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Malaysian Chicken in Chilli Tomato Sauce (Ayam Masak Merah)

by Ploy

Malaysian Chicken in Chilli Tomato Sauce (Ayam Masak Merah)

Prep: 30 mins  Cooking: 1 hour & 10 mins  Serves: 4


2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp salt

1.2kg (2.6lb) whole chicken cut into 8-10 pieces

Peanut oil for deep-frying

2 whole star anise

1 cinnamon stick

4 cardamom pods, crushed

4 dried cloves

½ cup tomato passata

1-2 tbsp chilli sauce, such as sriracha

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 lime, juiced, plus extra wedges to serve

1 tsp caster sugar

Steamed rice, to serve

Chilli paste

15 dried red chillies (less if you prefer it milder) 

6 red shallots, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3cm (1in)-piece ginger, chopped

3cm (1in)-piece galangal, chopped

1 lemongrass stalk, bruised and pale part roughly chopped 




Place the turmeric and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and use tongs to turn to coat. Set aside until required. (You can use your hands but they’ll become stained with the turmeric!


To make the paste, soak the dried chillies in hot water for 10-15 minutes or until softened. Remove the chillies (it doesn’t matter if you don’t drain them completely as some water is fine). Reserve the chilli soaking water. Roughly chop the chillies and then place them into the bowl of a small food processor along with the remaining ingredients and a large pinch salt. Blend until smooth, adding some of the chilli soaking water a tablespoon at a time if the ingredients aren’t blending smoothly.


Fill a saucepan or wok to about 1/3 capacity with the oil. Heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot (325°F or 165°C or when a wooden spoon dipped into the oil forms small little bubbles), cook the chicken, in batches, turning halfway, for 10 minutes each batch or until golden. Transfer to a baking tray lined with paper towel. 


Pour all but 1/3 cup of the oil from the pan or wok. Add the chilli paste, reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes or until the oil rises to the surface. Add the star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom. Stir to combine. Add the passata, chilli sauce and 11/2 cups water. Return the chicken and simmer for 30 mins, turning chicken halfway, or until the sauce is thick and the chicken is tender. Stir in the chopped tomato and cook for 5 minutes.


Transfer the chicken to a platter. Season the sauce with sugar and lime juice. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve with extra lime wedges and steamed rice.