There’s an East Javanese dish that’s slowly earning a spot within the hearts of locals; Ayam Penyet (which roughly translates to smashed/flattened chicken). A typical serving consists of a piece of fried chicken which has been marinated in spices and smashed before frying to create a certain degree of softness with sides of sambal, vegetables, fried tofu and tempeh.

From chain restaurants to humble Indonesian eateries in the suburbs, ayam penyet is steadily appearing on menus. We visited several places to sample this rustic dish.

1. Ayam Penyet AP

Established in March 2009 and with 16 outlets nationwide, Ayam Penyet AP is easily one of the first few restaurants that locals name when they crave a plate of the spicy ayam penyet. Besides the chicken variation they also have sets that feature other meats like udang (prawn), lele (catfish), empal (beef), bawal hitam (black pomfret) and ikan kembong (mackerel). Ayam Penyet AP also serves Minangkabau dishes like balado and other Indonesian fare like bakso and bebek bengil but that’s not what we came for today!

We paid a visit to their Shah Alam outlet. An order of Ayam Penyet here comes with fried tempeh, fried beancurd, a few slices of vegetables, a dollop of super spicy (not kidding on the spicy) sambal and the main star; ayam penyet topped with some crispy fried batter bits. We find the fried condiments and sides here pleasantly crunchier than other places.

The ambience here is rather warm but well maintained and clean. Large pictures depicting Javanese and Minangkabau culture adorn the walls and bring a touch of homey-ness to the restaurant.

2. Ayam Penyet Express

Ayam Penyet Express in Sunway Pyramid sure is popular during lunch and dinner hours on weekends. The crowd choice seems to be their Ayam Penyet Set A which comes with a serving of ayam penyet, white rice and lemongrass soup.

The set comes with the standard ayam penyet and condiments, but the sambal’s spicyness might just give Ayam Penyet AP a run for their money. Not for the weak of heart (or tongue?). The chicken is pretty decent, but the soup has a bit too much oil in it for our liking. If you don’t fancy chicken there are other sets featuring beef, catfish, prawn, pomfret, or ribs (iga) in place of chicken.

3. Pondok Indonesia

Pondok Indonesia in Damansara Uptown serves authentic Indonesian food like lontong sayur, nasi uduk, lele kremes and of course, ayam penyet. We dropped by for lunch and ordered several dishes to share!

The chicken is delightfully crunchy, soft, and a decent portion. The tempeh was pretty good too and the best part is the sambal is not overpoweringly spicy. No tongue torture! The white rice was pleasantly fragrant; it left us wondering if it was prepared with some pandan leaves in the mix.

4. Sari Ratu

Our final stop is Sari Ratu in Subang Parade. Unlike the other chain restaurants their signature dish here is not ayam penyet but we were informed that they are a truly authentic Indonesian restaurant specializing in Padang food so we expect the food here is true to its origins. Sari Ratu’s signature dishes include Gurame Goreng (tilapia fish), Daging Dendeng, Paru Goreng and Ikan Merah Curry. Tempting but we are here mainly for the ayam penyet (which is also fairly popular) so we’ll leave the other dishes for another time.

The ayam penyet here is available as an a la carte order, with no other accompanying sides besides some sambal and rice. Although we do miss the tempeh that usually comes with this, the marinated fried chicken tastes fairly nice and the sambal not numbingly spicy.

That’s a lot of heat for our stomachs! Interested to try some ayam penyet yourselves?

Pay these restaurants a visit for a taste: