Effortless Flavour: Ayam Kicap Manis – The Go-To Recipe for Your Weeknight Rotation!
Nostalgia! Ayam Kicap Manis, or Ayam Masak Kicap or Soy Sauce Braised Chicken, is a classic family homecooked dish for Malay households – and is an absolute childhood favourite of mine. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity and the ability to create a delightful dish with basic ingredients found in Singapore or Malaysian, actually Asian, kitchens.
Of course, I have a recipe for this right here, which is my Mom’s recipe. I tweaked this recipe to be a lot simpler. The key difference is in the use of dried chilli paste. My Mom will insist on using dried chilli paste as a starting base to the dish, giving it a gorgeous depth of richness and creaminess. Dried chilli paste is a staple in my home, but not in most others. I know even some Malay families do not have dried chilli paste in their pantries.
By the way, you can make dried chilli paste in bulk (like Mom!) and store it in your fridge. Dried chilli paste is the base of a lot of delicious Singapore and Malaysian recipes, so you will definitely find lots of use for it. I have the full recipe with detailed instructions in this post right here.
Why you will LOVE this Ayam Kicap Manis recipe?
- Ready in 30 Minutes!: Or even less! A combination of stir frying, power packed ingredients all work together to bring this to table in less than 30 minutes.
- Simplicity: Despite its complex flavors, Ayam Masak Kicap is relatively easy to prepare. Anyone home cook can easily recreate this beloved dish.
- Flavourful and Savoury: Ayam Masak Kicap offers a delightful blend of flavors that tickle the taste buds. The combination of sweet and savory notes from the dark, sweet soy sauce, the umami-rich chicken, and the aromatic spices creates a harmonious and satisfying taste experience.
- Spices and Aromatics: The dish’s use of aromatic spices, such as star anise, cinnamon, and cloves, adds depth and complexity to the overall flavour profile.
Key Ingredients for Kicap Manis Chicken / Ayam Kicap Manis
- Chicken: The star of the dish is chicken! Typically prepared with bone-in chicken pieces, such as thighs or drumsticks. I used boneless chicken thighs here, chopped into bite-sized pieces, for a quicker cook.
- Kicap Manis / Dark Sweet Soy Sauce: The KEY ingredient for Ayam Masak Kicap is the kicap of course! A good quality dark soy sauce is essential for Ayam Masak Kicap. ABC and Bango are great options, but I use Habhal’s. The dark soy sauce provides the dish with its characteristic rich, sweet, and savoury flavour. Kicap Manis is very easy to find, even outside of Asia, but if you can’t find it, then use dark soy sauce combined with some sugar to sweeten it slightly.
- Aromatics: Onions and garlic are used to create the base of the dish. Ginger is also typically used, but to keep this recipe as simple as possible, I omitted it. Feel free to include – simply stir fry with the onions and garlic until fragrant. Traditional Ayam Masak Kicap has dried chilli paste for the heat – we replicate that heat here with some cili padi or Thai Bird’s Eye Chillies! Feel free to omit to keep this heat-free.
- Dry Spices: The spices give the Ayam Masak Kicap its unique taste and flavour profile! Common spices used in the dish include star anise, cinnamon, and cloves for a gorgeous warmth and aromatic depth to the sauce. I added some cardamom as well since my Mom does that. These group of spices are also known as ‘empat sekawan’ or ‘four friends’ in the Malay language, since these are always used together.
Do I REALLY need these dry spices for Ayam Masak Kicap? The good news: NO! You can make a great chicken stir fry with just the kicap manis and aromatics! I’ve been there myself! The bulk of the flavour will still come from the kicap manis, but the dry spices are really what elevates the dish. These spices are easy to find, and keep for a LONG time, so they are good to have in the pantry regardless!
- Potatoes: Some variations of Ayam Masak Kicap include potatoes, which are added to the dish to make it heartier and provide an additional texture. My Mom would deep fry the potatoes separately and add it to the dish later – yes, her version requires some effort.
- Vegetables: Vegetables are rarely added directly to the dish – we cook a separate vegetable dish to serve alongside Ayam Masak Kicap. However, you can include vegetables straight into the dish itself for an easy, one-pan dish! I would add carrots, bell peppers and broccoli to the dish to enhance the nutritional value while adding some colour and flavour.
How to Make Ayam Masak Kicap
Step 1: Marinade Chicken
Marinade the chicken with turmeric and salt. This step can be optional, feel free to exclude this and go straight to the rest of the recipe if you are short on time or on ingredients. I always have turmeric powder at home, and I love the additional flavour it imparts to the chicken. Since turmeric is quite a strong, you don’t need to marinade the chicken for long for good flavour.
While chicken is marinating, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2: Pan Sear Chicken
Add oil to a pan, and heat over medium-medium high. Add the chicken pieces and allow to sear for about 2 minutes. You can spread it on the pan and allow to sear, flipping it over to the other side halfway through for even searing, or just stir fry it. Doesn’t matter!
Step 3: Add Aromatics and Dried Spices
Once chicken has seared with some brown on the surface (no need to cook it all the way through), add onions, garlic, and the dried spices. If you are using chillies, add them in at this stage too. Stir fry with the chicken, and allow the flavours to release.
Step 4: Add Kicap Manis
Add kicap manis next, and some water to create a sauce while diluting the saltiness of the kicap manis. This Ayam Masak Kicap has a more liquid sauce – and this is OK! There’s lots of flavour, trust me. If you want a thicker gravy, add less water, but I prefer more sauce for my rice. You can also use stock for a flavour boost, but not necessary.
Step 5: Braise Chicken to Cook
Turn down the heat and allow chicken to braise in the kicap manis to finish cooking, and absorb some of that delicious spiced sauce. This should take a quick 5 minutes or so.
Step 5: Braise Chicken to Cook
Take off the heat, and I like to garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with rice.
More Recipes Like This:
- Authentic Ayam Masak Merah Recipe | Malay Tomato Chicken Stew
- Ayam Paprik | Thai-Malaysian Chicken Stir Fry
- Soy Sauce Eggs | Telur Masak Kicap
Ayam Masak Kicap 2.0 | Kicap Manis Braised Chicken Stir FryCourse: Recipes
300g boneless chicken thighs, chopped to bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced
1-2 bird’s eye chillies (optional)
2 star anise pods
2 tbsps dark soy sauce
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste and if needed
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
2 tbsps cooking oil
- Marinate the Chicken: In a bowl, mix the chicken pieces with turmeric powder and salt. Let marinade for 10 minutes, or while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- In a pan or wok, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Add chicken and allow to sear for about 2 minutes, or until surface is not pink anymore.
- Add the minced garlic, chopped onion, and chillies if using to the pan. Add the dry spices as well: star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. Sauté with the chicken until fragrant.
- Add kicap manis/dark sweet soy sauce and water or stock to create a sauce. Stir well to combine.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and let the chicken simmer in the sauce until it’s fully cooked and tender. This should take just about 5 minutes.
- Adjust Seasoning: Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper -only if needed. You can also adjust the sweetness to your preference by adding more kicap manis or sugar.
- Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat. Garnish with chopped spring onions or cilantro for a fresh touch. Serve your Ayam Masak Kicap hot over steamed white rice.