Twice-Cooked Javanese Grilled Chicken

May  6, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is a very traditional dish that would normally accompany any festive meal in Java. I first got the recipe from my mom, who taught me the virtues of coconut water. The chicken is first braised in spices and coconut water for many hours, and then quickly finished over a grill to get that nice charred look. —sel et poivre

Test Kitchen Notes

I could devour this dish after the braising step alone. The reduced sauce is so subtly sweet, aromatic, and flavorful that I could not contain myself from sampling spoonful after spoonful prior to grilling. Yet placing the chicken pieces on the grill adds a layer of charbroiled essence that was a definitive crowd pleaser. I searched multiple markets for candlenuts but, ultimately, I had to substitute ¬Ĺ cup of roasted macadamia nuts instead. Regardless, grilled or just braised, this Javanese Grilled Chicken is delicious. —viblanco

What You'll Need
  • For the spice paste:
  • 10 shallots
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 5 candlenuts, dry roasted (or macadamia nuts)
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric
  • 2 inches galangal
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, dry roasted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the chicken:
  • 1 whole chicken (2 to 3 pounds), cut up into 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white part pounded with a pestle and then tied into a knot
  • 5 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind water (obtained by mixing 1/2 tablespoon tamarind paste and 1/4 cup warm water)
  • 1/2 liter (unsweetened) fresh coconut water
  1. With a mortar and pestle, pound all of the spice paste ingredients into a coarse paste. You can also do this with a food processor.
  2. To braise the chicken: Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add the spice paste and lemongrass. Cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and the rest of the ingredients into the pot. Mix well. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn the heat to low. Maintain a very gentle simmer until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed by the chicken and you are left with a thick sauce. This process can take up to 3 hours (sorry!). It will make very tender, falling-off-the-bone chicken pieces, so do not disturb the chicken at all during this process; you want them to stay intact. When the liquid has reached a thick consistency, immediately remove chicken from heat.
  3. Heat a charcoal grill and cook chicken pieces over the grill until nicely charred. Serve immediately.
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See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • marsha_finney
  • gingerroot
  • sel et poivre
    sel et poivre
  • BlueKaleRoad
  • savorthis

19 Reviews

Paul July 5, 2019
Thoughts on applying this technique to a pork tenderloin?
marsha_finney January 13, 2017
Would it be possible to braise this in a low oven? Thanks,
Ann.cleary July 8, 2013
Do you think I could freeze the spice paste?
sel E. July 8, 2013
I've never tried freezing it before but i assume it shoudn't be a problem. I've frozen tom yum paste before with success. So do try.
Ann.cleary May 30, 2013
Thank you for your reply earlier, we have just finished eating
and I have to tell you my husband thinks the dish is one of the most flavourful meals he has eaten in ages.
So, thank you for the recipe.
sel E. May 31, 2013
Thanks for reporting back and giving this a go. I'm thrilled that you and your husband enjoyed it.
Ann.cleary May 30, 2013
Can I just check, do you leave the chicken uncovered whilst simmering .
sel E. May 30, 2013
Yes. And whatever you do, don't be tempted to crank up the heat. Would love to hear your thoughts after :)
gingerroot May 17, 2013
Oh my goodness, this chicken is amazing! I was really busy with work earlier this week so unfortunately could not test this in time, but wow, I really loved the flavors here. I love ginger and tumeric (here we call it olena) and the kukui/candlenut adds such a wonderful savory depth. And the sweet pop of coriander - yum! I found dry roasted kukui/candlenut (inamona) in the seafood department at my Whole Foods and now have a quarter pound to use up. You can bet I'll be making this all summer long. Since inamona is a common ingredient in Hawaiian poke, I'd even guess that you can find it on the mainland (West Coast especially), at any Hawaiian style food place that serves poke. Thank you for a fantastic recipe, sel et poivre!
sel E. May 17, 2013
Thank you for trying this. I'm so glad it worked for you. Indonesians use candlenuts quite often in recipes. I've never really had it outside of malay cuisines and what you've said about Hawaiian cuisine sparked my curiosity.
sel E. May 9, 2013
Since I can't edit the recipe any longer, I've noticed that in the second step - first sentence, I forgot to mention the word "oil". It's supposed to say: Heat the vegetable OIL in a large pot...
savorthis May 13, 2013
The editors can probably help you- that happened to me mid-contest last time and they fixed a typo for me.
sel E. May 17, 2013
Thanks savorthis. I just got back from a trip and just saw this. I'll notify the editors right away.
gingerroot May 9, 2013
This sounds fantastic. I've had roasted kukui nut meat (inamona) in traditional poke but never in any other culinary application. I can't wait to try this.
sel E. May 9, 2013
Thanks so much gingerroot. I didn't know that candlenuts are also used in other culinary traditions outside of Southeast Asia. Now I'm intrigued. Googling now.
BlueKaleRoad May 8, 2013
I'm saving this to try soon - I know my family will love it. We always have coconut water in the fridge, too. I love pounding spice pastes and this one is making my taste buds tingle! I think I'll have to use macadamia nuts as I've never seen candlenuts.
sel E. May 8, 2013
Thanks BKR! It should work fine with macadamia nuts. Let me know if you get to try it :)
savorthis May 6, 2013
This sounds wonderful. I love braising and grilling chicken. I have never had a candlenut. What is it like?
sel E. May 6, 2013
Thank you savorthis! Candlenuts look a lot like macadamia nuts, only a bit bigger. They both have about the same texture and oil content. And now that I think about it, you can substitute them with macadamia if you have trouble finding candlenuts.