This article is specially written to explain how to prepare the Malaysian-style chicken rendang.
Rendang is a spicy stewed dish originating from Minangkabau, Indonesia. This delightful dish has since been assimilated into the Malaysian culinary culture and has been improvised to satisfy the local taste buds. While there are slight differences among chicken rendang from the states of Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, and Perak, this recipe is written based on the general approach of how to cook rendang in Malaysia with some of my interpretations.
One of the typical ingredients in making Malaysian chicken rendang is the inclusion of kerisik (toasted grated coconut) and a relatively shorter cooking time than the Indonesian version. That means it is quicker to prepare and comes with a thick gravy instead of cooking it for a few hours until the rendang becomes dry. However, the rendang Tok from Perak is an exception as it is relatively dry.
How to cook chicken rendang (Malaysian style rendang ayam)
Here is a detailed explanation of how to cook Malaysian chicken rendang.
1. Prepare the chicken
Cut the chicken bone-in, and skin-on into larger chunks. I always request my chicken vendor to cut it for me and hope you can get the same service. The best chicken meat is chicken thighs, but you can use chicken breast if you really do not want the bone.
I have repeatedly mentioned that do not remove the bone, as it contributes a great deal of flavor to the gravy. If you dislike the idea of having bones in the chicken rendang, you can add some chicken stock to stew the chicken.
I also like to add all the salt required to the chicken. In this recipe, I add 15g of salt to 1kg of chicken, combine well and keep aside to marinate for a while. The salt will penetrate more effectively into the thicker part of the meat by using this method.
2. Blend the rendang paste
The rendang paste is prepared by blending ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and red chilies with a small amount of water. These are the basic components of any rendang paste, and some recipes include onion and garlic, as well. There is no definitive formula as the flavor of the rendang from different regions in Malaysia has its regional characteristics. I am cooking the Traditional Malaysian chicken rendang with a generic approach.
You need a blender or food processor to do the heavy lifting for you because it is very time-consuming to do it manually with the mortar and pestle
The preparation seems simple, but there are a few tricks you should know if you want to make an excellent chicken rendang paste.
a. The spice paste ingredients
Cut the ginger into small pieces and then bash with the back of the cleaver. It is far easier to blend it into a paste.
Galangal is the essential ingredient for the rendang paste. The generous use of galangal separates the rendang flavor from most of the curries.
Choose young galangal because it is more suitable to blend. Cut off the hard surface and slice it into thin slices or cut into small cubes. This step is vital as the food processor is unable to chop the large pieces effectively to form a smooth paste.
Note: The old galangal is very hard and is best to use to make soup such as Tom Yam. Discard the galangal pieces after making the soup as it is too hard to consume.
Rendang is not a fiercely hot dish, but yet it needs plenty of chilies to prepare. In making rendang, we want the flavor of the chilies, not only to get the feeling of hotness.
I am using dried and fresh red serrano chilies because they have different flavors.
- Fresh chili. Use the fresh red chilies. Cut into short sections and remove all the seeds.
- Dried chili. The dried chili is quite difficult to blend because it is quite hard. To soften it, bring a small pot of water to boil, then cut the dried chili into small sections, deseed, and boil in the water for ten minutes. By now, the dried chilies should become soft. Pick up the chilies with a pair of tongs and transfer them to the food processor. Do not pour through a colander or wire mesh strainer as I do not want the seeds. The remaining seeds will sink to the bottom of the water.
Cut off the green section of the lemongrass, remove the outer sheath (like removing the outer layer of the onion) and cut it into thin slices.
How to make the spice paste
- Put all the ingredients into a food processor with a little water and blend it until it becomes a fine paste.
- Add a little more water if it is insufficient to bring the ingredients turning in a circular motion.
- It is important to blend these items until it forms a smooth paste. It can take up to five minutes, and it is alright if you blend it for a more extended period.
3. Prepare the kerisik
Most Malaysian chicken rendang contains kerisik in the recipe. Kerisik is the toast /fried shredded coconut. The taste is distinctly different from the raw shredded coconut before toasting.
Add a tablespoon of cooking oil into a pan. Fry the shredded coconut over low heat until it turns light yellow. This frying process will take five to ten minutes, depending on the quantity that you cook. The kerisik will become dryer after a few minutes, which can burn quickly. Keep stirring and flipping until it reaches the desired color.
The commercially available kerisik is usually darker than what I prepare. (Please refer to the embedded video). I like the lighter color because it makes the rendang looks brighter and fresher.
4. Cook the chicken rendang
Once you have all the ingredients ready, cooking chicken rendang is quite straightforward.
Here are the steps:
- Transfer the rendang paste to the pan with some cooking oil. Saute over low heat until it turns aromatic and the oil separates from the paste. It will take some time because we have added some water to blend the spices.
- Once the water is evaporated, the paste will become darker, thicker, and aromatic.
- Return the chicken marinated with salt to the pan. Add all the remaining ingredients except the kerisik and asam extract.
- Simmer the chicken over the stovetop. You can also use a slow cooker or instant pot.
- The final step is to add the kerisik back to the pan and let it simmer for another ten minutes, and it is ready to serve.
- It is advisable to do a taste test before serving. The amount of salt which I add to the chicken may be insufficient if there is a lot of gravy in the pan. The taste of the gravy is marvelous when mixed with steamed rice, but you also have the option to concentrate the gravy further to produce a more intense flavor.
- If you prefer a thick gravy, I suggest removing the chicken before reducing the gravy to avoid overcooking the chicken.
The herbs and spices for cooking the rendang
1. Coconut milk
Fresh coconut milk is the best. If you do not intend to use it immediately, please store it in the refrigerator as it can turn sour under warm weather after half a day. Based on my experience, you can also freeze it to maintain its freshness for up to a month.
Use the can or Tetra Pack coconut if the fresh one is unavailable.
2. Cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves
These are the additional spices for the chicken rendang recipe. I used to cook the chicken rendang without these spices, but the flavor is more wholesome once I include them in the recipe. The use of various spices is the reason why the rendang tastes differently in different regions. Some cooks like to add cumin and coriander, which will make it tastes very much different from this recipe. They are all good, but I want to keep close to what I know best in this article.
3. Asam keping, palm sugar, and turmeric leaf
These three items are quite common in Malaysia but not in other places, especially in Western countries.
Asam keping is the sliced dried fruit of Garcinia gelugur, which is acidic. This fruit is commonly used to add a sour note to the local dishes. Soak a piece of Asam keping in hot water, then use only the extraction and discard the fruit. You can use tamarind juice as a substitute, or omit it from the recipe.
Palm sugar is a sugar derived from the palm tree. It is widely used in the local savory dishes and desserts. The closest common substitute is brown sugar.
Most of the rendang recipes will include turmeric leaves in the recipe. Some recipes also add a few pieces of kaffir lime leaves. The leaves contribute their flavor to the rendang by stewing it with the chicken.
What to serve with chicken rendang
So now you have completed the chicken rendang. You can serve it with nasi lemak, biryani rice, or just white rice. The preparation involves several steps, but the irresistible taste of rendang is incredibly satisfying. I am sure that you will be rewarded with its exceptional taste, which has been voted as one of the best dishes in the world.
Would you like to try beef rendang?
Here are two more rendang recipes on this blog for you to try:
- Beef rendang is one of the original cuisines of Minangkabau descent and Sumatra’s culture. Here is the authentic rendang Minang recipe (Indonesia style).
- Rendang Tok is the famous beef rendang that originated in the state of Perak. The flavor is different from Indonesia’s rendang due to the use of a different set of spices. Here is the recipe.
Chicken Rendang Recipe
This recipe is specially written to explain how to prepare the Malaysian style chicken rendang. Here is a detailed explanation of how to cook Malaysian chicken rendang.
- 1kg Chicken
- 1 tbsp (15g) salt
For the rendang paste:
- 60g (2 oz) ginger
- 60g (2 oz) galangal
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 10g (about ten pieces ) dried chili
- 80g fresh red chili
- Sufficient water to blend
- 1 cup (85g) kerisik
- 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk
- 1 piece (about 5 cm) cinnamon bark
- 1 star anise
- 4 cloves
- 15g (1/2 oz) palm sugar
- 1 piece Asam keping
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 turmeric leaf
- First, cut the chicken into large chunks.
- Season with salt and leave it aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Cut the ginger, galangal, lemongrass into small pieces.
- Cut the chilies into small pieces and remove the seeds.
- Cut the dried chilies into small pieces and remove the seeds. Boil in hot water for 10 minutes and drained.
- Blend all ingredients for the rendang paste into a fine paste.
- Toast the kerisik with a little bit of oil in a pan until golden brown.
- Sauteed rendang paste in a pan until aromatic.
- Add the remaining ingredients except for Asam keping into the pan.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, and then at the kerisik and as Asam keping extract.
- Simmer for another 10 minutes, and it is done.
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Frozen Grated Coconut - 16oz (Pack of 3)
Soeos Szechuan Dried Chili，Dry Szechuan Pepper, Dry Chile Peppers, Sichuan Pepper, Dried Red Chilies, 4oz, (Very Mild Spicy)
Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5 Ounce Cans (Pack of 12),Packaging may Vary
Navitas Organics Coconut Palm Sugar, 16 oz. Bag — Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Sustainable
Serving Size:3 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1079Total Fat: 59gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 359mgSodium: 1062mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 98g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 11/17/2019
Friday 29th of January 2021
Hi Mr Kwan, can I use dried chilis to replace the fresh chilis as they are not available in my area? If so, how much do you advise me to use? Thanks in advance for your reply:)
Saturday 30th of January 2021
Hi Dorothy, Dry chilies are spicier than fresh ones, so you may want to reduce the amount slightly. Also, you can cut them into short sections and remove the seeds to reduce the spiciness. Soak in water for 30 minutes until they are soft before blending them into a paste.
Friday 27th of November 2020
Could you make more of the paste and freeze it to use another time?
Friday 27th of November 2020
Hi Victoria, Yes. I have done that before and keep it in the freezer. No problem. KP Kwan
Wednesday 11th of November 2020
The chicken is so delicious.
Sunday 12th of January 2020
Delicious recipe. I have already made your Indonesian beef rendang which is amazing so I'm going to make this too! Can you make kerisik with desiccated coconut as it's hard to get fresh here?
Monday 13th of January 2020
Hi Lynn, I never tried that before as it is so easy to get the fresh one at where I live. But I do not see any reason it can not be used. Thanks, KP Kwan
Monday 18th of November 2019
The kerisik - blend to become paste for Smoother gravy.
Tuesday 19th of November 2019
Yeah. I like to do that too, as what I have shown in the video :)