Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Ayam Areh (chicken in coconut milk)

If you read Madhouse Family Reviews blog often, you must know just how adventurous Cheryl is when it comes to cooking. Last summer she cooked Ayam Areh (chicken in coconut milk with Indonesian spices), and I thought how brave she was in trying such an exotic recipe. Well, my turn has come.
The Kitchen Trotter food subscription box is Indonesian-themed this month (see my previous post on trying Gado Gado salad).

The recipe requires several authentic ingredients which you can find in Kitchen Trotter box - combava leaves, Terasi shrimp paste, kemiri nuts and lemongrass powder.
Having read Cheryl's post, I was very careful to have the nuts cooked properly. Apparently if you eat them raw, you might suffer from "an explosive malfunction" to put it kindly.
Kemiri nuts look like big sized hazelnuts or macadamia nuts, but the taste is different. It is mostly used ground and cooked.
Also a word of warning: if possible, keep the windows open in the kitchen - the shrimp paste has a very pungent smell (this is a euphemism for stinky very smelly). I could smell it the next morning. I do buy the fish sauce for Asian stir fries, but this is 10 times stronger smell-wise.

Ayam Areh (recipe courtesy of Kitchen Trotter)
4 Combava leaves (aka kaffir lime leaves)
1 tbsp shrimp paste (Terasi - Ams Koe Poe)
5 Kemiri nuts (Epices et Delices & Kitchen Trotter)
1tbsp lemongrass powder (Terre Exotique & Kitchen Trotter)

2-3 chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
2tbsp vegetable oil
2tbsp brown sugar
400ml coconut milk
3 onions
3 cloves of garlic
1tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 cube chicken stock
salt & pepper
rice to serve

In a mixer mix the onions, garlic, kemiri nuts and shrimp paste. When a semiliquid paste is obtained, keep aside.
Bring 20ml of water to boil in a saucepan, add the stock cube, stir well and set aside.
Dice the chicken and brown on all sides in a deep frying pan with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in the paste and stir for a couple of minutes.
 (bring out your chemical warfare gas mask, sorry, couldn't resist)
Add the coconut milk, the stock and stir well. Add the brown sugar, bay leaves and combava leaves (slightly crush them in your fingers to release the flavour), the lemongrass powder, coriander and stir well.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer on low for about 45 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir regularly.
Serve with rice.

I already mentioned the strong smell. Now let's mention the appearance. Let's just say that the overall result (and it could be entirely my fault) was not exactly an Instagram material. I even said Sorry to my DH.
The sauce looks pale brown and sloppy.

I braced myself and had my first forkful. And then I was pleasantly surprised. This dish is very nice indeed. Despite the smell and the looks, don't dismiss it. It is very flavourful and tasty.
I'm glad I cooked this dish, as it was quite a revelation.

As much as I enjoyed the dish, I don't think I'm brave enough to use more of the shrimp paste jar.
Any takers?
Did you try this recipe, and what did you think of it?

Disclosure: I received a Kitchen Trotter food box for the purposes of testing the recipes and reviewing. All opinions are mine.


  1. The remains of the jar of shrimp paste look at me every time I open the fridge ! I'm always worried about ruining a dish by adding it though - using it very sparsely is the solution, I suppose ... with a gas mask, as you suggest !

    1. Yes, using sparsely is a good idea, but even one tablespoon was enough to make the whole house smell (we don't have a door in the kitchen, so the smells easily travel around the house)

  2. it stinks! I know. But it's a good ingredients to have. You are killing me, I miss indonesian food so I might have to order this box!! Have a look at an (old) blog post

    1. I'll be happy to post it to you, if you don't mind that it's been opened and 1tbsp was removed. I'll have a look at your blog post.