Grandma Lee’s Ayam Bali

Grandma Lee’s Ayam Bali

After languishing in stacks of paper and as hand-written notes for 30 plus years, this recipe was recently test and resuscitated.


  • 1 small chicken, cut into 4 pcs

Rempah (Paste):


  • 6 pcs / 40gm shallots (bawang merah), peel and rinse off the black grit, if any.
  • 3 tbsp / 40gm fresh red chillies pounded, or Cilicuka Extra Hot and/or Super Hot as a convenient substitute for cooking
  • 3 pcs / 15mg garlic (bawang putih)
  • Pound/grind the shallots, red chillies and garlic to a course texture. Set aside.


  1. 1/2 thumbsize, galangal/blue ginger (lengkuas), peel then bruise with the back of a knife
  2. 1-2 stalks lemongrass (seria), use only the bottom part, remove the outer dried/or dirty layer, bruise with the back of a knife
  3. Prepare the galangal and lemon grass by peeling and bruising. Set aside.


  • ½ tbsp tamarind paste with seeds (asam)
  • 200ml water, about
* Measure the tamarind paste with seeds, add to the water, massage with fingers to remove the pulp (wear latex gloves). Prepare a fine sieve. Set aside.
  •  1/2-1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (cuka)
  • 1 tbsp or more, Java sauce (ketchup manis), use brand: Bango
  • 1/2-1 tsp fine salt, or to taste (garam)


  1. Heat a non-stick pan with some oil. Brown the chicken skin-side down first then turn over, abt 5-7mins. Pick up the chicken pieces, gently shake off the excess oil, and set aside.
  2. While the oil is still hot (with the rendered chicken fat inside), add A and B. Fry for about 7-10 min over medium high heat until the colour changes to a deep orange-red. Keep stirring so that it will cook evenly.
  3. Once it has reached the correct colour and aroma, add the tamarind juice by pouring it through a strainer directly into the pan. Stir to mix. The liquid will arrest the caramelisation, so ensure the colour is correct before adding the liquid.
  4. Add the white rice vinegar and kecap manis.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning with kecap manis and salt (or white sugar, if needed).
  6. Add back the browned chicken. Simmer for 20min at low-med heat to allow the sauce to thicken and the chicken to absorb the gravy. Add a bit of water (100-200ml) if the sauce thickens too much.
  7. Serve with plain white rice.
Chef’s Tips: 
  • The rempah must be coarse, so that the sauce has texture.
  • The sauce should be oniony (from the shallots), slightly sweet (from the kecap manis), pedas or hot (from the red chillies).
  • Do not deseed the chillies so that there is heat and depth to the flavour.
  • Ensure the shallots are caramelised well so that it has better flavour.
  • The acidity comes from vinegar (which will be cooked off during simmering) and tamarind paste.
  • It needs a touch of salt at the end to intensity the flavour and counter-balance the sweetness from the kecap manis.
Back to blog