Monday, January 31, 2011

Opor ayam (spiced chicken stew)

I`m a planner, but apparently a bad one (d`uh, like I don`t know that), especially when it comes to self-motivated activities. Every time I planned to devote my weekends or holidays to write up here, that never rarely happened. Things always came up and I hate to say that they`re not always good ones. But hey, I didn`t start this blog so that I can whine up. Na-ah. This is a happy place for me. And for you too I hope!

So, what to cook today? It`s chicken, sweetie. It`s Indonesian opor ayam, which is basically made by braising chicken in coconut milk. If you ever had Indian chicken curry (which I looooooove!), this one is different. Keep scrolling down (and up if you must) and you`ll find out why.

Opor ayam usually use chicken with bones and skin that give more flavor to the soup, but I just had chicken fillet in the fridge. No problemo!
Brown the chicken first.  I was thinking to lightly grill them, but sauteing them on a pan without oil will be a faster method. The chicken doesn`t need to be cooked through. When the surface starts to get nicely browned, set the chicken aside.

Next is spice paste. This paste is incredibly simple despite the common long-list of spices used for curry paste; it only contains garlic, onion, and ginger. Yup, that`s it.
Saute the spice paste to bring out the fragrance.

Now get a pressure cooker, place the browned chicken in it, top with the sauteed spice paste, throw in lemon grass (pound it first and lightly cut the stalk lengthwise just to loosen up the layers) and lime leaves.

Then, pour in water just enough to cover the chicken, close the lid, and cook it for 15 mins-30 mins. It depends on how much chicken you put in (and the type of your cooker), but 15 mins cooking and another 15 mins for steam releasing were enough to cook 500 g chicken in my pot.

So, after 30 minutes waiting, this is how it looks like. Yellowish chicken soup with a very great fragrance that can make your husband hurries to the kitchen and excitedly asks, "Can I eat now??". Men.
Alright, a confession to make here. Traditionally, opor ayam is usually cooked over a very low heat in long hours so the spices can perfectly sip in the meat and the meat gets so tender that it falls off the bone. I`m not a modern person (hellooo, MS Office 2003 is my best buddy and I get crazy whenever I have to work with Vista or Mac!), but I just can`t say no to my pressure cooker. I cooked chicken with bones many times with this cooker and the meat did fall off the bones! Hooraah!

Am I high today??

Turn on the stove again on medium heat, and pour in coconut milk. Gorgeous.
By the way, as adding coconut milk will increase the volume of the soup, aka. dilute the richness of the spices , you need to estimate the amount of water used to cook the chicken so that you don`t end up having this soup too watery. Oh forget it, just have the fun with cooking! After all, if your soup does become too watery, just saute some more spices and toss them in the soup. Ole!

No idea why I said it, but that`s fun!
Back to the food. As I can never cook anything with only meat in it, which he keeps complaining about (I`m the cook, you know), I used this bamboo shoots. I love this vegetables very much. Crunchy yet meaty and tasty. And it goes perfectly well with this opor ayam!

Toss in the bamboo shoots and season with salt, sugar (just a pinch! trust me), and pepper. This color is usually fine for opor, but I want a bit more yellowness so I added a pinch of turmeric powder.

Tadaaaa....opor ayam with bamboo shoots. People usually eat this with rice cake or just regular steamed rice. But I think noodles will do great too. Let me know if you do try it!


Spice paste:

Lemon grass
Lime leaves
Turmeric (optional)

Chicken, lightly browned
Bamboo shoots, chopped
Coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown sugar, a pinch


  1. great interpretation of opor! i served opor in innsbruck to introduce indo's food to flo's family last week. they liked it (or they were being nice to me by saying that).

  2. impressive!! your opor must`ve been a big hit! did flo help? can`t imagine you cook opor for many people by yourself :D

  3. I have a can of coconut milk in my pantry, you convinced me to use it! Great dish!

  4. Yum! I've never had this before but it looks fantastic. I love coconut milk and lemongrass.

  5. Katerina: If you`re not into spicy food, this one will be a great one to try. Happy cooking!

    Roxan: Hello! I love lemongrass too! I keep saying, aaaahhh.....when I smell it :D