Chicken rendang is a traditional Malaysian-Indonesian dish that takes the savoury taste of chicken and aromatizes it with exotic spices.
It’s often hailed as one of the world’s best foods; even Gordon Ramsay has tried his hand at this popular Southeast Asian dish before! What’s there not to like when this Minangkabau speciality is rich and tender all at once? It is the perfect meal for any time of the day.
The recipe we’re sharing is a Nyonya style recipe that is simple yet keeps the authentic flavour of the rendang intact. If you’re ready to become the next chicken rendang Masterchef, continue reading.
What is Chicken Rendang made out of?
The foundation of this Nyonya dry chicken curry dish lies in the poultry used. In this dish, chicken meat is slow-cooked, allowing it to absorb the juicy goodness of various spices. The spices commonly used in a rendang recipe are lemongrass, galangal, shallots and more.
In the Malay and Indonesian languages, the locals call this blended paste of exotic ground spices ‘rempah’.
The nutty buttery flavour of this Southeast Asian dish can be achieved by using coconut milk. Once the cooking process shifts from boiling to frying, the coconut milk evaporates and leaves the poultry tender.
As a final touch, mix in some kerisik (toasted and pounded coconut) once the cooking process is almost done. With that, it is complete – a healthy chicken rendang recipe!
This dish has a very intricate history rooted in Minangkabau culture. As it is widespread all around Southeast Asia, it also has many recipe variations. A few notable ones are as follows:
Chicken rendang Minangkabau recipe
The original rendang recipe comes from the ethnic Minangkabau people of West Sumatera. It consists of two categories: rendang darek (‘land rendang’) and rendang pesisir (‘coastal rendang’).
For rendang darek, what are often used as ingredients are animal products and vegetables that can be found in the mountainous areas of the Minangkabau Highlands.
On the other hand, rendang pesisir consists of seafood instead.
Nasi Lemak chicken rendang recipe
his dry curry dish is very versatile and can be served with many other foods, the best way to serve it would be with nasi lemak.
Nasi lemak, a traditional Malay dish, consists of rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk. It’s an explosion of flavours with savoury anchovies, cool cucumbers and spicy chilli paste (sambal) served on the side.
When served with the chicken curry dish, this comfort food staple turns into the ultimate guilty pleasure for many foodies all around the globe.
Chicken rendang Nyonya style recipe
As per Malaysian foodie suggestions, this special dish is best made spicy to enjoy the true Malaysian way. It’s often served during festive events especially during Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and there’s a good reason why.
This Nyonya style recipe achieves a curry that has a heavenly aromatic fragrance that wafts through the air. Furthermore, the intense spices in the dish really do pack a punch!
A typical healthy serving of Nyonya style chicken rendang usually ranges from about 300 to 500 calories. Despite its low-calorie count, the dish itself is satisfying, fulfilling and is sure to satiate your cravings.
The key ingredient of this special Indonesian-Malaysian dish is chicken meat.
People usually use chicken breast to make this dish. However, we would say that chicken thighs taste the best when using this Nyonya style recipe.
This dish is usually made in large servings for a huge group of people. However, 450 grams of chicken meat should be enough for a family of four.
Rendang paste, also known as rempah, is a perfect blend of many aromatic spices. It usually includes chillies, galangal, garlic, ginger, shallots, and lemongrass.
With this paste, chicken rendang becomes a godly dish that transcends the taste of many other dishes.
This Southeast Asian dish is infused with the explosive flavour of a special type of paste – kerisik. This paste can be made by dry frying fresh or frozen grated coconut over medium heat.
Once it turns brown, it is pounded into smithereens until it oozes oil and creates a sticky paste. This toasted coconut paste is what gives rendang its distinctive aroma and taste.
You can make this dish so much healthier by mixing your chicken rendang with vegetables. Some common additions are water spinach (kangkung in Malay), cassava leaves or chayote.
Additionally, be sure to pay attention to the colour and the oil separation of the rendang! Traditional rendang should look dark and consists of oil that is able to both preserve the dish and add to its flavour.
This deliciously spiced chicken dish can also be prepared dry or wet. So do be sure to figure out which type of rendang you would like to make for maximum satisfaction!
If you’d like to prepare wet rendang, add more water and coconut milk. However, be aware that coconut milk may reduce the spiciness of the dish and overshadow the flavourful taste of the spices.
Using a pressure cooker
You may opt to use a pressure cooker to get that authentic savoury chicken rendang taste. This helps remove the need to sit through hours and hours of slow cooking (or ‘merendang’ in Malay).
Even though this dish is traditionally boiled for hours to make it tender, you can do this in just 30 minutes with a pressure cooker!
All you have to do is to blend the spices into a thick paste. Then, saute it until it’s fragrant, pour in some cream and add the chicken into the pressure cooker. After 30 minutes, the chicken meat will be succulent and absolutely delicious. So don’t worry about compromising the end result with this non-traditional cooking method.
Using a slow cooker
Another easy way to make chicken rendang without spendings hours of your time stirring the mix in a pot would be to use a slow cooker.
Throw in the blended paste of spices (rempah), chicken meat, coconut milk and water into the slow cooker. After just about 6 hours, this tender dish will be all ready to be served!
The final product will be moist and flavourful. This method produces a great dish that can be made if you’re busy and need to whip something tasty while you’re occupied.
Using an instant pot
You can also use an instant pot to make this classic Nyonya style chicken rendang. The instant pot helps to maintain its authentic taste without spending too much time on cooking.
Just prepare the spice paste (rempah) as usual by using a food processor or mortar and pestle. Then, saute some spiced for about 1 to 2 minutes and add spice paste to be cooked for 5 more minutes. You can then add in the chicken, the water and the coconut milk and cook it on manual high pressure for around 32 minutes.
This delicious chicken curry dish caramelized in spices should be stirred occasionally so that the meat doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Chicken Rendang Recipe (Nyonya Style)
- 50 g grated coconut
- 10 pcs fresh chilli peppers
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 4 cm galangal
- 2 pcs shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoon cooking oil
- 450 g chicken meat
- 150 g coconut milk
- 200 ml water
- 3 pcs kaffir lime leaves
- salt to taste
- Firstly, toast grated coconut over medium heat in a pan to make kerisik. Once it turns golden brown, remove the grated coconut from the pan. Then, pound it using a pestle and mortar until it releases oil.
- Next, blend chillies, galangal, garlic, shallots and lemongrass stalks in a food processor. Put some oil into a pan and set the heat to medium. Put the blend of ingredients into the pan and wait until the paste is fragrant.
- Add the kerisik (toasted grated coconut) into the pan and mix it until it is even. Next, add the chicken meat into the pan. Stir-fry using medium heat and wait for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add coconut milk into the pan. Then, add in salt to enhance the taste of the dish. Cook for about 5 minutes until the gravy becomes thick.
- Add some kaffir lime leaves to make the dish taste better. Then, mix it and serve the chicken rendang.
- The pestle and mortar are key for pounding the kerisik paste in order to bring out its flavours and aroma.
- Please note that due to the strong aromatic spices blended in the food processor, your device may smell of those spices after cooking for a while. Many Asian households use a separate food processor just for blending spices.
- This dish is best paired with coconut rice (nasi lemak), salad and hard-boiled eggs. You can also serve it with noodles, bread or without any additional dishes.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
There are many different methods of cooking this classic Malaysian dish at home with some home chefs adding their own twists. ‘A Pinch of Salt by Sara’ Youtube channel shares her own recipe that includes an addition of tamarind and turmeric leaves.
We hope you enjoyed this scrumptious Nyonya style chicken dish recipe!
Today, there is a growing number of Malaysian restaurants in metropolitans such as London that offer this scrumptious dish as a part of their main menu. Even Western chefs such as Tom Mullany have embraced the South East Asian culinary arts and opened their own spice-filled restaurants!
Before you decide to share your creation with the world on chicken rendang tok, share your photos on Instagram and tag @honestfoodtalks first.
Yours is unequivocally the best Chicken Rendang I have made... uncomplicated yet tastes brilliantly authentic !!!
Thank you ..
Discovered this went eating at this Malay restaurant in Mayfair - loved it! Thank you for the recipe, Arianna 🙂