass and lime leaves. Give it a good stir.


While this is sautéing add the chilis to a blender, together with the tomato and blend to a paste. Add a drop of water if you need to it blend better.


Add the chili paste to the pan and stir fry on medium to high heat for a few minutes so most of the water evaporates.


Add the tamarind and sugar and give it a good stir.


Taste and season with either sugar, salt or tamarind to your liking.


The sauce should have a thick texture, the oil slightly separating from the rest.


Remove from pan and set aside.

The Chicken


Add the rest of the oil to the pan, you should have ± 2 cm of oil.


When hot add the chicken and deep fry until golden brown and cooked through. Depending on the size of the chicken pieces this will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. If you have a food thermometer, the internal temperature should be around 70 - 73°C).


You'll probably need to cook the chicken in batches as you don't want to overcrowd the pan.


Remove the chicken from the oil and when done, discard the oil.

Finishing the Dish


Turn up the heat under your wok or frying pan and add the sauce. When heated through add the fried chicken and stir to coat. You can remove the lemon grass at this stage.


Serve with the white rice, peanuts, ansjovis, tempeh and cucumber.


You can also use already chopped up chicken pieces. For this dish I would use 3 chicken thighs and if you like 4-6 chicken wings.

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