RECIPE: Zachary Tan's Malay chicken

Zachary Tan's Malay chicken. Photography: Adrian Lee

Executive chef of Devon Cafe, Zachary Tan, shares his love for spicy Malaysian cooking with his recipe for Malay chicken.

Serves 8

Coconut-spiced sauce
Makes approximately 500 g
3 sticks lemongrass (tender parts only)
15 g fresh turmeric
40 g garlic cloves, peeled
25 g ginger
25 g galangal
25 g dried chilli, deseeded (adjust quantity for own preference)
10 g long red chilli, deseeded
100 g vegetable oil
60 g white palm sugar
50 g fish sauce
60 g tamarind juice
10 g salt
200-300 g coconut cream


  • Begin by soaking the dried chilli in warm water. Next roughly chop the lemongrass, turmeric, garlic, ginger, galangal and red chilli, and combine together in a large bowl. Once the dried chillies are rehydrated, drain well and add to the other chopped ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a high-speed blender and add 50 g vegetable oil. Blend until a smooth paste is formed, adding a little water if necessary.
  • In a wok or a heavy-base, wide pan on medium-high heat, cook the paste with the remaining vegetable oil, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Cook until the paste changes colour from orange to a dark, rich amber and the oil splits from the paste. Season the cooked spice mix with remaining ingredients and mix well.

Sambal belacan
2 cm block of shrimp paste
5 long red chillies
3 bird’s eye chillies
1 tsp sugar
1 large lime or 3 calamansi limes, juiced


  • In a pan on low heat, toast the shrimp paste for 5 minutes or until crumbly. Set aside.
  • Deseed the chillies and chop into rough pieces. Transfer the chilli to a mortar and pestle, add the sugar. Pound until smooth. Add the shrimp paste and the lime juice. Combine well.

Malay chicken
2 free range chickens, size 16, butterflied
4 limes, quartered


  • Lightly score the thigh and breast of the chickens. Marinate overnight with roughly 150 grams of coconut-spiced sauce. Cryovac in a large bag and cook at 70°C for 60 minutes, or until the thighs register 70°C on a temperature probe.
  • Finish cooking chicken on hot coals, using extra marinade to continually baste the chicken.
  • Serve the chicken with lime wedges, the sambal belacan and some coconut rice.

Zachary Tan is the executive chef of Devon Cafe.