Sumiko Tan tries out Violet Oon's Satay Ayam Goreng recipe and here's the result

Violet Oon's Satay Ayam Goreng (left) and Sumiko Tan's attempt at the dish.
Violet Oon's Satay Ayam Goreng (left) and Sumiko Tan's attempt at the dish.PHOTOS: VIOLET OON/SUMIKO TAN
Violet Oon’s version of Satay Ayam Goreng.
Violet Oon’s version of Satay Ayam Goreng.PHOTO: VIOLET OON
Sumiko Tan’s attempt at Violet Oon’s Satay Ayam Goreng. It was still yummy, though.
Sumiko Tan’s attempt at Violet Oon’s Satay Ayam Goreng. It was still yummy, though.ST PHOTO: SUMIKO TAN

Okay, just to be clear, the Satay Ayam Goreng that you should be aiming for is the one in the photo on the left, with the chicken covered by a thick, luscious sauce, and not the one in the picture on the right that looks like a Thai curry.

The first is by Singapore cooking doyenne and restaurateur Violet Oon, and the second is by me using her recipe but - alas - not following it to a T.

I can't cook. I've never tried cooking anything more complicated than fried rice and I get easily flustered in the kitchen. But, inspired by how Oon believes anyone can cook if they put their mind to it, I decided to give it a go.

She'd sent me two versions of her Satay Ayam Goreng recipe - the original where you have to do complicated things like pound the ingredients yourself, and a simplified one where you use store-bought dried chilli and sambal belacan.

I opted for the simpler recipe of course, but couldn't find bottled dried chilli at the two supermarkets I went to in search of them. Feeling tired already, I decided to buy the fresh and dried chilli stated in her original recipe, but used more than what it stated (just in case, you know.)

 

I also discovered that I didn't have a proper measuring cup at home. Upon Googling, I found out that 1 cup equals 8oz, so I used a glass which I estimated was 8oz. I probably added too much liquid.

I also used less chicken than the 500g stated in the recipe and, more importantly I think, I didn't simmer the dish for the time Oon said I should. I was worried that the small chicken pieces (I'd probably sliced them too thin) would be overcooked and instead of letting the mixture simmer for up to 15 minutes, removed the saucepan after about 10.

In the midst (and stress) of cooking, I couldn't locate in my e-mail the photo Oon had sent me of the dish, which would have allowed me to compare what I was cooking with how it should look like.

Still, I must say my version was rather delicious. My family agreed.

I sent a photo of it to Oon, who was very encouraging.

"Bravo for a first effort," she Whatsapped.

When I pointed out that my version had too much gravy, she agreed. Yes, there is a little too much, she said, but never mind, "you can drain and keep some of gravy - you can actually cook another batch of chicken".

Most importantly, she said, "the taste must be yummy - nothing else counts".

Well, it was yummy.

And the best part was, she assured me that "it'll get easier as you continue to cook".

ORIGINAL SATAY AYAM GORENG

Also known as CHICKEN LEMAK

By VIOLET OON

500g chicken, cut into pieces

2 cups thick coconut cream squeezed from 3 grated coconuts

4tbsp vegetable oil

½ to ¾ tsp salt

2-4 tsp sugar

1 stalk lemongrass, smashed

4 daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves)

SPICE MIXTURE INGREDIENTS

4 dried chillies or 2 tbsp dried chilli paste

4 candlenuts, washed and drained

4 fresh red chillies, sliced roughly

100g shallots, peeled, sliced roughly

1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)

1 tbsp coriander powder *

NOTE: *Coriander powder: Dry fry coriander seeds in a frying pan till fragrant. Grind in a coffee grinder and sieve.

OR buy ready ground coriander powder from the supermarket like McCormick's

METHOD

1. Wash dried chillies, soak in hot water for about 30 minutes till softened. Cut the stalks off and cut the chillies into small pieces.

2. Pound the candlenuts till semi-fine. Add the dried chillies, pound for about 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add the shrimp paste and pound well. The last ingredient to add is the shallots. Pound till the mixture is very fine. Alternatively, you can grind the ingredients in a food processor till you get a smooth paste.

4. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan OR wok and bring to the boil. Simmer till the liquid is reduced and the gravy is thick. The meat should be tender.

5. Remove the lemon grass and lime leaves before serving. Or leave them in the gravy for that authentic natural country look.
 

SIMPLE SATAY AYAM GORENG

Also known as CHICKEN LEMAK

By VIOLET OON

500g chicken, cut into pieces, boneless chicken thigh or breast, cut into 4 cm chunks

1 cup thick coconut cream from a packet - KARA is good to use

1 cup water

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1⁄2 to 3⁄4 tsp salt

2-4 tsp sugar

1 stalk lemongrass, smashed

4 daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves)

2 tbsp dried chilli paste, ready made from a bottle

1 tbsp ready made sambal belacan, from a bottle

1 tbsp coriander powder

SPICE MIXTURE INGREDIENTS

4 candlenuts, washed and drained

150g shallots, peeled, sliced roughly

METHOD

1. Pound or grind the candlenuts with the shallots till you get a smooth paste and the texture is fine. Use a small food processor with a bowl small enough to be 1⁄2 filled with the onions and candlenuts. This will allow the blade to catch each ingredients to cut into a fine paste. The mixture should be able to turn on its own while grinding. If it is difficult, add a little of the water to the spices - around 1⁄4 cup.

2. Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan OR wok and bring to the boil over high heat till the liquid is bubbling. Turn heat down to medium and simmer till the liquid is reduced and the gravy is thick - for about 10-15 minutes for boneless chicken pieces of around 4 cm chunks. The meat should be tender. Bone-in chicken will take around 25-35 minutes to cook through.

3. Remove the lemon grass and lime leaves before serving. Or leave them in the gravy for that authentic natural country look. Serve with steamed rice.

TO STORE Leave to cool till room temperature - store in a container with a lid, chill for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1-2 weeks.