Chicken in Tamarind Gravy (Ayam Sioh)

Ayam Sioh (Photo by u_m_a_m_i/flickr)

The acidity of tamarind preserves the poultry for a few days even without refrigeration. This Nonya recipe for chicken is called ayam siyoh.

Serves 6.


1 2 1.5 kg/3 lb roasting chicken
185 g/6 oz dried tamarind pulp
500 ml/1 pint/2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons peanut oil


Cut the chicken into quarters. Soak tamarind in half the hot water and when cool enough to handle, squeeze to dissolve pulp in the water. Strain through a fine sieve and if there is more pulp on the seeds, add remaining hot water and continue rubbing pulp between the fingers to dissolve. Strain and discard the seeds and fibres. Roast coriander in a dry pan over low heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes fragrant and darkens in colour. Combine with the tamarind. Add soy sauce, sugar and salt and stir well. Pour over the chicken in a bowl just large enough to hold the chicken and marinade. Leave for 6-8 hours, turning chicken pieces over at least twice.

In a non-aluminium pan simmer chicken in the marinade on low heat, uncovered, until tender, about 40 minutes. Lift chicken pieces from gravy and drain thoroughly. Continue to simmer sauce until very thick and reduced. Cut chicken into smaller pieces, heat oil and fry until brown. Place chicken on a serving dish, ladle the tamarind gravy over and serve with steamed rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)