Seasoned Chicken in Coconut Milk (ajam opor)

The dish is from Central Java, the area of Yogyakarta, the birthplace of Keasberry’s father. Opor is the term in Indonesia that refers to the method of cooking/braising in coconut milk with a mixture of spices, explains Keasberry. 

Serves 6

  • 6 chicken leg quarters, separated into thighs and drumsticks
  • 5 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed of the green parts down to 2 inches from the bottom
  • 3 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh galangal
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 cup full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 candlenuts (available at most Southeast Asian grocery stores) or raw macadamia nuts
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Indonesian shrimp paste (terasi) or any Southeast Asian shrimp paste, diluted with 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 6 cups cooked long grain rice, for serving

Place a wok over high heat. Sear the chicken on all sides until the skin has released some fat and the chicken is browned on all side but not cooked through; transfer to a platter. While the wok is still hot, sear the potatoes in the rendered chicken fat in the wok until browned on all side but not cooked through; transfer to a plate. Put the chicken back in the wok and cover it with water; add the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, chicken bouillon granules, and coconut milk. Simmer, covered, over low heat.

Meanwhile, put the oil in a small skillet set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the candlenuts, diluted shrimp paste, tamarind, pepper, salt, nutmeg, sugar, and cloves; stir until combined. Add the spice mixture to the chicken that has been simmering in the wok adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the simmer.

When the chicken is about 15 minutes away from being tender, stir in the fried potatoes and the peeled boiled eggs. Simmer a few more minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the chicken is tender and the oil has risen to the surface, the dish is done.

Remove and discard all the hard herbs and lime leaves (or keep them as garnishes) and serve the dish with rice.

Adapted with permission from Indo Dutch Kitchen Secrets: Stories & Favorite Family Recipes from Stroopwafel to Rijsttafel by Jeff Keasberry, copyright © 2017. Published by Mascot Books.

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