How to Make Authentic Ayam Masak Merah at Home

Ayam Masak Merah

Ayam Masak Merah, literally meaning Chicken Cooked in Red Sauce is a staple dish in most Malay families; especially when there’s a celebration.

If you’ve ever attended a Malay wedding, experience will tell you to head straight to the buffet table and check out the spread. The sight of the signature silverware rectangular tray filled to the brim with Ayam Masak Merah. This means you’re in for a treat!

Often times, you see this dish paired with Nasi Minyak. It is a combination set in stone by our past ancestors when they created this power couple of a dish. The slightly tangy and spicy chicken should be tender and fall off the bone when you pair it with a spoonful of creamy Nasi Minyak. You’ll soon be lining up at the buffet table for a second serving!

Of course, this dish is incomplete without the mandatory sharp bite of pickled fruits and vegetables. An acar, which should be sour enough to make your mouth salivate upon its scent.

You’ll also see this dish served at the bazaar Ramadan. Also, at dining tables on the second day of Hari Raya! Like what we said, it’s a celebratory meal!


Origin of Ayam Masak Merah

If you’re familiar with this country, you’ll know that we love embracing the diversity of all the cultures in Malaysia. This translates especially well in our cooking and the Ayam Masak Merah is a prime example.

It is said that this dish is a curry sans the coconut milk- a staple ingredient in curries here in Malaysia. So, without the creaminess of the coconut milk, you’re left with a tasty, tangy and spicy dish of Ayam Masak Merah.

How to Make Authentic Ayam Masak Merah at Home

Recipe by LokaTasteDifficulty: Moderate


Prep time


Cooking time





Ayam Masak Merah is a must-have on the dinner table during Hari Raya. Typically eaten with Nasi Minyak or Nasi Tomato- it’s a Malaysian favourite. Come roll up your sleeves and try out this recipe now!


  • 2 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

  • 20 dried chillies, soaked

  • 2 red onion

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 1 small nub of ginger, approx. 40g

  • 1 inch galangal

  • 5 lemongrass

  • 2-3 star anise

  • 3 inch cinnamon

  • 3 cardamom

  • 1 tin tomato soup

  • 400 ml coconut milk

  • salt to taste

  • vegetable oil for deep frying plus ¼ cup extra


  • First, marinate the chicken in a bowl. Coat all pieces of the chicken with turmeric and salt and set aside for 30 minutes. In a pan, pour in the oil to deep-fry the chicken. Fry until golden brown and set aside.
  • Blend all the aromatics (chillies, onion, garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass) in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed. Add a little water if necessary.
  • In a pan over medium heat, pour in ½ a cup of oil. Sauté the dry spices (cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom) until fragrant. Next, add in the paste and stir well. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the paste cook all the way through.
  • Add in the tinned tomato soup, coconut milk and cooked chicken. Stir well and set the heat to high for a quick boil. Then, lower the heat to a simmer once again and let cook until the gravy thickens. Add salt to taste and garnish with some finely sliced spring onion. There you have it- your very own Ayam Masak Merah!

Ways to enjoy Ayam Masak Merah

To add a little brightness to your dish, add in a cup of frozen peas once the gravy has thickened. The bright green of the peas in contrast with the bright red of the dish; it will have you whipping out your phone to snap some pictures of your success. Pair this dish with a simple serving of Nasi Minyak and you’re in for a feast!

Explore other popular Malaysian delights with Lokataste Recipe and more!


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