Ayam Goreng: A Journey Through Indonesian Fried Chicken

Patricia Sá

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Ayam Goreng: A Journey Through Indonesian Fried Chicken

You just got back from vacation, or had a stressful day at work and want to lay down. That’s when you feel your mind wandering off to comfort food. Listen to it, what does it crave? Something fried? Perhaps with a bit of crunch to it? If you haven’t guessed so far, we’re picturing the one and only fried chicken. But today we’re here to tell you a bit more about the Indonesian take on this dish, known as ayam goreng.

An Indonesian Twist on Fried Chicken

Indonesian fried chicken is different from American fried chicken. While the Western version is breaded, much like what you can find at KFC, the Southeast Asian chicken is marinated to soak up all the flavors, simmered with spices and fried until you get that characteristic golden color. No batter is used in this process. The unique crunchy crust you get is solely from all the herbs and spices pressed down on the meat.

Indonesian fried chicken by Eleanor Ford.jpg

Indonesian Fried Chicken by @eleanorfordfood & photography by @kristinperers

As a very common and enjoyed dish throughout Indonesia, every region has its own mix of spices and herbs. Some of the most typical concoctions include lemongrass, salt, sugar, turmeric, Indian bay leaves, ground shallots, and tamarind juice. But just like the different use of seasonings, ayam goreng—a literal translation of “fried chicken”—has its own variations. Ayam goreng balado for example, a mark of West Sumatran cuisine, is a Padang variation of this recipe. Balado is a mix of hot and spicy flavors where you coat the fried chicken in a balado chilli paste, which consists of red chilli peppers, lime, tomato, oil, garlic, and shallots. From ayam goreng serundeng (which includes serundeng grated coconut) to ayam goreng berempah (where you fry the chicken until it becomes slightly burnt, with a crunchy flour crust on top), every ayam goreng dish has its own distinctiveness. We hope your mouth is watering as much as ours right now.

Indonesian Fried Chicken is the fast food of choice. There are as many variants as there are islands in the archipelago.

Eleanor Ford’s Indonesian fried chicken recipe

Food and travel writer, Eleanor Ford, spent much of her childhood in Indonesia and returned as an adult to research her latest book, Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia (£25, Murdoch Books). 

If you’re looking for more than your typical fried chicken, then look no further. This crispy, golden-brown chicken has all the flavor profile you’ll ever need, and can work perfectly as a main dish as well as an appetizer. Add some Balinese pairing salad with cucumber, sliced raw Thai eggplant, and lemon basil leaves for a full and balanced meal.

Ayam Goreng Recipe

Servings: 4



Start by marinating the chicken in the coconut water, and add in all the aromatics (shallots, garlic cloves, ginger and coriander) as well as the salt. Let it sit for a couple of hours in the fridge.

Carefully transfer everything into a pan, making sure your chicken is fully covered with liquid. If needed, top up with a bit of water. Cover your pan with a lid and bring it to a boil. After it starts bubbling, turn off the heat and leave the pan covered for 50 minutes so your chicken gradually cools down in the broth. Once you see that the chicken is cooked through and tender, strain the liquid and save it for later—it’s flavors would be wonderful in a soup.

Dry the chicken legs thoroughly and leave them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.

Next, season the flour with salt and pepper and coat the chicken. Make sure you don’t leave any uncoated spots.

Heat the frying oil in a large pan or wok until it reaches 170ºC (325ºF), or you see bubbles forming around a spoon handle. Add in the chicken and fry until golden brown.

Patricia Sá
Lisbon, Portugal
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