Chicken pieces are cooked in aromatic spices, seasonings, and coconut water and then briefly pan-fried (or air-fried) are popular chicken dish originated in Padang, West Sumatra. Both pressure cooker and stove-top method included.
PADANG TWICE-COOKED CHICKEN
Many of the Indonesian chicken recipes are actually twice-cooked. They are usually either boiled or stewed (or pressure cooked in my case) and then fried. The first cooking is usually to infuse the aroma of spices and seasonings and the frying part, well, just so that they taste even better 😉
HOW AYAM POP PADANG IS MADE
Traditionally, whole chicken is used. The whole chicken is then cut into pieces and then boiled in spices, seasonings, and coconut water (NOT coconut milk). Coconut water is used a lot in Indonesian cooking too. Pretty much every part of coconut is being utilized to its max. For simplicity and convenience, I prefer to use chicken pieces like all drumsticks, or all chicken thighs, or all chicken wings. Not everyone wants to deal with a whole chicken.
After the chicken is cooked, the next step is to briefly fry the chicken.
Ayam pop usually has this white pale appearance, some calls it ayam (chicken) putih (white). After a brief pan frying, the chicken pieces pick up some light golden brown color. So, ayam pop is not meant to be fried until crispy golden brown. The frying part is just to lightly color the chicken and to enhance the taste.
WHAT’S WITH THE NAME “POP”
Ayam pop is originated in Padang, West Sumatra, and named as such because of the “pop..pop..pop” sounds it makes when you fried the chicken, you know….when liquid and oil comes into contact! Yup, that’s how it was named 🙂
MY VERSION OF AYAM POP: PRESSURE COOKED AND AIR FRIED
I like authentic and traditional Indonesian recipes, but in this modern day, I feel like it’s nice to simplify the process whenever possible without losing the original taste. I love using Instant Pot pressure cooker any chance I have too. Pressure cooking the chicken also saves times and more flavor than just boiling the chicken. The chicken pieces are perfectly tender without being overcooked. I like to use an air fryer to lightly brown the chicken pieces too. It’s so much more convenient and yes, while you may argue that I won’t have the “pop” sounds, but all that matter is the end result right? 😉
DON’T LET ITS APPEARANCE FOOLS YOU
Ayam pop Padang may not be the most attractive looking chicken dish I must admit. Pale in color and immediately people will probably think lack of flavors, but the opposite is true. Indonesian cooking can be a bit intimidating at first when you look at all the spices, herbs, and seasonings. But it is because of all these spices, herbs, and seasonings that make a pale-looking chicken like ayam pop shines through 😉
Thankfully these days, more and more Asian ingredients are more widely available, not only in Asian stores, but I see more of what used to be exotic ingredients, are available at places at mainstream Western grocery stores.
And of course, you can’t eat ayam pop Padang without the sambal! I know I looked a bit barbaric by using my hands to eat rice, but this is a pretty common scene in Indonesia, not when you eat Indonesian Chinese food, but more often than not with the native Indonesians.
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Pressure Cooker Ayam Pop Padang
- 6 candlenuts or use macadamia nuts
- 10 cloves garlic
- 5 shallots
- 1 tbsp salt
Marinade the chicken:
Rub lemon juice all over the chicken pieces. Let stand for 5 minutes when you prepare other things
Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor and process into a paste. Add a bit water to get it going if needed. Pour this mixture over the chicken pieces and rub into them. Cover and let it marinade for at least 1 hour or overnight
Prepare the chili sauce (can be prepared the day before):
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add cayenne pepper, bird's eye chili, shallots, garlic, and tomato. Cook for about 5 minutes. Discard water
Place this in a food processor and process until fine along with sugar, salt, chicken broth/water
Preheat a small saucepan with 1 Tbsp cooking oil. Add the chili mixture and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat into a small bowl or glass container. Let it cool down and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week
Cooking the chicken with Instant Pot pressure cooker:
Place the chicken pieces in the inner pot of Instant Pot. Pour in the coconut water. Add the aromatics. Close the lid. Turn steam release valve to seal. Press "pressure cooker" and make sure it's on high pressure. Set timer to 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, release pressure immediately
Unlock the lid and carefully transfer the chicken pieces out and let them cool down before pan frying them. You can save the stock for other use if you want to (I save it to make chicken noodle soup). Proceed to pan frying
Cooking the chicken on the stove:
Place the chicken pieces in a large pot. Pour in the coconut water. Add the aromatics. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to let it gently simmer until the chicken pieces are cooked through and the meat is tender. Add a bit of coconut water if the liquid evaporates before the chicken pieces are cooked through, about 25-30 minutes, depending on how big the chicken pieces are. Proceed to pan frying
Pan frying the chicken pieces:
Heat about 4 Tbsp of cooking oil on a pan. When the oil is hot, carefully add the chicken pieces to briefly pan fry them. We won't be frying them until golden brown, but just to give them some light brown color
Remove and serve with sambal chili sauce
Air frying the chicken pieces: (if you choose not to pan fry)
Lightly brush the chicken pieces with some cooking oil. Place in the air fryer basket, preferably in one layer, so you may need to do this in batches. Set temperature to 375 F and air fry for 8-10 minutes or until you are happy with the color. Remember that they are only supposed to be light golden brown in color