Monday, February 22, 2016

Ayam Pong Tay / Nyonya Style Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes

"I'm craving for braised chicken with mushroom and potatoes." said my husband out of the blue.

"uhuh..." As I replied, my mind was asking... Is he talking about this, this, this or this? Hmmm... There are so many braised chicken with mushroom and potatoes everywhere. Some are spicy. Some are creamy. Some are soy or wine based. Some are Asian and some are not. What is he talking about?

"You know... the Nyonya kind." He added.

"Huh?" Honestly, I don't know what particular Nyonya braised chicken dish that my husband is after. I was trying to recall... Has my mother-in-law cooked anything that is special, Nyonya, has chicken, mushroom and potatoes before? Hmmm... I don't think.

I started searching my books for an answer and found Ayam Pong Tay in the book, Best of Malaysian Cooking by Betty Saw. It is a braised chicken dish with mushroom and potatoes. And it is a traditional Nyonya dish! Bingo!

This book classifies this Nyonya traditional dish as a Malacca (Melaka in Malay) cuisine and the same recipe can be cooked as a braised pork dish knowing as Babi Pong Tay.

Why is this Nyonya dish so characteristically Ayam Pong Tay? 
Unlike the other traditional Nyonya braised chicken dishes (Sek chicken, Lor Chicken and Braised Peppery Chicken) that I have cooked before, Ayam Pong Tay is not mostly soy based. Instead, its thick and flavoursome gravy is made with "interesting" ingredients that gives the dish heaps of umami taste. Can you guess what are the ingredients???

ayam pong tay Nyonya braised chicken mushrooms potatoes
Ayam Pong Tay / Nyonya Style Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes
Umami ingredient no 1: Garlic
Gosh! I really didn't know that the traditional ayam pong tay can contain so many garlic!!!
Umami ingredient no 2: Shallots
... which is a common ingredients in Nyonya and Malay cooking.
Umami ingredient no. 3: Dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked overnight to soften.
Umami ingredient no 4: Preserved soy beans (tau cheo)
There are the sweet or salty kinds and I like the sweet one more :)

Seeing so many umami ingredients used in this dish, I asked myself... will it be over-powering with flavours? Not to worry because the taste of this dish can be well adjusted with the use of potatoes to absorb the flavours and it is seasoned with minimal amount of salt and soy sauce too!

I have 3 extra extra large potatoes to cook this dish.
You don't have to grind the garlic and shallot into a fine paste.
However, the grinding step is essential to fully crush garlic and shallots so that they can release their flavours.
 Heat Alfa One rice bran oil in a wok and start these stir-frying.
Don't forget to add the potatoes and a little bit of salt.
Then, reduce the heat to simmer the dish...
... until the potatoes and chicken are tender.
Every spoonful and mouthful of this is so tasty!

Rich in texture and taste with garlicky and salty sweet complex flavours... This is all I can describe this dish as every mouthful of it can be pretty complex and "multidimensional".

"Is this the Nyonya braised chicken that you are after?" I asked my husband while serving this dish for our dinner.

There was no answer... My husband didn't say anything and was enjoying this dish with a smile.

Hmmm... I think I must been fooled with his random description, leading me to cook this dish. Well, I can't complain... I'm happy that I have discovered and learned how to cook this wonderful dish.

Here's the recipe that is mostly adapted the book, Best of Malaysian Cooking by Betty Saw

1 kg chicken (I used skinless, boneless thigh fillet) or 600 g streaky pork
1 tsp salt, can be more or less depending on your preference
180g shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 whole garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp preserved soy beans (tau cheo), I assumed either sweet or salty are fine.
4-6, dried Chinese mushroom, soaked overnight in the fridge to soften and stems discarded
2 cups (500ml) water or just enough to cover the meat and mushrooms
1 tsp dark soy sauce, preferably the premium one
3 potatoes, peeled and quartered

Note: The garlic and potatoes that I used are super huge!!! And so I used them to cook 1.5 kg of chicken with the rest of the ingredients remaining the same.

Cut meat into bite size pieces (about 3-4 cm cubes for the chicken or 5 x 2.5 cm strips for pork). Season with 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind and crush shallot and garlic together as much as you can. It doesn't need to be a fine paste as the shallot and garlic will melt into the gravy eventually when the gravy is reduced. Set aside. 

Using medium high heat, heat oil in a wok and fry the garlic paste for about 2 mins or until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium low. Then add preserved soy beans and fry for another 1-2 mins until fragrant.

Increase heat to high. Add mushrooms and meat and stir-fry for 2-3 mins until all are briefly seared and well tossed with other ingredients.

Add water and dark soy sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 mins.

Add potatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Simmer gently for another 30 mins more or until the potatoes and meat are tender and sauce has thicken.

Serve immediately with plain steamed rice or congee.

Happy Cooking
Please support me and like me at Facebook...

As this is another homey and traditional dish to eat in all occasions, I would like to link this post at Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2016 hosted by Yen from GoodyFoodies, Diana from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids at here.


  1. Your chicken pong-teh (I call it pong-teh) looks so so good.. Can eat 3 bowls of white rice with this.. My mum's version very different, she uses tauchu paste.. Cook with chicken and potatoes, no mushroom.. Sure sedap, yummss..

  2. Your words are so amusing Zoe, or should I say yours and your husbands, lol...However he convinced you to make such a delcious looking dish it does not matter, it sounds so amazing, I can't even begin to think about how good it must be or I won't be able to sleep tonight!!!

    The flavors must be bursting with delight and the chicken, potatoes and mushrooms must be so happy to be bathing in such goodness!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Zoe...

  3. Thanks for sharing this recipe Zoe! I so wanna try cooking it! :)

  4. Zoe, this nonya dish is delicious all right! I have tried it with pork and chicken together. So yums!

  5. My family always do such kind of braise dishes in Cantonese style :) Most of the time there will be oyster sauce, light and dark soy sauce, rock sugar etc.

  6. Hi Zoe, this sure looks delicious and mouthwatering, I need a big bowl of rice please.

  7. So, so tempting. I missed this dish so much. So yummy!

  8. This is super yum, Zoe! After I saw your post yesterday, I made it for dinner! Well, not to the dot because I didn't have all the ingredients. Still, everyone gave it the thumbs up! ^.^

  9. Ayam Pongteh is the best dish for kids. With their gravy my kids will just finish their rice very quickly. Thanks for hosting the Cook & Celebrate Chinese New Year with Yen and Dinana. Hope I can post more and tag along with baking and cooking events in the future