RECIPE | Roasted coconut chicken

Roast chicken gets the spice treatment. The bird is bathed in a silky Indonesian coconut sauce, which thickens and caramelises in the oven, forming an irresistible burnished crust

10 November 2019 - 00:00 By Eleanor Ford
Roasted coconut chicken.
Roasted coconut chicken.
Image: 'Fire Islands' (Murdoch Books)

Serves: 4


1.5kg chicken

15ml (1 tbsp) tamarind paste

30ml (2 tbsp) oil

400ml tin full-fat coconut milk

10ml (2 tsp) dark palm sugar (gula jawa) (or use sticky brown sugar)

Bumbu spice paste:

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 large red chillies, half seeded and chopped

2 lemongrass sticks, trimmed and sliced

4cm turmeric, peeled, or 1 tsp ground turmeric

5ml (1 tsp) ground coriander

5ml (1 tsp) salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  2. Find a roasting dish in which the chicken sits reasonably snuggly, just a little room around the edges to hold the sauce. Put the bird inside and paint the skin with tamarind paste. Leave to come up to room temperature while you make the bumbu.
  3. Grind all the bumbu ingredients to a paste in a food processor. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the bumbu for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until the rawness is replaced with fragrance.
  4. Paint the chicken all over with some of the bumbu, adding a spoonful inside the cavity. Keep the rest of the bumbu in the pan.
  5. Add the coconut milk and palm sugar to the excess bumbu in the pan. Bring up to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring all the while.
  6. Pour over the chicken. Roast for 1 hour, or until the chicken is golden and when you stick a knife between the leg and breast, it is just the palest pink (it will finish cooking as it rests). Baste with the coconutty juices occasionally as the chicken cooks to help keep it succulent.
  7. Remove the chicken from the dish and leave to rest somewhere warm for 20 minutes.
  8. Spoon off and discard the oil from the roasting dish sauce. Serve the rest with the chicken.

Recipe and image from 'Fire Islands, Recipes from Indonesia' by Eleanor Ford, Murdoch Books, R520. You can almost smell the spices as you page through this cookbook, which is filled stories that paint a tantalising picture of exotic Indonesia. The recipes are accessible — featuring some exotic ingredients you should be able to find in your a local spice store — and the ones we put to the test delivered bags of delicious flavour.