Ayam Pong Teh (Nyonya-style Braised Chicken with Potatoes)

A sweet and savory, easy to make Malaysian chicken dish that has become a mainstay in the House of Annie’s kitchen.

ayam pohg teh

I first tried Ayam Pong Teh at a Nyonya restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. My cousin had taken me to eat it and we all enjoyed the flavorful tender chicken and potatoes and also the savory sweetness of the sauce on our rice. It was the most popular dish that day.

I had been wanting to try to make Ayam Pong Teh ever since then. So imagine my surprise when I saw that this recipe was featured in one of my Saveur magazines many years ago.

When I saw the feature on Malacca and saw the recipe, I must admit I was skeptical. Very often, I don’t trust Western magazines to do justice to Asian recipes (they often substitute and “westernize” the flavors a little so that they are no longer truly authentic). But when I looked at the Ayam Pong Teh recipe, I thought it sounded pretty good. And I should have trusted them more—Saveur’s editor is James Oseland after all and he has spent many years in this part of the world, even coming up with a cookbook that I love. And next to Fine Cooking, Saveur is the other food magazine that I love. (Man, I’m missing both these magazines right now!)

So, I tried the recipe, and ever since that first time, this has become a mainstay in my kitchen. The flavors were just right! Also, it’s quite a simple recipe really for something that delivers so much flavor.

The key is the use of gula Melaka (palm sugar) in the making of this dish. The smoky sweetness imparts a depth that cannot be substituted with regular sugar. If you can, do try to get yourself some gula Melaka (or gula Jawa at the Asian grocery stores) when making this. Don’t use Thai palm sugar for it, it’s not the same. You need the dark smoky flavors for this dish. If you absolutely cannot get it, dark brown sugar will do in a pinch but it won’t have that same rich sweetness.

ayam pongteh closeup

Try this recipe tonight and see if it doesn’t become a mainstay in your kitchen too!

Ayam Pong Teh recipe

(Nyonya-style Braised Chicken with Potatoes)
adapted from Saveur Magazine

Ingredients:
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped (I tend to double this as I like the flavor of shallots)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil will work too), and I have used a little less oil with no problem
1/4 cup taucu (brown bean sauce)

yellow bean sauce

3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp palm sugar, chopped
1 3-3 1/2 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, about 18 pieces
4 small boiling potatoes (I find Yukons or Reds will hold better in the braise than Russets), peeled and cut into large pieces (if the potatoes are really small, leave them whole).
3 cups water
salt to taste

Method:
1. Pound shallots and garlic into a coarse paste. Set aside.
2. Heat oil over medium heat, add shallots and garlic paste and fry for about 2 mins, making sure not to burn the paste.

frying garlic and shallots

3. Add taucu, dark soy sauce and palm sugar. Stir until palm sugar has dissolved and liquid has thickened, about 30 seconds.
4. Add chicken and potatoes and the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil.
5. When the water boils, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1-1 1/2 hours.
6. Season with salt and soy sauce to taste. Depending on how sweet your brown bean sauce is (some brown bean sauce is sweetened), you might need to add a bit more salt/soy sauce to balance out the sweetness. The end flavors should be a nice marrying of savory saltiness with undertones of sweetness.

Serve over rice.

IMG_2736

Enjoy!

Cheers, Annie

20 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Kathy-M says:

    >This has been a family favourite for ages. Every Chinese New Year we will cook a huge pot so that there are leftovers. This dish tastes even better the next day, espcially with thick rice porridge or toasted bread. Mmmmm :)

  2. Dorach says:

    >Yummy. Thanks for teaching us Ayam Pong Teh and thanks for inspiring my dinner menu :-)

  3. The Little Teochew says:

    >Ah, a real nyonya dish :) Great work on the step-by-step pics. It's always a challenge to stop what you're doing, whip out of the cam to take a few decent pics, and then continue. Thanks for taking the effort to show us how :)

  4. Carolyn Jung says:

    >A big scoop of that over a bowl of rice and I'd be one happy camper!

  5. Single Guy Ben says:

    >Hmm, I love the idea of braised chicken. Sounds perfect for the winter months! (Hey, do you really have winter in Malaysia? ;)

  6. 3 hungry tummies says:

    >Don't know how I get here but I love your blog! will be back regularly!!

  7. Wei Choo says:

    >This is new to me, but I know all the ingredients. I should be able to cook this dish, will try.

  8. Nate-n-Annie says:

    >@all – thanks for your comments!

    @Kathy – with toasted bread, huh? sounds delicious!

    @Dorach – you're welcome! Let us know how it comes out for you.

    @The Little Teochew – we didn't post too many step-by-step pics on this post…

    @Carolyn – yep!

    @Ben – yes; Winter means wetter! ;-)

    @3 Hungry Tummies – welcome to our site! Glad to know you.

    @Wei Choo – Please do, and tell us your results!

  9. Anonymous says:

    >Dear Nate and Annie,
    thanks for showing me this dish. I cooked it tonight and got rave reviews from my husband and helper. Both think this dish tasted fantastically good. I am very surprised that my hubby took it so well as he is not a meat lover, and he ate 2 pieces of chicken. I am 1/8 Peranakan, but have never eaten this dish as I was brought up as a regular Chinese gal in S'pore. Thank you once again. THIS will be a mainstay in my household from today onwards. :)

    Wanna

  10. Rasa Malaysia says:

    >My mother used to make it with pork belly. Same theory but more like tau you bak, but with potatoes instead.

  11. Nate-n-Annie says:

    >@Wanna – gosh, *this* is the kind of comment every food blogger wants to see! :-)

    @Rasa – pork belly works for me! ;-)

  12. Anonymous says:

    >are we supposed to wash n rinse the black bean sauce or just throw them straight in?

    cheers :)

  13. Annie says:

    >Anonymous–there is no black bean in this dish, only brown bean (taucheong). They are different. Hope that clarifies things for you.

  14. Cookie C. Choo Choo says:

    Wah…I love all sorts of nyonya food, this looks delicious! ^^

  15. My late Nyonya grandma never made this one so I supposed it’s a real Melaka Nyonya dish.

    Don’t have gula melaka and will try with rock sugar.

    • Nate says:

      Hi Bee –

      You are correct; this dish comes from a Malacca Nyonya, according to James Oseland.

      Too bad you don’t have gula melaka! Did you run out?

  16. [...] adapted this ayam pongteh recipe from my friend House of Annie, except that I opted out dark soy sauce because dark soy sauce is mostly used for coloring purposes [...]

  17. thanks resep masakannya….. maknyus banget nih :)

  18. Jy says:

    Very delicious! The only things missing were a stick of kayu manis (cinnamon) and a few star anise, which I added to mine. My German spouse loved it, too. Thank you, Annie. <3

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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