Ayam Masak Arak aka Arrack-Drenched Chicken (plus Recipe)

It all started when I was having a very late breakfast with Acionk at Jalan Diponegoro at some small town in Karangasem. The nasi campur was delicious and extra generous: a towering mountain of lardy rice, topped with vegetables, some crunchy pork crisps and chunks of grilled pork. We also tried some sate babi, so delicious with chunks of melting lard… Boy that was sooo good! It stuffed my stomach until dinner time.

Can’t recall what prompted it, but…. Oh, I remember: on the way home from Tulamben, we stopped at roadside warung and bought two bottles of arak Bali, the rice wine of Bali or Balinese arrack. I loved the intoxicating smell I wanted to drink it right away. Later when eating breakfast, I asked Acionk, can it be used for cooking and not just for drinking? As ang ciu substitute?

“Can. You should try ayam masak arak. Oh, it’s very delicious! It goes along well with hot rice and sambal.”

Sounds yumm!

This is how we do it: heat sesame oil and then stir fry julienned ginger until fragrant. Then put chopped chicken and season it with soy sauce. Later pour over arrack and let it simmer until it is thoroughly cooked.

No garlic?

“No need.”

But how can a Chinese food menu omit garlic? I protested.


The idea of not peeling garlic excited me. So at home, I tried the recipe:

  • chicken drumstick and or wings, chopped (you can use or omit the bones*)/paha dan atau sayap ayam, potong kecil (dengan atau tanpa tulang)
  • Arak Bali
  • ginger, julienned/jahe, potong korek api
  • sesame oil/minyak wijen

*Acionk suggests better use the bones for more savory flavor.

And…surprise,  surprise, everyone loved it! The warmth of ginger blends well with the rich taste of sesame oil. I am not sure what arrack’s contribution is to the menu, but I guess it strengthens the taste, like an extra punch to the taste.

I brought the news to Acionk and Olive. The latter later suggested me to try Ayam pek cam kee and stir fried green bean aka tumis buncis, both use arrack and garlic. But then I learned that the methods of cooking ayam pek cam kee are, for a lazy “chef” like me, a bit long and draggy, so I decided to do my own version:

Stir fry julienned ginger in sesame oil, add some crushed garlic and onions. Put inside the chopped chicken. Later add some sugar, soy sauce, salt and pepper. To spice it up, add some cut chilis. Pour generous shots of arrack and let it simmer until it is cooked.

Yes, I was aware that I “corrupted” if not “tweaked” the recipe. I can try the “true” version anytime. Oh, I don’t remember how many servings of rice we took to eat my version of ayam pek cam kee.

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