Hed Chef

Give chicken a tart kick with belimbing asam

Spicy chicken with belimbing asam. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - It is best that you try growing your own belimbing asam if you are a fan of the sour fruit.

It is not easily found in neighbourhood markets.

But if you must buy it, Geylang Serai Market is your best bet.

The fruit has a refreshing tang.

The ones I used in this recipe were home-grown, as were the turmeric leaf, pandan leaves and kaffir lime leaves.

I find it useful to have these ingredients on hand. Turmeric leaf lends a beautiful fragrance to curries and other spicy dishes.

In a bid to cut calories, I skipped the coconut milk but the gravy was still relatively thick.

What I like about this dish is the sour edge, which cuts the richness of the stew and makes it appetising.

Spicy chicken with belimbing asam



10g galangal, sliced
20g fresh turmeric, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, use only 5cm of the white root part, sliced
3 garlic cloves
120g shallots
10 red finger chillies
5 chilli padi
1 Tbs belacan powder


3 Tbs cooking oil
1 star anise
3 cloves
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 whole chicken (1kg), skinned, cut into large pieces
1 red onion (100g), sectioned
750ml water
1 turmeric leaf, torn
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 pandan leaves, knotted
1 Tbs of assam jawa (tamarind pulp) mixed with 3 Tbs water
2 tsp salt
50g belimbing asam, halved lengthwise


1. Grind rempah ingredients in a food processor, starting with the hard ones like galangal, fresh turmeric, and lemongrass. Then add the garlic and shallots, followed by the red finger chillies, chilli padi and belacan powder. Add a little water and blend into a smooth paste.

2. Heat oil in a wok, fry the rempah over medium-low heat for five minutes. Add star anise and cloves.


3. Keep frying the rempah over low heat until paste thickens and oil is visible on the surface. This should take another 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Add the brown sugar. Stir to dissolve it. Add the chicken.

5. Fry until chicken starts turning opaque. Add the red onion.


6. Add the water, turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaves and pandan leaves.

7. Once the gravy begins to boil, cook for 10 minutes.

8. Strain the tamarind mixture, discard seeds.

9. Add the tamarind juice to the chicken.

10. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender. Add the belimbing asam two minutes before the chicken is done.

11. Add salt.

Serves six with rice and other dishes.


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