Ayam penyet, or literally ‘smashed chicken’ in English is a traditional Indonesian dish that originates from East Java. Over the past few years, ayam penyet has made its gastronomic journey throughout Southeast Asia and is now a popular favourite in Malaysia and Singapore as well. It is a seemingly simple dish that is delicious and widely available everywhere, from roadside warungs (stalls) to five-star hotel restaurants.
Simple and ubiquitous as the dish may be, not many are aware that making ayam penyet is actually quite a tedious process – to make a good one, at least. Firstly, the chicken can’t just be marinated directly, it has to first be boiled for 15 minutes in order to ensure that the flesh is extra soft and ‘immersive’ for the marinating ingredients.
However, some even believe that pre-boiling for the chicken is not necessary. Nonetheless, to ensure that the meat is thoroughly softened and tenderised, you must have the patience to let it deep-fry over very low heat. Some believe that this is the real secret behind a magnificent ayam penyet: slow frying over low heat.
While it is a norm to have the ayam penyet served with regular white rice, some restaurants go the extra distance to cook the rice with the water derived from boiling the chicken. It will definitely make for a tastier and more aromatic rice!
While the chicken is boiling, it’s time to prepare the marinating ingredients. These ingredients may vary according to the chef’s personal preference, but the usual ingredients would include candlenuts, garlic, turmeric, old ginger, coriander seeds, as well as salt and sugar to taste. After mixing the ingredients together, marinate the chicken with it overnight to ensure that the flavours and spices get ample time to permeate the meat.
While waiting for the chicken to marinate, or just before the chicken is ready for deep-frying, it is time to prepare the icing of the ayam penyet cake: the sambal.
Just like the marinate, the ingredients of the sambal are subject to the chef’s preference, but normal ingredients would include chillies, bird’s eye chillies, red onion, garlic, tomato, as well as sugar and salt to taste. Pound these ingredients together with a pestle and mortar and fry them together in a wok for five minutes until all ingredients are softened.
Now for the grand finale: the ayam penyet itself. An hour before cooking, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to almost room temperature. In a wok, heat 600 ml of oil to deep-frying temperature over medium heat. Chicken should be fried for 10 minutes on each side over low heat after being coated in a mixture of ordinary flour, corn flour, and salt (optional.
To remove extra oil, place the fried chicken on paper towels. Smash the chicken with a pestle or the side of a cleaver before serving. Rice, sambal, and cucumber should be served on the side. There you have it, your magnificent ayam penyet. Better still, save yourself the hassle in the kitchen and head on straight to our restaurant!