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Malaysian Twice-Cooked Turmeric Chicken with Lemon Grass and Sweet Soy

4 Servings

1 hour

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The Malaysian dish called ayam masak kecap translates as “chicken cooked in soy sauce,” but it’s commonly referred to as “bachelor’s chicken” because it’s quick and easy to throw together. It also happens to be irresistibly delicious. Pieces of turmeric-seasoned chicken are fried then set aside. A dark, thick, salty-sweet, umami-rich sauce is made with alliums and other aromatics, then the chicken is briefly cooked in the sauce to fuse all the flavors. Bob Muze, chef at Cili Kampung restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, taught us his version. We adapted his recipe using boneless thighs cut into quick-cooking strips, dredging them in turmeric-spiked cornstarch for crispness and then pan-frying them. Kecap manis has the savory notes of soy sauce but also a molasses-like bittersweetness and a syrupy consistency. If it’s difficult to source, make an approximation by combining ¼ cup each soy sauce, molasses and brown sugar. Serve the chicken with jasmine rice.




Don’t add all of the shallots to the pan with the lemon grass. Save about one-third for adding off heat, when cooking is complete, for a fresh, crisp bite

1 hour


  • ¼

    cup cornstarch

  • 1

    tablespoon ground turmeric


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David E.
May 9, 2024
Kecap for the win
This dish rocks when made AS IS. Wouldn't change a thing. It's not one-dimensionally sweet. It has layers of sweetness, all of them lifted up by the spiciness. (I MIGHT try it again with a Fresno pepper to add a little more tingling heat.) However, I should say that even here in Brooklyn, finding kecap manis was hard. Japanese grocery store didn't have it and Chinese ones were spotty. Once I used a non-Indonesian sweet soy sauce that turned out very well, but the unique flavor of the dish is pretty dependent on what the real kecap manis brings. I tried two from from Amazon and preferred the Bango brand to the more basic (and more widely available) ABC.
Brian L.
January 1, 2024
Absolutely delicious
Had a small group at the house last night for NYE and made this and the chicken biryani. I could have had another plate or two of this Malaysian chicken dish and will add it to my rotation. Amazing and easy!
Samantha W.
December 25, 2023
Hearty and flavorful
I made the dish as directed, and it was full of flavor and beautiful heat, but I think it could have been better and here's why - The turmeric really pulled through all the competing strong flavors, notably the kecap manis -but as a garlic lover Id even venture to add a little granulated garlic and some extra salt to the cornstarch mix. Also while the lemon grass did it's best to make itself known, I could have doubled the amount and still had a nice balance. I used the kecap manis , so i'm not sure if the suggested substitute would have changed things much, but it was definitely a very sweet and concentrated flavor and could have been halved with a great result. I loved the shallots, and particularly loved the wider strips of jalapeno and red pepper. I found the frying to be a bit on the heavy side particularly because ( trimmed) chicken thighs are already a flavorful, fatty meat, so next time I might just broil or sheet-pan them instead ( of pre-frying). All in all this was a very tasty dish, with a satisfying and delicious.
Lisa P.
January 6, 2024
Tasty and easy
Very good, I only used one jalapeno since one of my kids doesn't like spicy food and subbed chicken breast for the thighs. Very satisfying and pairs well with a refreshing side since it's pretty rich. I wouldn't reduce the kecap manis because you'll want enough sauce to coat the chicken well.