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How to Make Malay Chicken in Red Sauce (Ayam Masak Merah)

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Every year, I travel back to my beautiful home country of Malaysia to be with my family. I wish to share my experience with readers!

Looking at the picture makes me hungry! Delicious ayam masak merah is perfect with steamed white or basmati rice.

Looking at the picture makes me hungry! Delicious ayam masak merah is perfect with steamed white or basmati rice.

I have been eating ayam masak merah since I was a kid. It is a very popular traditional dish in my home country of Malaysia.

My father used to cook for community gatherings in my village, including kenduri (Thanksgiving) and weddings. Many have praised his culinary skills, and one of his specialties was ayam masak merah. I remember following him to the gatherings and watching how he cooked and prepared the ingredients.

Simple Ingredients for an Authentic Recipe

For this dish, the ingredients are very simple. I prefer to use only dried red chilies for the sauce, which makes the dish quite spicy (in my family, we love spicy food!). Some people add tomatoes to the sauce, but that's not how my father made it. When I make this dish today, I stick to his recipe.

Serving Suggestions

Ayam masak merah is perfect for lunch or dinner. In Malaysia, we often eat this dish with steamed white rice. It is also great alongside Malay vegetable pickles known as acar. Malay acar is usually made from thinly sliced cucumber, shallot, pineapple, and red chili, which is then marinated in a sweet and sour solution of sugar and vinegar.

If you have leftovers, save them in a container and store them in the fridge.

Now let's take a look at the recipe.


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric powder
  • 10 to 15 long dried red chilies, trimmed and sliced (and deseeded if you prefer less heat)
  • 2 strings curry leaves
  • 2 inches ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 3 shallots, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly sliced
  • 4 to 5 cloves
  • 3 to 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 to 5 star anise
  • Sugar and salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish


  1. Prepare the spice paste: In a blender, combine the shallots, onion, ginger, dried red chiles, garlic, and water. Blend until they form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the chicken: In a large bowl, marinate the chicken parts with some turmeric powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or a larger pan over high heat, and fry the chicken parts until they are golden brown on both sides.
  4. Place the fried chicken in a bowl and set aside.
  5. With the same wok, saute the curry leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamon, star anise, and cloves until fragrant.
  6. Add the spice paste to the frying mixture. Mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Throw in the fried chicken pieces into the mixture.
  8. Add sugar and salt. Check for taste.
  9. At this point, the dish may be done, or you may wish to continue cooking for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened sufficiently. I prefer to shorten the cooking time as I prefer a lot of sauce.
  10. Place the chicken in a serving bowl or plate. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
  11. Serve immediately with steamed white rice and fresh acar.

© 2022 Liza