Close up shot of Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Padi, also called Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Api

Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Padi (Malaysian Chicken Curry with Bird’s Eye Chilli)

  • Author: Azlin Bloor
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8 1x


Recipe for Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Padi, a traditional Malay coconut chicken curry that is said to be from the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan.



  • 1kg (2.2 lb) chicken portions, some on the bone
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp OR 1 Tbsp lime juice OR 1 Tbsp clear vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp water (for the tamarind)
  • 400 ml (1 3/5 cup) canned coconut milk OR equivalent amount from 1 coconut
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves

Ingredients to be ground

  • I red onion
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 10 green bird’s eye chillies
  • 5 red bird’s eye chillies
  • 1” fresh turmeric OR 1/2 tsp turmeric powder


Prep Work

  1. Coat the chicken pieces with 1 tsp ground turmeric and the salt. Set aside while you get all the other ingredients ready.
  2. Cut the lemongrass in half, discarding the top half. Using the back of the knife, pound down on the base (bulbous end) of the lemongrass to split it roughly. This is called bruising the lemongrass. Set aside.
  3. Make a paste with the tamarind pulp and the 4 Tbsp of water. Mix well with your fingers. Strain through a medium mesh sieve and set aside.
  4. Place all the ingredients to be ground in a chopper and chop to a fine paste.

Let’s Cook Ayam Masak Cili Padi

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok on medium-high heat and brown the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the chicken as you add the chicken to the saucepan/wok. You may have to brown the chicken in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan. In that case, tip the first half onto a plate and do the second batch before going on to step 2. Divide the oil and sugar in 2, as well. You don’t really need much oil to brown the chicken.
  2. When the chicken has taken on some colour, tip in the ground paste and the lemongrass and fry for 2 minutes, coating the chicken well.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk, reserving about 2 Tbsp of the thick cream at the top. Also add the lime leaves, if using. If you are lucky enough to have freshly squeezed coconut milk, add only the second and third pressings, reserving the thick coconut milk to finish off. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Bring everything to a gentle boil and then lower the heat down and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until your chicken is cooked.
  5. When done, check seasoning and add more salt, if needed. That’s it, dish up with some plain rice and a side vegetable dish.

  • Category: Main Course with Rice
  • Method: Easy
  • Cuisine: Malaysian