Monday, September 13, 2010

Chicken Ponteh Recipe (Peranakan Food)

Conversation with my Peranakan friend from Malacca:
Baba: Peranakan food is not easy to make. Even though i help my mum also I don't know how to make Peranakan food.
It really piqued my curiosity instead of acting as a deterrent. He repeated this statement a few times when we talk about Peranakan food. Curiosity won over.

Yvonne: Reeeaaaallly so hard meh? Ok what is the Peranakan food that you like? Name me a few!

Baba: Ponteh, Sambal udang and Itik tim

Yvonne: Ok i will go try them out!

Baba: Really?? You will try?? But its really hard wor!!

Yvonne: Yeah why not (brave bravado)!!

Baba: Ok after you tried, you let me taste k!

Yvonne: Sure! The best way to master Peranakan food is to get a Baba to test right?

Baba: You are right!

Nothing beats mastering a difficult challenge. After my first try I wanted to learn more!

At the same time I told him that I have also eaten great tasting Peranakan food in Malacca in which my friend responded, "cheh that is not original also!" Which is why I decided to venture into Peranakan food and see how far I can master the Perankan food.

I googled and cross check with Baba on the ingredient. My first venture was Chicken Ponteh and Sambal Udang. The Ponteh turn out delicious. The Sambal Udang turn out really "cacat". The Sambal Udang could have failed because I use lesser udang and that i could not use my kuali. Sambal Udang need tamarind sauce which is acidic on the kuali/steel. So i have to think outside the box in cooking the Sambal Udang. Next time I will use non-stick pan. The challenging part about Sambal Udang is in making the sambal! When i cook the sambal, it burn really easily! I dont mind pounding the ingredient but not the part where the sambal splash into my eyes, face and burn my hand! Much much later I learn that I could blend the whole sambal.... Well back to Chicken Ponteh. Below are the recipe.

Taken from Elsewhere website with minor alteration:


1kg chicken
2 tablespoon sweet bean paste (sweet tau-chu)
300gm shallots
150gms garlic
300gm potatoes
30gms black mushrooms
2 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
50gms sugar
30gms palm sugar (gula melaka)
160mls cooking oil
1.5 litre water
Pinch of salt


Clean and chop the whole chicken. Soak black mushrooms in hot water until soft (about 15 minutes), drain and clean properly under running water then set aside.

Wash and cut potatoes into small pieces. Grind the shallots, garlic and bean paste separately into fine pastes.

Heat oil in wok and fry the finely ground shallot paste and garlic paste until brownish and fragrant. Add ground bean paste and fry until fragrant. Add chicken, black mushrooms and potatoes.

Mix well and fry for about five minutes. Pour in water and stir.

Tip:water just enough to cover the chicken. I poured too much water. It still taste nice but next time will reduce the water.

Add light and dark soya sauce, sugar, palm sugar and salt to taste.

Simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked.

Serve with steamed rice and sambal belacan.

Tips: If the taste is slightly bitter as a result of overcooked garlic and shallots, add a little sugar to taste. Ayam Pongteh can be kept in the fridge for a few days and actually tastes better. Chef Bong says it can also be served with toast for breakfast. I believe her.


I will definitely try this recipe again. As I was making this dish the interesting part is that I wasnt sure what to expect in the end. Sure I have some vague memories of trying Ponteh before in Malacca but I didnt quite like it. However now i am totally loving it!

A challenge that I soon realize in making this dish is to deal with the shallots. I was semi crying while cleaning, peeling and blending the ingredient. I get a second round of tears in the Sambal Udang dish also. I guess that its one of the perils in mastering Peranakan food.

And i will need to do more research to make the Sambal Udang work next round. Wish that I can learn under an expert though. That way i can learn faster and know more recipe!

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