There was a time when our elders used to rear backyard chickens for fresh eggs. When the hens ceased to be productive, they became meat for the dinner table. These are called ayam pencen or ayam tua, or known as spent hens in the English-speaking world.
Layer hens are typically productive for about two years, unlike the 40-day-old chicken that we usually get from the supermarket. So you can imagine how much the additional 600 days can do to the flavour and texture of its flesh. Although its meat tends to taste gamier and tougher, it can withstand rigorous cooking.
It is, therefore, a much favoured meat served during Hari Raya, especially in chicken rendang. This classic recipe has been around for ages, and although there are some people who insisted that we add toasted shredded coconut or kerisik, I prefer the smooth gravy of thickened coconut milk. But of course you may add kerisik if you like the richer flavour of toasted coconut.
Braising this chicken in a pressure cooker really helps reduce the time needed to tenderise the meat. The added benefit is that the bottom of the pot will not burn so you don’t have to continuously stir and end up tearing the meat apart from the bones.
- 1.5kg old layer chicken
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp fennel powder
- Spice Blend:
- 50g dried chili, soak in water and remove seeds and stems
- 100g red chilli
- 150g red onion, peeled and quartered
- 150g shallot, peeled
- 50g garlic, peeled
- 5g fresh turmeric, peeled
- 20g lemongrass, slice bottom third into rings
- 200ml cooking oil
- 1 litre fresh coconut milk
- salt to taste
- Marinate chicken with salt, black pepper, cumin and fennel for 15 minutes.
- Heat oil, brown chicken in batches and keep aside.
- Sauté spice blend with the remaining oil until fragrant for 10 minutes.
- Add lemongrass stalks and chicken, and stir continuously for 5 minutes.
- Pour in coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours until gravy has thicken.
- Alternatively, braise in pressure cooker for 40 minutes, depressurise and simmer additional 20 minutes to thicken gravy.
- Lastly, season with salt.