17 August 2011

Another delightful surprise

My friend Augustina, raised in Jakarta, married to an Italian, and now resident in Perth, Rome, and Bali, posted a photo of her favorite meal on Facebook: ayam betutu, nasi kuning, and urap.

Ayam betutu is a Balinese chicken specialty, but I thought I'd check to see if I could order it at Kem Chicks' new counter, set up for Ramadan, of homemade buka puasa (break the fast) dishes. It wasn't available, but Jack, the young man helping me with my inquiries, said he'd investigate to find which restaurant in Jakarta might be able to satisfy my curiosity. Nasi kuning (yellow rice, prepared with coconut milk and turmeric) and urap (blanched vegetables dusted with spiced coconut) are popular in Java, too, and more readily available.

I asked Jack to get back in touch with me via Agus. Within a couple of days, an email appeared in my inbox with the name of a restaurant and an offer from Jack's Javanese mother to provide the nasi kuning and urap. Thinking I could purchase the food from ibu Jack (Jack's mother), I happily said that this would be wonderful.

As it turned out, though, the beautiful tray I picked up this past Sunday at our 3 pm rendezvous at Kem Chicks was a gift. And what a gift! The food was delectable (including delicate shreds of egg, krupuk crackers, and a crunchy sweet-and-spicy tempe snack, orek), the platter a classic of elegant Indonesian presentation.

Note the banana leaf plate, with a real banana leaf under the main dishes.
Cellophane wrapping removed.

 Close-up of orek and egg strips.

 Close-up of nasi kuning and urap.

Now, needless to say, I'm trying to think of a thank-you gift. Agus assured me that this wasn't necessary, since Jack is the apple of his mother's eye and she'll do anything to make him happy, but I'm on the lookout for the perfect present anyway.

Below is a recipe for ayam betutu. I was thinking I might be able to prepare this myself, but one glance at the steps involved dissuaded me from the notion. I figure I wouldn't be eating the authentic dish unless I buried the chicken in the ground under charcoal for six hours.  A visit to Satay House Senayan in Pakubuono is on the agenda.


Recipe: Ayam betutu - Balinese grilled chicken

Ayam betutu is made of chicken with spices inside. The spices consist of turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, galangal, onion, garlic, cassava or salam leaves and chilies. All these spices are mixed and put inside the chicken. That is why it is called Ayam Betutu. Ayam Betutu is usually served in Balinese traditional ceremonies such as Odalan, Otonan, wedding ceremony, etc.


  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 100g (3½ oz) young cassava leaves, boiled until tender, cut into serving pieces
  • 1½ kg (3½ lb) chicken
  • banana leaves or aluminum foil for wrapping spices (ground)
  • 7 red chilies
  • 5 bird's eye chilies
  • 5 candlenuts, roasted
  • 10 shallots
  • 1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon coriander, roasted
  • 1½ tablespoons sliced lemon grass
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • tablespoon chopped galangal
  • ½ teaspoon powdered nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons chopped turmeric
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chopped kencur (lesser galangal)
  • salt and sugar 


  1. Heat oil and sauté the ground spices until fragrant and dry. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Divide into 2 parts. Combine 1 part with cassava leaves. Stuff the mixture into the chicken and secure with toothpicks.
  3. Rub the chicken with the remaining ground spices.
  4. Wrap the chicken with banana leaves and tie with a string.
  5. Grill in the oven at medium heat (180°C - 350°F) for 2-3 hours or until cooked.
  6. Remove from heat and cut before serving.
Note : Another way to cook the chicken is to steam it for about 45 minutes before grilling in the oven for 1 hour. Betutu is a special dish from Bali. Usually the Balinese use duck wrapped in banana leaves, and wrapped again with stalks of palm leaves. The duck is then buried in the ground and covered with hot charcoal for 6-7 hours until cooked.

A scaled-down recipe from the Food Network:


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