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Semur Ayam (Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Sweet Soy Sauce)

Posting Date: 06/01/17

Semur Ayam (Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Sweet Soy Sauce)

Semur Ayam (Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Sweet Soy Sauce) is a type of meat stew that originated from Java. Javanese people tend to like sweet dishes and hence, the sweet soy sauce used in this dish. Semur Ayam was then adopted in other areas in Indonesia. Betawi people in Jakarta serve this dish during Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr) and other celebrations and they normally add potatoes in the dish. My mom used to make semur ayam or Semur Telur (Hard Boiled Eggs and Potatoes in Sweet Coconut Milk Sauce) to go with Ketupat Sayur (Rice Cake and Vegetables in Coconut Milk Sauce). The sweetness and spices from semur ayam complement ketupat sayur. Instead of eating it with ketupat (rice cake) which is rice packed inside woven palm leaf package, you can also eat it with regular rice.

The main ingredient of semur ayam is sweet soy sauce. Spices that are used may include cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and nutmeg. In my recipe, I only use nutmeg and list cloves as optional since I find cloves are too strong for my taste and thus, most of the time I omit using it. You can use cloves if you like it. The dish is normally garnished with fried onions on the top. The crunchiness of fried onion adds texture to the dish and thus, I recommend to add it even though it is listed as optional in the ingredients.

The recipe serves 4 people


  • 8 pieces of chicken drumsticks. You can use other types of chicken meat. If you use chicken breast or chicken thigh, use 4-5 pieces only.
  • For seasoning chicken: 1 teaspoon salt
  • For seasoning chicken: 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes
  • For frying chicken and potatoes: vegetable oil
  • For spice paste: 3 small shallots or 1 large shallot, quartered to make it easy to process in food processor
  • For spice paste: 3 cloves of garlic, halved to make it easy to process in food processor
  • For spice paste: 1" fresh ginger, sliced in 4 to make it easy to process in food processor
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lemongrass, white part only and smashed it with the back of your knife to release the oil. If you cannot find fresh lemongrass, you can also use 1/2 tablespoon lemongrass paste. Nowadays grocery stores sell lemongrass paste in a tube.
  • 3 cups of water
  • 6 tablespoons sweet soy sauce or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (nutmeg powder)
  • Optional: 1 clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • pinch of black pepper
  • Optional: fried onions


  1. Using paper towel, pat chicken to dry it so that the oil won't splatter during frying. Season chicken with salt and pepper on all sides. I use at least a pinch of salt and pepper each on each side.
  2. Heat up vegetable oil in a pan on medium high heat. Fry diced potatoes until they are golden brown. The potatoes don't need to be fully cooked since we will continue cooking them in the liquid with chicken. Using slotted spoon, remove and place them on a plate lined with paper towel. Fry chicken pieces until golden brown and they are no longer pink. Make sure you don't overcrowd the pan when frying them. Depending on the size of your pan, you may fry them in batches. Once golden brown, remove them using slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towel.
  3. While frying potatoes and chicken, place shallots, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Process them until they become paste.
  4. Heat up 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a deep pot on medium high heat. Add spice paste and lemongrass into the pot and saute them until they become aromatic. Add chicken pieces into the pot and stir to coat them with spice paste. Cook them for 2 min so that the chicken can absorb the flavor of the spices. Add water, sweet soy sauce, ground nutmeg, salt, sugar, chicken bouillon, clove (if used), and black pepper into the pot. Stir the liquid to mix all the seasoning. Make sure all chicken pieces are completely immersed in liquid. Let the liquid boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to simmer. Let it simmer for 25 min. Once it has simmered for 25 min, add potatoes. Taste the liquid and add more seasoning if needed. Let it continue simmering for another 5 min. Check if chicken and potatoes are fully cooked. Once they are fully cooked, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Discard lemongrass. Transfer the food to the serving platter. If used, sprinkle the top with fried onion. Serve it with warm rice.

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