Ayam Masak Merah (Red Chicken Curry)

Ayam masak merah recipe is a deliciously tangy and non spicy, Malay red chicken curry from Singapore and Malaysia.
Ayam Masak Merah
red chicken curry in a black bowl
Ayam Masak Merah

Ayam masak merah is right up there as one of my favourite curries ever; must-eat curry when I’m visiting the family in either country.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

What is Ayam Masak Merah?

Let’s take a look at the name first, shall we? In Malay:

  • ayam = chicken
  • masak = to cook, cooked
  • merah = red

So literally, chicken cooked red. In other words, a red chicken curry.

Ayam masak merah is a Malay curry, and traditionally, always made an appearance on special occasions. While not as iconic as beef rendang, it is still, for many, a must have curry at Eid or weddings.

Ayam Masak Merah Recipe

It is a very easy recipe to make at home, and doesn’t require any challenging ingredients. I am assuming here that wherever you live, lemongrass isn’t going to be difficult to source out, whether in paste for or fresh. At a pinch, even dried lemongrass will work, just use double the amount in any recipe.

These are the steps involved in cooking ayam masak merah:

  • Marinate the chicken for however long you can, whether it’s just 10 minutes while you get everything ready, or 1 hour.
  • Make the spice paste by grinding everything. This is called rempah in Malay.
  • Lightly brown the chicken. The traditional method would be to deep fry the chicken to partially cook it. It was absolutely delicious! However, I don’t really fry stuff at home, and have reduced the amount of fat here.
  • Then we proceed to cook the curry, starting with frying the dry spices, followed by the paste, and so on.

Sound good to you?

Ayam Masak Merah
the colour isn’t from chillies, but tomato paste and ketchup

How to Serve Ayam Masak Merah?

Serve this red chicken curry with rice, whether that’s white or brown rice. It is a natural accompaniment to nasi minyak and biryanis. All you need besides that is a fresh green salad. Or pickles. Naturally, side vegetable dishes of the Asian persuasion would go well with it too.

You know this site was only started in Jan 2021. As soon as I have side dishes to add to this post, I’ll do that.

Like so many other curries, ayam masak merah is also amazing with bread, any kind of bread. Baguettes, as I’ve been saying for years on LinsFood (my flagship blog) is a bread that was created for curries! Honestly, you haven’t lived if you haven’t dipped some baguette into curry, no matter where that curry is from.

Flatbreads and savoury pancakes would also go well with this.

And there you have it. Got any questions, just drop me a comment.

Let’s get cooking!

More Chicken Recipes

Ayam Pongteh (Nyonya Chicken Stew)
Ayam pongteh recipe, a very traditional Nyonya recipe with rich, dark flavours from taucheo and soy sauce, originally from Malacca.
Check out this recipe!
dark chicken and potatoes stew, ayam pongteh, in a rectangular blue floral bowl
Ayam Masak Kicap (Chicken in Soy Sauce)
Ayam masak kicap is a delicious side dish of chicken cooked in soy sauce. This Malay and Indonesian recipe can be spicy or left mild to taste.
Check out this recipe!
Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Api (Malaysian Chicken Curry with Bird’s Eye Chilli)
Recipe for Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Api, a traditional Malay coconut chicken curry that uses bird's eye chillies. You can make it hot or not – completely up to you.
Check out this recipe!
Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Api Recipe

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And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Ayam Masak Merah

Ayam Masak Merah (a Malay Red Chicken Curry)

Azlin Bloor
Ayam masak merah recipe is a deliciously tangy and non spicy, Malay red chicken curry from Singapore and Malaysia.
5 from 34 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Malay, Singaporean and Malaysian
Servings 6 (6-8)
Calories 364 kcal


For Marinating the Chicken
  • 1 kg chicken portions (or use a whole chicken, chopped up)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
Grind to a Paste
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 cm ginger
  • 1 lemongrass,
  • 1 red chilli mild variety
Dry Spices
  • 1 medium-sized cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 star anise
The Rest of the Ingredients
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste (may be called tomato purée in Asia)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 250 ml water


Marinate the Chicken

  • Rub the chicken with the turmeric and 1 tsp of salt and set aside for about 15-20 minutes while you get everything else ready. Or, if you have the time, leave it to marinate for 1 hour. Be sure to cover it.


  • Chop the onion, slice the bottom half of the lemongrass into rings, and slice the ginger for easier chopping.
    lemongrass photo
  • Place everything into a chopper and chop to a fairly fine paste, adding 1-2 tablespoon of water if necessary. Set aside.

Additional Prep Work

Let's brown the Chicken first

  • Heat the 60ml of oil on medium-high heat, in a large saucepan, with the tsp of sugar. Brown the chicken in batches. You only want to do this briefly, about a minute each side. We don't want to cook the chicken, just give it some colour.
  • When done on both sides, place the browned chicken on kitchen paper lined plates.

Let's cook the Ayam Masak Merah

  • We'll use the same saucepan. Pour out most of the oil, leaving about 2 Tbsp of still in the saucepan. On medium heat, and fry the cinnamon, cloves and star anise for 30 seconds, don’t let them burn.
  • Add the ground paste and lemongrass and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Scrape the base of the pan to incorporate all the sticky bits from the chicken earlier.
  • Add the tomato paste and ketchup and stir well.
  • Add the chicken, stirring to coat the meat with all that delicious paste.. Add the water, stir and let it come to a boil.
  • Lower the heat right down and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked, about 30 – 45 minutes, depending on size and part. Meat on the bone, drumsticks and legs are going to take longer than boneless breast meat.
  • Five minutes before the end of cooking time, add the sliced onion rings, stir and leave to simmer. If the curry is too dry for you, add a little water, perhaps no more than 125ml (½ cup). You don't want to dilute the flavours in the curry.
  • When the chicken is cooked, check the seasoning. Add more salt if you think it needs it.


Can be kept overnight, can also be frozen up to 3 months.


Calories: 364kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 22gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 85mgSodium: 602mgPotassium: 401mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 392IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 2mg
Keyword chicken recipes, curry, easy recipes
Tried this recipe?Mention @azlinbloor or tag #linsfood!
Made it? Upload your Photos!Mention @azlinbloor or tag #linsfood!

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8 thoughts on “Ayam Masak Merah (Red Chicken Curry)”

  1. Hi Azlin! Thanks for this recipe! I made this a couple of weeks ago and had spring onion pancakes with it, and they went together very nicely! I was looking high and low for a dry tomato-based chicken curry that I learnt back in secondary school during Home Econs, and I think Ayam Masak Merah might be the correct name for the dish. The teachers just called it Dry Chicken Curry. 😂 Thanks for this. It isn’t too sweet nor salty, which is just perfect!

  2. This looks great. Is it the same as the “dagan merah”, which I have enjoyed in Singapore many times? Ian

  3. Chandice Probst

    5 stars
    This chicken is so flavorful and moist! Perfect over rice or mashed potatoes…thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    This was one of the best curries I’ve ever had! So easy and so tasty! And thanks for clearing up that tomato paste and puree thing, I always get confused.

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