Steamed Chicken in Banana Leaf

Origin: Bali Island


  • 600 g chicken fillet, washed
  • 2 pc shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pc large red chillies, de-seeded, thinly sliced
  • 6 pc salam or bay leaves
  • 2 tsp tamarind pulp, soak with 3 tbsp water
  • 150 ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 6 pc banane leaf sheets, each about 30x25cm

Spice for the paste

  • 5 pc shallots, chopped
  • 3 gloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pc small red chillies, de-seeded if you don't like spicy
  • 4 pc candlenuts, roughly chopped or crashed
  • 1 stem lemon grass, outer leaves discarded, finely chopped
  • 1 cm ginger
  • 2 cm lesser galangale or 2 tsp lesser galangale powder
  • 2 cm fresh turmeric or 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp to taste, palm sugar, shredded
  • salt to taste
  • oil

Steamed Chicken in Banana Leaf

Here it is the special dish from Bali: Tum Ayam or Steamed Chicken in Banana Leaf. It looks similarly to Pepes / Botok Ayam from Java. But Tum Ayam has more complex spices & also contains coconut milk. The special spice which is commonly used in Balinese Kitchen is Lesser Galangale/Kencur.
Unfortunately the fresh rhyzome is rare almost impossible to find here in the west. But you can get the powder or dry rhyzome in Asian shop easily. Try your best to get it because this rhyzome could not be substituted with other ingredient. Should be no banana leaf available arround you, then take Aluminium-Foil as a substitute.
Note: If preferred use meat instead of chicken. The dish is called : Tum Daging. For you who's on diat against colesterol & want to avoid coconut milk based dish, try another light variant called "Cakep Ayam". It tastes also good 😉


  • Wash the chicken fillet, cut in strips then put on a largish bowl. Prepare the chopped shallot, chopped garlic & sliced large red chilli. Put aside.
  • Put all ingredients for the paste in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (If necessery add a little bit oil to help the blending process). Put aside.
  • Heat 5 tbsp oil in a wok or big saucepan. Stir fry the chopped shallot & garlic until transparent & fragrant. Set aside to drain.
  • Reheat the saucepan, stir-fry the paste over medium heat until fragrant and well cooked (takes about 5-7 mins). The paste is done when the oil begins to appear on the surface & it's texture becomes scrambled.
  • Add the paste, fried shallot & garlic, sliced chilli into the chicken's bowl. Stir to mix.
  • Add the tamarind juice & coconut milk, stir again with wooden spoon to mix all together.
  • Adjust the seasoning, add salt & sugar if necessary. This is an important step to obtain best taste before steaming. Otherwise the seasoning can't be adjusted later on.
  • * If you use fresh banana leaves, soak in a hot water for 10 minutes or put above the steamer to prevent tearing or leaking. Pat dry with paper towel.
  • Divide the mixture into 6 portions ( 2- 3 tbsp pro portion ).
  • Put one salam leaf on the bottom center of banana leaf, spoon the chicken mixture in the middle of banana leaf, then wrap it in "Tum" style.
  • (Follow step by step of "Tum" wrapping style as you see in a pictures.)
  • Step 2
  • Step 3
  • Secure the wrapping with tooth pick or stapler.
  • Steam the parcels until the chicken becomes tender (takes about 30 minutes). Serve hot as a side dish.

Additional Notes & Tipps

  • * Fresh banana leaf is particularly stiff and easily torn when it is bent or fold. Therefore it is suggested to soften them before using. There are two ways in practice.
    Choose one which is easy & suitable for you.
  • (1st). Soak the banana leaf in hot water about 3-5 minutes until the leaves are getting soft and change color slightly, then wipe it dry with a paper towel or a kitchen tissue to remove the dirt.
  • (2nd). Wash and heat over the steam cooker or pass it over the flame of a gas stove or a hot electric burner.
Keyword Bali food, banana leaves, chicken in banana leave, steamed chicken

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