Twice-Cooked Javanese Grilled Chicken

May  6, 2013
Photo by James Ransom
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 ½ cup of roasted macadamia nuts instead. Regardless, grilled or just braised, this Javanese Grilled Chicken is delicious. —viblanco

  • Serves 4
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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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