Opor Ayam

Hey! How are you folks? I’ve been pretty pumped up as tomorrow is Eid, and I’m going to enjoy my one week-long AFK (Away From Keyboard) vacation. The AFK was submitted way before the whole Covid-19 thing, but I decided to stick with it and do things that I can do at the house and taking a break for a while.

Anyway, did some changes here and there on the blog (although the changes won’t be noticeable if you read this blog on WordPress.com Reader 😅) and at one point, I got so confused with the header image — I feel the homepage is too empty but I couldn’t find a good pic for that — so I decided to use my practice sketch. You might notice my name on the image as I’ve been super wary about art thieves (not that I’m going to say my works are art, though.) I seriously don’t get people who say, “well, it’s in the Internet so it’s free to take, hurrdurr,” like, dude. Those who are really dismissive about content theft usually never create stuffs. There, I said it.

Ari and I spent our last day of Ramadan cooking for Eid. We usually have some must-haves dishes: Opor ayam (chicken with spicy gravy from coconut milk and spices), sambal kentang (potatoes and chicken’s livers and gizzards (I usually stick with gizzards only because I’m not really fond of chicken liver) and tons of sambal (chili paste)), and sup buntut (oxtail soup.)

The oxtail soup is actually part of my late grandmother’s usual Eid menu. When I was a small girl, we always gather at my grandparents‘ (from my mother’s side) house and my grandma was an excellent cook. She usually prepared the whole Eid Triumvirate (Ketupat, opor ayam, sambal kentang,) and oxtail soup — oxtail soup, however, is not the usual Eid dishes. However, my grandma insisted on serving it because she felt that folks might want some variations apart from the usual Eid dishes.

The habit stuck on me so whenever we celebrate Eid every year, I usually made ketupat, opor ayam, sambal kentang, and oxtail soup OR mie bakso (boiled noodles with asian-style meatballs.) Except when I was pregnant with Rey; I cooked the whole thing — like, a total cook out — ketupat, opor ayam, sambal kentang, oxtail soup, and mie bakso.

Opor Ayam

Opor ayam is a dish familiar for Indonesians and Malaysians (in Malaysia, we have similar dish called “ayam masak lemak”) The style is different between areas even regions in Indonesia. The one in the picture is Betawi-style (a native tribe of Jakarta) which usually has thicker gravy. Go to the east a bit, and you could see Javanese-style opor ayam which has lighter gravy, and in some areas, sweeter (Central Java folks commonly have sweet tooth.)

This dish usually a favorite among children because the taste is still tasty enough (with all the spices) but not super spicy as sambal.

Opor Ayam

1 chicken (cut to preferences. We usually ask the butcher to cut it into 8 pieces. The smaller the better as it will be easier to eat.) It’s better if the chicken is free-range as it’s usually tastier. If you can’t find free-range chicken, that’s okay. When you are adding water later on, you can put chicken stock.

Spices, blended together:
12 shallots
6 garlics
4 candlenuts
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric (you can use fresh turmeric (1 cm) but I like the powdered one because less mess. 1/2 teaspoon is MAXIMUM. Please note that too much turmeric will make the food taste bit bitter (still healthy, though))

Spices/herbs, smashed (I’m not sure the term; “smashed” here is not blended, but you crush it to make it more fragrant — and no, chopping it finely didn’t count. We are not going fine-dining with all the techniques, here. You need to go Hulk-mode. Smash it. If it’s leaves, tear it a bit):
2 cm ginger
3 cm galangal
1 stalk lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 bay leaves

To taste:
Salt
Sugar
Pepper

1-2 kaffir limes, squeeze it to get the juices to marinade the chicken before cooking
120 mL thick coconut milk (for cooking, not the one for drinking)
400-500 mL water
5 tablespoons cooking oil

Clean the chicken and wash it. Mix it with kaffir lime juice to get rid of the smell (and some says, mixing it with acid such as kaffir lime juice can make the spices seeping into the chicken better.) Set aside for 10-20 minutes or as you prepare the spices.

Blend the spices (garlics, shallots, candlenuts, coriander seeds, and turmeric.) You can use traditional mortar or you can use electronic blender. A bit of tip: If you are using traditional mortar, add a bit of salt to make the crushing part easier. If you are using electronic blender, add a bit of water. Set aside.

Cut and smash the ginger, galangal, and lemongrass. Wash and prepare the bay leaves and the kaffir lime leaves. If you are not super sure how to smash the spices, try this:

Cut the ginger to smaller pieces then put it on the cutting board. Put the side of your knife on top of it and push the knife to crush the ginger under the knife. That’s it, you’re done. Do the same to the galangal.

Take the chicken and wash it to get rid of the kaffir lime juice.

Prepare a big pan/soup pan/asian-style deep wok. Heat the cooking oil with medium heat until it’s hot enough (to test: Take a wooden spoon/spatula and put it on the oil. If you see small bubbles formed, the oil is hot enough.)

Carefully, pour the blended spice into the pan. Heat the spice then put the crushed herbs (ginger, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and bay leaves.) Heat the spices until you can smell the aroma. Put the chicken and mix it together with medium or high heat (I prefer medium heat as high heat can be uncontrollable.) This is where patience shows its virtue. You will need to mix it for quite some time until the spices seeped into the chicken. Another trick is; lower the heat as small as possible, cover the chicken, and leave it for 3-5 minutes. Open the lid, then mix it again with medium heat.

Pour the water. You don’t have to use exact measurement for this, as long as the chicken is submerged in water, it’s enough. Mix again until the water is boiled. Put salt, pepper, and sugar.

Now, the moment of truth. Adding coconut milk to dishes can be super tricky. In Indonesian, we know the term “santannya pecah” (the coconut milk is ‘broken’/separated) — when you see the coconut milk got separated to curd and water. The taste should still pretty okay, but it’s not super pretty to look at 😅

The trick on adding coconut milk is to add it with the lowest heat possible. The coconut milk will get separated if the heat is too high, so the trick is:

  • Add it with the lowest heat possible, and…
  • Keep mixing it to ensure the heat is not concentrated in one spot

Lower the heat, pour the coconut milk, then do the cardio as you mix the chicken and the spices continuously until the water reduced a bit (30-40%-ish) and you see a thick, golden, tasty, fragrant gravy — then all the energy spent feels like worth it. Garnish it with fried shallots. You can also add hard-boiled egg as additional filling apart from chicken. Enjoy it with warm jasmine rice or ketupat and in one moment, calories be damned.

The recipe for oxtail soup and sambal kentang will follow on the next blog post.

2 thoughts on “Opor Ayam

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