Gulai Ayam – the Indonesian Chicken Curry Version 1

By in category: Indonesia

gulai-ayam-chicken-curryThere are three types of curry in Indonesian cuisine.

The first one has a thin soup consistency and the lightest colour – light orange. Made from diluted coconut milk, this can be used served with steamed rice, rice cakes or vermicelli noodles. Known as “Gulai“, any kind of meat can be used, white meat, red meat, gizzard, or liver.

The second type is “Kari”, with a slightly grainier texture and less water. The third being “Rendang”, the driest of all.

Gulai ayam (chicken gulai) made from scratch involves mixing and processing the gulai spices by hand.  In a traditional Oriental wet market (or a big chain supermarket such as Carrefour or Hypermart), there will be a fresh spices vendor somewhere.  All ground spices are available, including ground galangal, ground coriander seeds, ground candlenut etc. When you want to make a certain Indonesian dish which normally required ground spices, you ask the staff and he / she will mix the ground spices so that when you get home, you only need to stir fry the spices with a little bit of oil, and then add the rest of the ingredients.  And they’re so much fresher than factory-filled little jars.

If you have access to instant spices for “gulai“, I guess that would work just fine.


  • 6 (30 grams) red chilli
  • 4 (10 grams) candlenut
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • 2 cloves (10 grams) garlic
  • 4 cloves (20 grams) shallot
  • 1″ fresh turmeric root
  • 0.5″ fresh ginger root
  • 40 grams galangal root
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 4 salam leaves
  • 1/2 (375 grams) spring chicken, chopped into 6 to 8 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup coconut cream, diluted with 2 cups of water
  • 1 large (300 grams) potato, peeled and cubed


  1. Into a spice grinder, add the chilli, candlenut, coriander seeds, garlic, shallot, turmeric and two tablespoons of water. Grind the ingredients for 5 minutes until they reach a smooth consistency. You can add more water to make the grinding process easier
  2. Wash the galangal under running water for a couple of minutes to remove dirt traces. Flatten the galangal using a pestle or back of cleaver. This is important to release the flavour
  3. Remove the first layer of the lemongrass. Cut into two halves. Flatten and set aside
  4. In a medium sized saucepan, heat cooking oil over medium high heat. Stir fry the spice paste until fragrant – constantly stirring to prevent burning.
  5. Add the salam leaves, lemongrass and galangal. Cook for a couple of minutes
  6. Add salt, sugar and chicken pieces. Cook over medium high heat for another 3 minutes
  7. Pour the diluted coconut milk slowly into the stock pot and add the potato cubes. Cook for another 25 minutes
  8. Lower heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove from heat

Serve with rice, noodles or rice cakes


The heat can be adjusted by reducing the amount of chilli or removing the seeds

For extra flavour, the chicken is normally deep-fried for a couple of minutes so it formed some crust before cooking. I prefer not to deep fry

The dish will form one layer of orange coloured oil – this is the coconut oil. You should stir before eating, but if too much, can be scooped off

That’s Cookin’

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