The ubiquitous and highly popular ‘ayam penyet’ dish has been making waves across Southeast Asian countries – Singapore included – in the past several years. What makes ayam penyet highly likeable is probably the fact that the dish is simple enough to be an everyday lunch or dinner dish, and it is wholesome enough to remind you of a home-cooked meal. But first, let’s get to know more about this dish and its history.
Origins of ayam penyet
Ayam penyet, which translates to ‘smashed fried chicken’ in Javanese, is an East Javanese dish from Indonesia that features fried chicken that has been smashed using a pestle and mortar to make it softer. It is also served with sambal, cucumber slices, fried tofu, and tempeh. Fried chicken and ribs are two penyet foods that are frequently associated with Surabaya, the capital of East Java, in Indonesia. Ayam penyet Suroboyo is the most well-known variety.
The spicy sambal that goes with ayam penyet is well-known for being produced with a blend of chillies, anchovies, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, tamarind, and lime juice. The combination is next crushed into a paste to be consumed with the dish, just like its namesake.
The roots of Ayam Penyet may be traced back to Ayam Bakar Wong Solo, and this menu is an adaptation of that establishment. However, it gained popularity after being sold in Surabaya under the name Ayam Penyet Surabaya.
Today, ayam penyet restaurants and stalls can be found islandwide in Singapore as well as Malaysia, not just in Indonesia. If you’re looking for recommendations on where to get your next plate of ayam penyet, read on:
1. Impian Wahyu
Abang Batman and Wahyu Ning, an Indonesian couple, run the modest little shop Impian Wahyu. By now, you’ve undoubtedly guessed that Ms Wahyu is honoured in the name of the shop.
The sambal is what distinguishes Impian Wahyu’s ayam penyet from the competition. It is possible to enjoy the sambal, which is a flavorful mixture of sugar, fried tomatoes, and dried chillies on its own. On-demand, each serving of sambal is produced by hand.
Zoul’s Corner started off as a simple Nasi Padang shop that was operated by the owner’s mother for more than 30 years. Mr Azhar, also known as Zoul, realised that running a Nasi Padang booth was challenging after assisting his mother in business for a year. Long hours were required to operate a Nasi Padang stall. To make sure there was a wide selection of dishes, preparation took a lot of time as well. He struggled with the exhausting hours and realised it wasn’t his cup of tea.
In the end, he concentrated on narrowing the selection of products to those that would best symbolise Zoul’s Corner, which is how their signature dish, Zoul’s Nasi Ayam Penyet, came to be!
Today, Zoul’s Corner is known to serve one of the best ayam penyet dishes in Singapore. Just make your way there and order in to taste for yourself.
3. Uncle Penyet
This halal-certified restaurant opened its door to the public in 2005, with the motto of ‘Serving you nothing but delicious yet affordable Indonesian Fusion Food’. Today, Uncle Penyet boasts several outlets across Singapore.
The ayam penyet dish offers excellent value for just a little over five dollars. The chicken is rather large and has an unusually thick, crisp coating. But I’m not complaining because it has a great crunch because of this. Even if the chicken meat is a little tasteless on its own, curry rice makes up for it. For its size, we really appreciate their tofu. Inside, it’s quite soft and tender.
Although the portion of the ayam penyet here is a little bit smaller, the quality is not compromised. While the flesh within is still juicy and soft, the skin is flawlessly crisp. The sambal in this meal is fantastic and significantly improved the entire dish. When they sell out, they close, so arrive early to avoid disappointment!
Compared to most other ayam penyet restaurants, the ayam penyet dish here is probably one of the pricier ones. Nonetheless, the quality and taste are worth the occasional splurge. The deep-fried chicken had a thin, crunchy coating on the outside and was soft on the inside. It was presented on a fresh pandan leaf, which I didn’t think changed the flavour but added a pleasant touch.
A bowl of steaming rice and a side of fried tofu, tempeh, and vegetables were served with the entrée. It’s safe to say that the spicy, tangy sambal here is highly seductive because it’s free-flowing! A special mention goes to the fried tempeh, which had a strong nuttiness and is really fragrant. You’ll be happy to know that Ayam Penyet Ria also provides a boneless version of this dish if having to remove bones annoy you.