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Monday, 12 October 2015

Learning To Cook Like A Nyonya ~ Ayam Pongteh

This is one of my family favorites.  We never get tired of it.  Ayam Pongteh is a very popular signature Nyonya dish that you will find in Nyonya restaurants,  if it's not there it's not genuinely authentic.   For those who are not familiar, Nyonya is the term for female descendants of early Chinese migrants to Malaysia who married the local Malays.  As a result, their culture (including cuisine) is an intriguing marriage between the Malay and Chinese culture.   Now, i am not a Nyonya, just simply learning to cook some of the lovely dishes that a Nyonya would make.  

This dish has a unique savoury sweet flavor coming from a combination of fermented soy bean paste, soy sauce and palm sugar; key ingredients for this dish.  Some potatoes and dried shitake mushrooms are added into the dish making the dish look more attractive and giving variety apart from just meat.  Goes well with both rice and noodles.   The sauce should be thick not watery hence spices used (soy bean paste, shallots and garlic) should be pounded (mortar and pestle) instead of blended. 

I normally use a whole chicken to make this dish and it will last us for 2 to 3 meals.  This dish taste even better when the flavors are allowed to infuse overnight.  

I have tried a few recipes but i kinda have settled for this one and have been going along the same line ever since. I noticed this recipe has a higher ratio of shallots to garlic (while others have vice versa and some near equal) which is probably the key to what makes it good and i also learnt from this recipe that shallots and garlic are to be saute separately.  I don't follow the recipe to a T (+/- here and there to get the right taste while the dish is being cooked)  and I have my own minor variations mainly to suit personal taste preference.  I would pan fry the potatoes to give it a nice crisp outer layer and i would add the soy sauce before adding water to make the flavors more intense.

Served with some acar on the side (vegetable pickle, also a Nyonya dish) to complete the meal.


  • 15 shallots
  • 5 cloves garlic (8 cloves)
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp  palm sugar (gula tuak or gula melaka), chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp fermented soy bean paste (taucheo) (1 1/2- 2 tbsp, coarsely mashed)
  • 1 kg. chicken cut into bite-sized pieces (1-1.5 kg free range chicken)
  • 2 medium size potatoes, peeled and quartered (3 potatoes, peeled and halved)
  • 10 Shitake mushrooms (4 shitake mushrooms, soaked to soften and halved)
  • 3 cups water (use water for soaking mushroom too)
  • Salt to taste
  1. Pound shallots and garlic separately into a coarse paste.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat. 
  3. Pan fry potatoes for a crisp outer layer. Remove and set aside.
  4. Lower the heat (in order not to burn the paste) then add in shallot paste and sauté until fragrant.
  5. Add in garlic and continue to sauté until paste looks slightly golden.
  6. Add in soy bean paste (taucheo) and continue to saute until fragrant.
  7. Add in chicken, mix well with the paste.  When chicken turns opaque, add in soy sauce and mushroom.  Continue to stir fry until aromatic.  If potatoes not fried add them at this stage.
  8. Put in 3 cups of water (or enough water to cover chicken) and bring to boil.
  9. Add in palm sugar.
  10. When the water boils, reduce heat and let it simmer.
  11. Add in potatoes when gravy starts to thicken.
  12. Dish is ready when chicken is tender and gravy has thickened around 1/3 of the water amount.
  13. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. (Occasionally i will add in some soy sauce depending on size of chicken but i never use any salt in mine)


This is a delicious dish though I lean more towards Babi Pongteh hah..hah... The gravy is great with rice.

Hi, it's a long time I didn't drop by your blog. Just to tell you, Nyonya dishes and desserts are great cuisine, very unique, tasty and delicious. Me too trying out many Nyonya recipes apart from those prepared by my mum. Happy Nyonya food cooking.

Hi LHB, this is one of my favorite dish. Yours look good, very appetizing.
I'm not a nyonya but I do cook nyonya food at home, it simply taste so good and appetizing. Another dish you should try is ayam tempra.

Happy cooking.

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