What makes Gulai Ayam Karo (or Gule Kuta-Kuta in Karo’s dialect) different than other gule/gulai in Indonesia? Torch ginger flower (bunga kecombrang) and the fruit (asam cekala) have created the distinction. Most gule or gulai recipes that I’ve known need to stir-fry the wet spices paste before adding other ingredients. However, this gule doesn’t need any stir-frying. The addition of grilling the chicken before mixing with other curry ingredients is elevating the flavour as well.
There are two different names and four different spelling in Indonesian just for curry. Gule or gulai and kari or kare have been part of Indonesian cuisines for centuries. Just like other South East Asian cookings, curry in Indonesia uses wet spice paste instead of dry spices.
Thank you to Nath Bangun who is a Karo descendant and has shared this recipe with me. I’m glad I brought some bunga kecombrang and asam cekala home, so I could use them to make this exotic gule. Being a half batak doesn’t mean I know everything about Batak’s food. Especially batak has some different sub-ethnic in which they do have some different foods.
Gule Kuta-Kuta (Gulai Ayam Karo)
Karo-Style Chicken Curry
1 kg free range chicken, cut into pieces and broiled for a couple minutes
1/2 kg potatoes (I used red baby red potatoes), halved
2 torch ginger (kecombrang), finely sliced
3 lemongrass, bruised
5 torch ginger fruit (asam cekala), bruised
400 mL medium coconut milk
600 mL water
1 leek, sliced
50 grams bird eye chilies (I used Thai red chilies since these are hotter so I reduced the amount)
10 long red cayenne peppers
5 shallots (10 shallots if you use a smaller size)
3 candlenuts, toasted*
5 cloves garlic
3-cm turmeric root, toasted and peel
In a dutch oven or pot, add water, spice paste, lemongrass, asam patikala and chicken. Cook until chicken tender at medium-high heat..
Toss in potatoes, cook until soft. Add slices of kecombrang (torch ginger) and coconut milk.
Reduce the heat to simmer and stir the mixture to eliminate a rupture coconut milk. Continue cooking. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle slices of leek. Remove from the heat and ready to serve.
*If you don’t have any candlenuts, omit them. Instead use a mix of 500mL thick coconut milk and 500 mL water for the mixture of 400mL medium coconut milk and 600mL water.
You can always reduce the amount of chili pepper if you don’t like a spicy one.