Ayam Kecap Manis – the Indonesian sweet soy sauce chicken
This Ayam Kecap Manis (literally means chicken in sweet soy sauce) has been my go-to Indonesian dish for years now. It’s always a hit whenever I cook it for family and friends. And it’s so easy to cook as well.
I made this Ayam Kecap Manis for the first time when I invited my extended family for lunch many years ago.
At the time, I had no experience in cooking, let alone the skill to cook good food. So, I didn’t know what to cook when I invited my sisters in law and their daughters to come around for Indonesian food.
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Before the marriage, I hardly cooked proper Indonesian food. If not never. There was no need for me to do so. Because my mom is the best cook when it comes to traditional food. On top of that, I was quite busy with work and its commutation. By the time I got home from work, it would be late dinner time. So the excuses just built up.
I tried to ask my mom for some good recipes. Unfortunately, most of the good stuff was difficult to find its ingredients. And because I just moved to the UK, I didn’t know if and where I could get the ingredients.
Thankfully, I did bring Indonesian sweet soy sauce with me when I came. So, my brain decided to just get along with whatever I had and try to find the rest of the ingredients at a local supermarket or shop.
So, I decided to make chicken in sweet soy sauce!
Besides, it’s a dish that I like. And it’s quite simple to make yet delicious to eat. I even tweaked some ingredients and cooking methods to simplify even more.
Menu to go with chicken sweet soy sauce
In the end, for the lunch menu on that day, I managed to lay the followings on the table:
- Ayam kecap (chicken in sweet soy sauce).
- Perkedel Jagung (sweetcorn fritters).
- Gado-Gado (mixed vegetables salad with peanut sauce).
- Kroket kentang (potato croquette with meat filling) – starter.
- Kolak Biji Salak (sweet potato balls in coconut milk) – dessert.
Since that day, my Ayam Kecap…. Sweet Soy Chicken as my nieces and nephews call it has become one of the favourite menus in my extended family. And whenever I cooked this soy chicken for my friends, it went down well too.
So, try this. And tell me your thoughts. 😘
The key ingredients for sweet soy chicken – Ayam Kecap Manis
Indonesian sweet soy sauce
Kecap Manis, the sweet soy sauce is the number one ingredient you need for this dish.
Now before I go on, did you know that sweet soy sauce is originally from Indonesia? Yes, it is. So I think it’s only fair if I suggest you get hold of a real Indonesian sweet soy sauce for this recipe, isn’t it? So that you’ll get the real taste of what Ayam Kecap Manis is like.
However, I do understand that you may find it hard to get it from your local shops that sell Asian food ingredients. In that case, you can try to get it online.
And if for some reasons you can’t get online either, you can substitute the sweet soy sauce using the following mixtures:
- Mix 1/4 cup of dark soy sauce with 3-4 tbsp dark brown sugar (palm sugar or dark muscovado sugar will be better). Mix it until all sugar dissolves. If you want to make it sticky like the real Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce), you can heat the mixture a little bit until the sugar is slightly caramelized.
- Add 2 tbsp of honey into ¼ cup of dark soy sauce. Stir well until you get a nice thick sauce.
- Put 2 tbsp of molasses in ¼ cup of dark soy sauce. You will get a very dark sticky soy sauce.
Now, please try not to use other sweet soy sauces, i.e. non-Indonesian sweet soy sauce. Because the flavour will be totally different from how it should. I’ve tried quite a few in the past. Just because I was too lazy to go to Chinatown and at the time I couldn’t find it online. I regretted it as the sauce flavour was not right for the dish.
I think this ingredient is, needless to say, is one of the keys. Otherwise, the recipe won’t be called sweet soy sauce chicken.
The original recipe uses Indonesian red shallots. But here in the UK, I substitute them with brown onions for practicality and low-cost reasons.
You only need a few cloves of garlic and finely slice them.
In Indonesia, tamarind is the most common item to use for marinade meat or fish. It’s good to get rid of the smell of chicken, red meat or fish.
You can choose whatever chillies you like. I sometimes use red chillies or green chillies. Some other times, I use fresh chillies or dried chilli flakes. In this recipe, I use the number of chillies that gives a little less than moderate heat.
So, if you’re a chilli lover (like me), you can always add more.
Salt and pepper
Salt is a must-have item in all my recipes. As for pepper in this recipe, you can use white pepper or black pepper. I personally use black pepper because that’s what I almost always have in my pantry.
We need the oil to deep-fry the chicken. So I leave the choice to you. You can use whatever cooking oil that you like. I usually use either sunflower oil or vegetable oil for frying.
How to make Indonesian sweet soy chicken
Rooted in my mom’s recipe, this Indonesian Ayam Kecap Manis is so easy to make. If you like a sweet and spicy flavour, then this recipe will be your next favourite stir-fry chicken.
Preparing your chicken
I understand that there is a lot of advice and suggestions on how to prep your chicken. Here in the UK, we are told not to wash raw chicken to prevent the risk of food poisoning.
But, I’m so used to watching my mom washing and cleaning every meat before she cooks. What I mean with cleaning is taking off all unnecessary fat, membrane, grizzle, etc. And then wash the poultry.
So, if you’re like me, you prefer to wash your raw chicken too, make sure the area near the sink where you clean the chicken is clear.
Don’t put any cooking utensils or any tableware around the area. And make sure you clean and wipe the area with antibacterial wipes or spray when you’re done with washing your chicken. Then dry it properly with a cleaned dry cloth or kitchen towel.
Piercing the chicken
Another thing I do whenever I marinade the chicken (beef, lamb or fish) is piercing it with a skewer or a fork. I do this before I cook for any type of dish.
This little trick is very useful to get the flavour into the meat. I’m so used to doing this that my sons can tell the difference if I skipped this step. They would complain that the chicken is bland with no flavour.…..😊
Marinade the chicken
Whether you decide to wash your chicken or not, the first thing you want to do after you cut your chicken, is to marinade it. Please choose whatever ingredients you prefer from the below choices. But don’t skip this marinade.
Because if you marinade the chicken with below ingredient options before cooking it, you will get a fresher taste of chicken that is free from its smell.
I don’t know about you, but I find that chicken does smell too.
In Indonesia, the original and most traditional way to marinate chicken or fish is by using Tamarind paste and salt. You can get it in the form of paste, block or sauce.
You only need about 2-3 tablespoons of Tamarind juice, or sauce if you can get the ready-made tamarind sauce.
If you get tamarind paste or block, and it is a bit hard and slightly dry, you can just cut it to an equal amount of 2-3 tbsp then soak it in 3-4 tbsp of hot water. Let the tamarind get softened and release its juice.
What you want is this tamarind juice and salt for a marinade.
You can also marinate the chicken with:
- Lemon/lime juice with salt.
- Ginger and garlic paste (or powder) with salt.
- Garlic powder, ground pepper (black or white), with salt.
Deep-fry the chicken
You can leave the chicken to marinate for about 20 minutes before you deep-fry it. And set aside.
Make the sauce and put the chicken in sweet soy sauce
Using the same oil that you use to fry the chicken, fry the onion slices until it’s soft and lightly golden. Then add the garlic slices and chillies in. Continue to fry for a minute or two before you put the sweet soy sauce, salt and pepper in.
Cook the sauce until it’s bubbly, then put the chicken pieces in. Stir well until all the chicken pieces are well-coated with the sauce.
Hope you are now thinking of cooking this easy to make and tasty chicken dish. You may want to cook other Indonesian side dishes that go well with this Sweet Soy Chicken.
You can choose the above menu. Or you can have this chicken dish (Ayam Kecap) with stir-fry vegetables, or with Sop Ayam (chicken and vegetable soup).
Having said that, plain hot rice with this Ayam Kecap is delicious 😋.
Happy cooking and enjoy!
Thank you for reading up to here. Please share what you think about the recipe in the comment below so that others will know too. And feel free to share the post and pin it in your Pinterest. It will be great as well if you could check my Instagram and give me a follow.
Lastly, don’t forget to check my other recipes that you may also love.
- Indonesian Beef Rendang, beef cooked in spicy coconut milk.
- Indonesian tuna fried-rice – Nasi Goreng Tuna.
- Soto Ayam – Indonesian clear chicken soup.
- Ketoprak Jakarta – vermicelli, beansprout, and tofu salad with spicy peanut sauce.
- Chicken and sweetcorn soup.
- Ayam Penyet – crushed chicken with chillies.
- Sate Ayam – Indonesian chicken satay.
- Ayam Suwir Bumbu Bali – Balinese spicy shredded chicken.
- Sambal Goreng Terasi – Indonesian chillies with dried-shrimp paste.
All the best.