ayam woku for dummies & happy Eid al-Fitr

a little while ago, i read a book called The Rosie Project. the main character in the book, Don, mentioned how he had a list of food he would make for each day of the week to make his life easier, like Mondays are A-menu day, Tuesdays are B-menu day, etc. (don’t ask. READ THE BOOK!) i forgot his exact term for it, but apparently humans can memorize a few menus in their brains so that when they cook something, they don’t need to see the recipe anymore. and by this, i mean like a more complicated menu, not just like stir-fry this and that.

so, anyway. though i don’t have a list of food to make for each day of the week, but i do actually understand what he meant. cooking Indonesian food isn’t something natural for me, because for the first 25 years of my life, i did not know how to cook. at all. no, i couldn’t even make the notorious nasi goreng, the most i could do was… um, make instant noodles.

when i moved here, naturally i had to learn how to cook. anything at all will do, because otherwise i would be stuck with frozen pizzas. slowly (and painfully) i learned how to cook this and that, finding the recipes from the internet, successfully failing many times, and finally finding my own cooking rhythm. when i was learning how to cook, i was such a tight-a*s when it came to following a recipe. if the recipe said 2 tablespoons of salt, then i would put 2 tablespoons of salt, no more, no less. if the recipe called for grated ginger, then i had to grate the ginger (not just chop it). if the recipe said it needed kaffir lime leaves, that meant i had to search for the dam*ed leaves to the end of the world if i had to, because there was no way i would omit it. if the recipe listed the first step as putting the onions into the pan, and number two is putting in the garlic, then i would not even dream of putting in the garlic first before the onions. if the recipe said ‘about 1/2 a cup of water’, then i’d rather not take my chances on following that ambiguous recipe. yeah, life was hard! 😀

now after years, i’ve learned to cut some slack. actually, quite a big slack. i learned that it doesn’t matter which herb you put in first (at least if you only want good food as the result, which is usually what i aim for), i learned that chopped ginger is just as good as grated, and i even learned to cut out numerous ingredients that is hard(er) for me to find. i mean, let us be frank here. Finland is a whole different country than Indonesia. candlenuts might be easy to find in Indonesia, but in Finland there’s only 1 or 2 stores that sell them.

this particular menu, Ayam Woku, was one of the first i learned how to make. it’s a Manadonese recipe, and usually woku meals mean fish, but for some reason this uses chicken (ayam = chicken). (not an expert here, so go ask Google if you want to know why.) i guess you can say it’s a soup, though it’s a heavy kind, so it’s meant to be eaten as the main course, together with white rice. my husband and i first got to know about Ayam Woku when we went to Bali together for the first time (still dating that time, not married yet). we ate at a Manadonese restaurant that served this menu. it was exotic for him, and even for me it wasn’t something i ate every day. it clearly had coconut milk/cream in it, and also turmeric for the yellow colour, and loooots of chili since it was quite hot, but other than that, i knew nothing about it.

after moving here and years of practice, i can now cook this menu without seeing the recipe, and i even have it simplified so that people around the world, no matter where you are, can make it too. if you are a Manadonese, then i’m sorry if you’re offended by my cutting off some ingredients, but if you’re not & you want to try making this, then please do! here’s what you need and how to do it, the simplified way.

what you need:

-about 900gr of chicken legs, cut to drumsticks and thigh parts
-2 or 3 medium sized single-clove garlics
-1.5 medium sized red onions
-3 or 4 medium sized red chili (depending on how hot you want it to be. with these i get medium-hot)
-ginger, the size of an adult’s thumb
-ground almond/almond powder (the kind you use for baking)
-turmeric powder
-1 lime
-150-200ml of coconut milk/cream
-3 big sized red tomatoes
-a bunch of spring onions (i usually use 2-3)
-white rice (jasmine or basmati), to be consumed together with this soup. usually i prepare the rice first before the soup, because things could get a bit too complicated when you start to make the soup. 😀


preparing to cook (only half of the ingredients are shown here). you can find all of the ingredients in even the smallest supermarkets. that’s my beloved lill chopper that’s been my partner in crime for the past 7 years (i much prefer this chopper than the traditional Indonesian mortar & pestle).

how to do it:

  1. Marinate the chicken parts with salt & lime, making sure all the parts are covered evenly. Use the salt generously, because i don’t usually add any more when cooking
  2. Chop & mix the garlics, red onions, chili, and ginger (alternatively, you can also grate the ginger)
  3. Heat the deep pot with just enough oil to cover the bottom part (=not too much) in moderate temperature
  4. Pour in the garlic/onion/chili/ginger mixture, fry them until you can smell the aroma
  5. Pour in about a tablespoon of ground almond, mix
  6. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder, mix
  7. Put the chicken parts into the pot. Fry them for a while, making sure to turn the parts around so all of them would be fried evenly
  8. When the chicken parts are halfway cooked, add just enough water so that the chicken parts are all right under the water surface. Without raising the temperature, bring to boil and leave to cook for about another half an hour while occasionally turning the chicken parts again
  9. Chop the tomatoes and spring onions while waiting for the chicken parts to cook thoroughly
  10. When the chicken parts are cooked, pour in the coconut milk/cream, mix
  11. Pour in the tomatoes and spring onions just 1-2 minutes before you want to serve the food, to make it as fresh as possible (yet still cooked). Mix, and the food is ready to be served. Consume with white rice (jasmine or basmati).

fresh from the stove! can you smell it?

this will make roughly 4 servings for adults, though in our case, since there’s only the 2 of us (and we always eat a LOT!) we usually eat about 2/3 of the whole batch at once, and save the rest for the next time we eat. when we’re eating it the next time, i would boil some eggs separately, peel them when they’re done, and put them into the warmed up soup as additions.


this is what my first serving usually look like. i told you we eat a LOT!

i hope you do try to make it, wherever you are! and when you do, i really hope this recipe works for you too, as it has worked for us for many years now. 🙂

also, happy Eid al-Fitr to those who celebrate it! may peace and contentment always be upon you.


11 thoughts on “ayam woku for dummies & happy Eid al-Fitr

  1. Happy Eid too, thanks puni. This is one of my fave dishes. My aunt was married to a Menadonese and she loved cooking ayam woku for our family and taught me how to make it. Then i relocate here i cook this dish for my hubby and he loves it so much bcoz of the surprising taste.

    • waaaah, you’re so lucky to have learned from the native! 😀 i’m sure the original recipe is much more tasty than my version. happy to hear that your hubby loves it too. hidup suami2 bule pecinta masakan Indonesia! 😉

  2. Ha! I remember being served ayam woku when I stayed at your place. Hmmm, must come again to taste some more of this 😀 Thanks for the recipe!

    • i daresay the current version is much better than the one you tried back then! 😀 hahaha… i think it’s because i’m much more confident now in cooking. do try the recipe at home there! 🙂

  3. Teman gue waktu itu bikin ayam woku nggak pake santan. Jadi, apparently, kemiri (atau dalam resep loe almond) itu pengganti santan untuk bikin kental. Mungkin suatu saat bisa loe coba untuk versi yang lebih ringan 😉

    • ach so. dulu resep asli yg gue baca juga ga pake santan sebenernya, tapi gue tetep tambahin. :p yakin bahwa pasti ada santannya, hihihi..

      gue baca entah di mana, klo pake bubuk almond rada bahaya karna porsinya agak menipu. 1 sendok makan bubuk almond = 6 biji almond, dan klo cuma pake bubuk itu tanpa pake santan untuk bikin kental bisa kebayang brp biji almond ya itu totalnya? imagine eating bowls of almonds that equal one serving of the ayam woku. 😀 so i don’t think it’s any “lighter” if i use almonds/candlenuts instead of coconut cream, but i honestly have no idea.

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