Marinated in a fragrant curry paste before tossing in cornflour to make the coating ultra craggy and crunchy as it fries, Ayam Goreng is Malaysia’s answer to Southern Fried Chicken. In the crowded playing field of fried chicken, it’s a hot contender for the world’s best!
Ayam Goreng (Malaysian Fried Chicken)
Human beings love fried chicken. It explains why so many cultures have some version of this wickedly delicious food, and every country thinks their version is king.
But why play favourites? I think there is room in this world (and my belly) for all great fried chickens to happily coexist. For one, my mother would put my head on a stick if I didn’t make mention of Karaage (Japanese fried chicken). And if you haven’t yet tried Homemade Southern-style KFC, your life is about to drastically improve because it truly kicks the Colonel’s soggy stuff to the curb!
Which brings us to the Malaysians and Indonesians. Their version of fried chicken is called Ayam Goreng in Malay (literally, well, “fried chicken”!) Or should I say versions – these nations are so bonkers about fried chicken they have not one but at least a dozen different styles! Some battered, some floured, some simply marinated and fried with no coating at all. Some come slathered with fiery sambal, others with beguiling sauces, and others still are served plain to let their crunchy glory shine.
This version I’m sharing today is a Malaysian-style Ayam Goreng. We marinate the chicken in a rich curry paste packed with classic South-East Asian ingredients. Adding a little flour to the mix just before frying then gives you a crispy, salty, craggy crust that’s a total flavour bomb!
Ingredients in Ayam Goreng
Here’s what you need to make the marinade for the Ayam Goreng:
In the recipe video below, I show how to prepare/peel/cut the galangal and lemongrass. So don’t be concerned if you’re new to them. 🙂
Galangal is an ingredient used in South East Asian cooking that looks similar to ginger. It also tastes like ginger but is more citrusy and a little pine-y. It’s actually pretty hard to cut so take care when slicing it! Peel it like ginger, either with a sharp edge teaspoon or (carefully!) with a small knife.
Find it at Asian stores, and in some large grocery stores in Australia (Harris Farm and some Woolworths sell it).
Sub: Use the same amount of ginger + the zest of 1 lime (or lemon).
Lemongrass – To prepare, cut and discard the top reedy part off – we only want the bottom 10 – 12cm / 4 – 5″. Peel the reedy green shell to reveal the softer white part on the bottom half of the lemongrass.
Sub: 1 tbsp lemongrass paste.
Eschalots – Also known as French onions, and are called “shallots” in the US. They look like baby onions, but have purple-skinned flesh, and are finer and sweeter. Not to be confused with what some people in Australia call “shallots” ie the long green onions.
They vary drastically in size! We want to use 2 x small(ish) ones, around 2/3 cup in total once chopped.
Ginger and garlic – Common (but essential!) aromatics in this Malaysian curry marinade.
Salt – The recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons which might sound like a lot, but we want it to penetrate all the way through into the flesh!
Note: I use cooking/kosher salt in cooking which is larger grains that table salt. So if you’ve only got table salt, reduce it to 1 teaspoon (because the grains are much finer, so 1 teaspoon table salt = just under 1 1/2 teaspoons of cooking salt by weight).
Coconut milk – This provides the liquid for the marinade so it can be blitzed. Some recipes just use water. I promise you, coconut milk makes it all the more delicious! The small amount we use doesn’t make it coconut-y (which would not be traditional) but it adds a touch of sweetness (traditional) and just more flavour than, well, water!
Spices – The spices shown above are fairly standard for Ayam Goreng. Some recipes use less, some more. This mix provides plenty of authentic flavour.
The cumin, coriander and fennel seeds are toasted then blitzed into a powder first before adding the rest of the curry paste ingredients. Toasting is essential because it brings out the flavour!
Chicken for Ayam Goreng
I buy bone-in thighs, drumsticks and wings for ease. For a true Malaysian fried chicken experience, cut up your own chicken so you get breast pieces as well, but ensure you keep the skin on and bone in. Cut the breast into 2 pieces through the bone.
Smaller is better – Thigh pieces that are 200g/7oz or less each are better, to ensure they cook through so that you don’t need to fuss with finishing them in the oven. I’ve cooked 220g/7.7oz bone-in thighs with no problems. If they are large 250g/8.8oz ones then you either need to fry them to a very, very deep golden in the oil OR finish in oven.
Chicken bites: Ayam Goreng works really well as bite-size chicken pieces too. Use boneless thigh fillets, cut into large 4 x 5cm / 1.6 x 2″ pieces. Follow the recipe, except cook for just 3 minutes.
How to make Ayam Goreng
This recipe involves blitzing up a curry paste, marinating the chicken in it to infuse it with (awesome!) flavour, adding cornflour to make a craggy crunchy coating, then frying to golden perfection!
Toast spices: Toast spices in a small skillet over medium heat (no oil) for 2 minutes or until the spices smell fragrant. The purpose of this step is to bring out the flavour.
As soon as they are toasted, immediately transfer seeds into Nutribullet, a small food processor OR into a tall jug that fits a stick blender. Don’t leave them sitting around in the skillet – the residual heat will burn those tiny little seeds!
Curry paste: Add remaining Curry Paste ingredients in the Nutribullet (or blitzing appliance of choice).
Blitz until smooth. It doesn’t need to be 100% smooth like when making curry pastes because any chunks get cooked when it fries. But nor do you want big chunks. Aim for just pretty smooth – a bit of graininess when rubbed between your fingers is ok.
Marinate: Pour Curry Paste over chicken in a ziplock bag, toss to coat, then marinate for 24 hours in the fridge, up to 48 hours. Any longer than this doesn’t add any more flavour, and I’d start to be concerned about compromising the freshness of the chicken.
Bowl vs ziplock bag – I try to reuse ziplock bags whenever possible but it’s not viable in this case because the marinade is greasy and makes the bag smell. While a bowl will work, it doesn’t quite have the same marinating effect because it doesn’t envelope the curry paste all around the chicken in the same way.
Cornflour / cornstarch – Next, we toss the chicken in cornflour / cornstarch. It mixes into the marinade paste to make it thicker and stick to the chicken which fries up into a delicious craggy crust.
Cornflour works better than wheat flour because it fries up crisper. A little fried food trivia for your day!
Fry in oil preheated to 180°C/350°F for 8 minutes (wings for 5 minutes), or until deep golden brown and internal temperature at thickest part is 75°C / 167°F.
I use vegetable or canola oil for frying. But any neutral oil will work fine here, even a light olive oil.
For the frying vessel, I like to use my heavy-based cast iron pot (Dutch oven) which retains and distributes heat evenly. I also feel it’s safer because it’s deep and it’s heavy so it’s unlike to move on the stove.
Air fryers: Sorry, this won’t work with an air fryer! The batter is quite wet so it’s unlikely to properly crisp. Feel free to try though, and let everyone know in the comments how you went!
If you’re a bit of fried chicken connoisseur, you’ll notice that Ayam Goreng is quite a bit darker in colour than Southern Fried Chicken. This is because of the curry marinade, that has become part of the crust. Those words should really make your knees weak. And lordy, the smell of this chicken!!! *She feels faint at the memory*
I sprinkled these with a little garnish of crispy and salty garlic with chilli and green onions just for a little colour and even more flavour. It’s not traditional – in fact, it’s something I borrowed from Chinese salt and pepper squid! 😂 So it’s 100% optional.
What to serve with Malaysian Fried Chicken
I confess my Malaysian recipe collection is somewhat wanting. But being a melting pot culture with a large Chinese population, pretty much any Chinese dish will be right at home alongside Ayam Goreng.
Serve it with a side of Fried Rice (or even more authentically, Coconut Rice! Also see the astonishingly popular Baked Fried Rice from earlier this week) and a fresh Asian Leafy Salad or Asian Slaw. For something with zing, Green Papaya Salad would be sensational on the side of this!
Sesame Noodles which are served at room temperature would also go very well, as would this Lettuce with Sesame Dressing (honestly, I could eat a whole head of iceberg lettuce with this dressing!).
Enjoy! – Nagi x
PS. In case you’re wondering, you absolutely do NOT need a dipping sauce for this fried chicken! It’s flavoured right through to the bone, and the crust is extremely well seasoned.
Watch how to make it
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Ayam Goreng (Malaysian Fried Chicken)
- 1.25 kg / 2.5 lb chichen thighs ad drumsticks, bone in skin on (I use 4 thighs, 3 drumsticks, Note 1)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
Ayam Goreng Curry Paste:
- 3 garlic cloves , roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger , roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp galangal , roughly chopped (Note 2)
- 1 1/2 tsp curry powder (any type fine, mild or spicy – your choice)
- 1 lemongrass , white part only roughly chopped (Note 3)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 small eshalots (French onions, US: shallots), peeled and roughly chopped (Note 4)
- 1 1/2 tsp cooking/kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder , adjust to taste (Note 5)
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 7 tbsp coconut milk (full fat best!)
- 1/2 cup cornflour / cornstarch
- 1.75 litres / quarts vegetable or canola oil
- 1 tbsp garlic ,minced (not too small, else it burns)
- 1 tbsp large red chilli (cayenne pepper), deseeded and minced
- 1 tbsp green onion , minced
- Pinch of salt
- Coriander/cilantro leaves
- Toast spices: Toast spices in a small skillet over medium heat (no oil) for 2 minutes or until the spices smell fragrant. Transfer seeds into Nutribullet, small food processor OR into a tall jug that fits a stick blender.
- Curry paste: Add remaining Curry Paste ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Marinate: Pour Curry Paste over chicken in a ziplock bag (or bowl, Note 6). Toss to coat, then marinate for 24 hours in the fridge, up to 48 hours.
PREPARE TO COOK (WORK IN SPECIFIED ORDER OF STEPS):
- Dechill chicken: Remove chicken from fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking and transfer into a bowl (most marinade should be stuck to chicken).
- Preheat oven to 80°C/175°F and place rack on tray – to keep chicken warm. (Note 7)
- Cornflour coating: Add cornflour to chicken and toss to coat – it will thicken the paste, this is what makes the craggy coating.
- Heat oil 180°C/350°F: Pour oil into a wide, heavy based pot to a depth of 6 cm / 2.5 " (my 26cm/10.5" cast iron pot = 1.75L/quarts oil, Note 8). Heat over medium high heat to 180°C/350°F – maintain temp as best you can (Note 9). This recipe will NOT work well with an air fryer – see Note 8.
- Fry: Carefully place 3 pieces of chicken in, do not touch for 2 min (to let crust adhere). Oil temperature should drop to 150°C/300°C – increase heat if needed.
- Fry 8 minutes (75°C / 167°F): Fry for 8 minutes (wings for 5 minutes), or until deep golden brown and internal temperature at thickest part is 75°C / 167°F.
- Keep warm: Place cooked chicken onto rack and keep warm in oven. Cook remaining chicken.
- Serve immediately, sprinkled with coriander and garlic-chilli garnish, if using. See in post for side dish suggestions!
- Heat 3 tbsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chilli, cook until garlic is starting to go light golden. Then add green onion and cook until garlic is golden. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Cool then sprinkle on chicken.
Life of Dozer
Dozer, these are called lobsters and you will never know what they taste like.
(Oh wait, that’s a total lie! There was one time…or two… 😂)
PS In case you are wondering, no, a whole tray of fresh lobsters isn’t an everyday cooking event in my world! It just so happens that I have a local friend who is a diver who keeps catching crays! These were all caught at local beaches (Mona Vale, Newport and Bungan Beach).
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