Prep Time: 10 Mins
Oh, I just love this dish. Ayam masak merah basically translates to “chicken cooked red”. It is definitely red and always looks so great, almost like it’s radioactive. Although it is spicy, the tang of the tomato in this vegan ayam masak merah will keep you coming back for more.
In Singapore or Malaysia, ayam masak merah is a little bit of a holiday or special occasion dish. It is usually made in rather large quantities to share with family and friends. Like all quintessential Malay food, store it overnight and it tastes better the next day. It’s majiiiiiiik~ Of course, even if you don’t have friends, you can make it for yourself and eat it all, fuck em.
And, like all quintessential Malay food, there are a lot of steps to creating an amazing flavour profile, even in very simple-looking dishes. You might be tempted to just throw all the ingredients into the pot and boil it down but it’s not going to work. Every single step is worth it, trust me. I know it looks like a pasta sauce, but it’s not.
The tapioca starch in the batter creates a chewy texture, which mimics chick’un skin. I know, the idea is super gross! But hey, no chickens are being harmed, and the texture makes my mouth sing. If you don’t dig that at all, just leave out the tapioca starch or replace with corn starch batter.
In this vegan ayam masak merah, I used half tofu half king oyster mushroom, like in Vegan Singapore Not-Curry Chicken. If you wanna just use tofu or another kind of vegan protein, go ahead!
To make this for kids or the heat-challenged, just don’t add the red chillies.
Blend all the ingredients for the spice paste (rempah).
Heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan and add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and star anise. Fry until fragrant, being careful not to burn the whole spices.
Move the whole spices to the side and Add the rempah in the middle.
Fry until the spice paste is darkened and reduced in size, and oil has is coming out the top of the paste. Add the tomato paste or diced tomatoes and mix well.
Add the water, vegetable stock granules, tomato sauce, and bring to boil. Turn the heat down to low and leave to simmer and reduce.
While the sauce is reducing, put the ingredients for the batter in a bowl and mix well. Add the water. Basically, the water is the same amount as the flour + tapioca starch amount, plus another 1 tbsp. Check and make sure it is like a thick yoghurt.
Slice the king oyster mushrooms into half lengthwise, and make one or two scours from the hard side about 3/4 of the way.
Heat about 800ml or four fingers depth of oil in a large and deep saucepan. Drip a small amount of batter into the oil, if the batter cooks and rises immediately, the oil is hot enough. Dip your mushrooms and tofu in the batter and carefully drop them into the pan.
When they are golden brown, remove and drain.
By now the sauce should be significantly reduced. You can remove the whole spices from the sauce now to prevent tooth crunching, or just leave them in. I quite enjoy it as a chopsticks dexterity exercise.
Peel and finely slice the last remaining red onion, leaving the rings intact. Add most of the red onion into the sauce, leaving a few rings for garnish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
When the sauce is this consistency, it is ready.
Gently fold the fried tofu and mushroom into the sauce. Don't be too violent or their 'skin' will all fall off.
Garnish with chopped spring onions and a few O rings of red onion.