Ayam Masak Kicap is an amazingly rich and thick side dish of chicken with sweet and spicy flavours. It is a Malay recipe found all over Singapore and Malaysia, and is also a favourite in Indonesia.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
What’s in a Name?
As usual, let’s break it down for those of you who don’t speak Malay. Although, if you’ve been a long time follower of my work on LinsFood, I’m sure you’ve got this by now!
- ayam = chicken
- masak = to cook, cooked
- kicap = soy sauce
Ayam Masak Kicap = Chicken cooked in Soy Sauce
Ayam Masak Kicap Recipe
The recipe itself is pretty easy to do. And like our Ayam Masak Merah, we half cook the chicken by frying it (mainly for browning and crisping purposes), before completing the recipe.
So this is what we’ll be doing:
- Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.
- Get all the prep work done.
- Fry the chicken (I give you instructions for hob, air fryer and for roasting in the oven).
- Finish the recipe off on the stove.
Get everything ready, follow the recipe instructions, and you’ll find it all a walk in the park.
Spicy or Not?
This is completely up to you. Traditionally, you’ll find both versions, so it doesn’t have to be spicy if you don’t want it to be. But if you like your chillies, then by all means, make it as pedas (spicy) as you want it to be!
You can control this by the amount of chillies you use, as well as the type.
I grow many different types of chillies every summer. At the time of writing this, Septemeber 2021, I have about a dozen types, ranging from mild to moderately hot. I have Kashmiri chillies, Aleppo (both mild), tabasco, piri piri, and lots of Peruvian chillies. These are all chillies I cannot get fresh at the shops; I’ve always preferred to grow difficult-to-find stuff.
So for today’s recipe, I’m using 3 generic finger chillies, for a mild-moderate level of spiciness.
What Chicken to Use?
I find that a combination of parts is the best for this, as I do for most chicken stews and curries. Whether you have a whole chicken chopped up, use a combination of cuts, that’s up to you.
I’m using thighs and drumsticks, probably my favourite parts (besides legs) when it comes to chicken stews and curries. This ayam masak kicap is a stew really, not a stir-fry. It’s just on the dry side. You could always increase the sauce by adding more water.
Oh, and meat on the bone, defintely, it’s just tastier and enriches the gravy.
Types of Soy Sauces
The sauce in this recipe is made up of 2 different types of soy sauces, tomato ketchup, oyster sauce and water. Besides that, we also add a little dark soy sauce to marinate the chicken. So you’ll need 3 different types of soy sauces, which should be a staple in your kitchen, if you love South East Asian Food.
Find an East Asian grocer or supermarket, and you will definitely find all these soy sauces there. The advantage then will also be the fact that you can stock up on all those other indispensable South East Asian ingredients like belacan (shrimp paste), taucheo and dried shrimp, just to name a few.
No shop near you? Get chummy with online shopping. My favourite way to shop – no matter what I’m buying, even shoes!
Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce is thinner and lighter in colour the the others. It is obtained from the first pressing of the soybeans, and its overriding flavour is that of saltiness.
In cooking, light soy sauce is used in place of, or in conjunction with, salt. It is also added to dipping sauces, whatever their East or South East Asian origin.
Dark Soy Sauce
As its name suggests, it’s a darker shade. Brewed for longer, with a tiny amount of added molasses (or other sweetener), and is salty with just a tiny hint of sweet.
Dark soy sauce is often used to add depth in cooking, whether when making fried rice or noodles. It is also used as a dipping sauce or condiment with added chillies, onions and just a touch of lime juice.
Sweet Soy Sauce
Many people associate this with Indonesian cooking, as it is often sold, in the West, as Ketjap Manis (Indonesian spelling). We call it Kicap Manis in Singapore and Malaysia, which is how it is spelt in Malay.
- Kicap = soy sauce (fyi, kicap tomato is tomato ketchup)
- Manis = sweet
Sweet soy sauce is also extracted after a long brewing time with lots of palm sugar or molasses added. It is mainly used as a cooking ingredient, not just in stirfries but also to deepen stews and curries.
But kicap manis also makes a good topping with fresh chillies.
How to Serve Ayam Masak Kicap?
It’s delicious with simple, steamed rice, or as we call it, boiled rice. This can be white or brown, that’s completely up to you. Or, if you prefer other grains, thinks quinoa or millet. I personally don’t think it goes with couscous, but to each his own.
To make a multi-dish meal out of it, here are some examples of dishes you can serve it with:
And now, shall we get cooking?
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Ayam Masak Kicap (Chicken in Soy Sauce)
- chopping board
- For frying/roasting: wok OR air fryer OR oven
- saucepan if not using wok
- bowls as needed
- plates as needed
- kitchen paper if needed
- ladles and spatulas
- a tablespoon
- kitchen tongs, optional
For the Chicken
- 1 kg chicken portions (a mix of cuts like thighs, drumsticks and breasts)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ Tbsp dark soy sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil if air frying or roasting
- 250 ml vegetable oil if frying on the hob
- 2 Tbsp sweet soy sauce (kicap manis)
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 Tbsp tomato ketchup
- 125 ml water
- 1 medium onion (about 130 g/4½ oz prepeeled weight)
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 7.5 cm ginger
- 2-3 red chillies of your choice (birds eye, jalapeños) you can increase or decrease the number here
- 1 capsicum, any colour (bell pepper)
- 1 medium tomato
- 10 stalks of chives (or spring onions/scallions) (daun kuchai)
Marinate the Chicken
Rub the chicken portions with the salt, turmeric, dark soy sauce and pepper. Be thorough with this. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. In the meantime move on to the other prep work.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. So that's the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, tomato ketchup and water.
Aromatics: Peel the onion, garlic and ginger. Halve the onion, then slice thinly. Chop the garlic finely. Slice chillies. Julienne the ginger (cut into thin, long strips). See image.
- Chop up the capsicum into strips, they don't have to be thin, about 2 fingers' width is fine.
- Quarter the tomato.
- Chop up the chives into short lengths. I do this just before serving, with a pair of scissors.
Pre Cook the Chicken
On the Stove
- Heat the oil in a small – medium wok on medium heat. When hot, fry the marinated chicken pieces for about 5 minutes each side. We are only partially cooking them. In fact, more like browning them. You probably want to do this in 2 batches so as not to overcrowd your wok. When done, take the chicken out and leave to drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
In an Air Fryer
Preheat your airfryer to 200°C (400°F).
- Toss your chicken with just the 1 Tbsp of oil.
- Cook your chicken in a single layer for 15 minutes, turning them over halfway. Since we are only browning the chicken, if you like, you could just pack your airfryer with all the chicken pieces and cook for 20 minutes, tossing the portions halfway through. This is the lazy way, not all the parts of the chicken will be crisp but much of it will be.
In the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Toss your chicken with just the 1 Tbsp of oil.
- Roast in the hot oven for 20 minutes, in a single layer. Turn halfway through.
Cooking the Ayam Masak Kicap
- Heat the second Tbsp of oil in a medium-sized wok or saucepan on medium heat. If you'd fried your chicken on the stove earlier, pour out all but 1 Tbsp of oil.
Sauté the onions, garlic, most of the ginger pieces and chillies for 1 minute. Keep about 5 strips of the ginger for garnish.
Add the chicken and capsicum and stir to mix. Cook for 1 minute.
Pour in the sauce mix from earlier and stir everything thoroughly, mixing well. Bring it to a simmer, then cover, lower the heat right down (to low) and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until your chicken portion are completely cooked. The time will depend on the cut and size of your chicken. Drumsticks will take slightly longer than breasts and thighs. If by some chance you are using legs, that may even need 40 minutes.
When the chicken is done, add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Check seasoning. You shouldn't need any salt, but everyone's different. If you want a little more sauce, add a little water and be sure to heat through for a minute. Do this also if you find the sauce too salty. The dish is meant to be very richly flavoured. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. I find it tastes better this way.
Top with the chopped chives and serve as discussed.