theboywhoatetheworld cooks: Ayam Kunyit

Turmeric (kunyit) is used widely in Malaysian cuisine. Its earthy flavour and distinct yellow colour is essential in everything from spice pastes to marinades, curries to Laksa broths. Long considered an anti-inflammatory ingredient in Chinese medicine, my godmother will always show off her yellow-stained fingers after handling the root spice whilst championing its health benefits.

If there’s one dish that celebrates turmeric like no other, it’s this delicious yet extremely simple Ayam Kunyit (Turmeric Chicken) recipe, loaded with fragrant lemongrass and aromatic curry leaves. The super short ingredients list, many of which require little to no preparation, means everything can be ready in under 30 minutes!

Ayam Kunyit Turmeric Chicken


Ingredients (serves 4 as a shared dish)

  • 700g chicken drumsticks (or thighs)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 stalks lemongrass – scored lengthways and bruised
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 12 curry leaves
  • Small pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Turmeric mixture:

  • 1.5 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 100 ml water


  • 2 tbsp deep-fried shallots (store-bought will do)


  1. Heat up the vegetable oil in a lidded sauté pan. Fry the lemongrass stalks, curry leaves and onions in the oil for 2 – 3 minutes on a low heat until the oil is infused and fragrant.
  1. Season the chicken with a small pinch of salt then add it to the pan and fry in the lemongrass oil for 4 – 5 minutes. Turn occasionally until the skin is evenly browned on all sides.
  1. Combine all the turmeric mixture ingredients and pour over the chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook with the lid on (but slightly ajar) for about 15 minutes (or until the chicken is fully cooked through). Turn the chicken every 5 minutes or so to ensure even cooking. The sauce should naturally reduce to a coating consistency (if not, remove the lid for the final few minutes of cooking).
  1. Garnish with fried shallots and serve immediately with some steamed rice or coconut rice.