Indonesian Chicken Curry (Opor Ayam)

Indonesian Chicken Curry (Opor Ayam)

This luxurious chicken stew from Java is a staple of the Indonesian kitchen, made by simmering the meat in coconut milk with curry paste and lemongrass. The chef Retno Pratiwi grew up eating the dish on special occasions in West Java, and continues to make it at her pop-up restaurant in Boston, always opting for drumsticks over white meat. Though the shallots are traditionally incorporated raw into the curry paste, Pratiwi prefers to caramelize them first to bring out their sweetness. It adds a little time to the process, but the final result is worth it.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 6 persons



  1. Step 1

    In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the coriander seeds for 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder.
  2. Step 2

    In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove shallots to a food processor and set aside. Add the garlic cloves and candlenuts to the same pan and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and candlenuts to the shallots in the food processor along with the kaempferia galanga root, white pepper and 2 tablespoons water; purée into a paste.
  3. Step 3

    Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the sauté pan over medium heat and add the ginger, galangal, lemongrass, salam leaves and lime leaves, scrunching the lime leaves in your hands as you drop them into the pot. Allow to cook until the ingredients start to smell less intense and raw, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Step 4

    Stir the ground coriander seeds, shallot paste mixture and tomato into the pan. Reduce the heat to low and slowly stir in the coconut milk, a little at a time, to keep the sauce from breaking. When all the coconut milk is incorporated and the mixture is gently simmering, add the chicken stock. Nestle the chicken into the pan and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Cover and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the dish is aromatic. You may have to adjust the heat to keep the mixture at a gentle simmer. (Do not boil.) Season to taste with salt. Before serving, remove the galangal, ginger, lemongrass, salam and makrut leaves. Serve with rice.