Malaysian / Singaporean

Ayam Pansoh Tagine

Kimberly’s Story

Again going back to my roots, as you may or may not know I am born to a Chinese father and Iban mother. Tomorrow (1st June) is a hugely celebrated Gawai Festival (Harvest Festival) by local “Dayak” natives in my home state Sarawak, Malaysia. The Iban tribe is one of the main Dayak group of natives and I am proud to be half Iban. Every year, people in Sarawak celebrate Gawai by visiting friends and relatives, drinking lots of tuak (Sarawak Rice Wine), eating lots of amazing local traditional dishes and just partying all night long.

This dish is a traditional Iban dish. Its name “Ayam Pansoh” means chicken cooked in bamboo. The Ibans also cook pork “pansoh” style and call it “Babi Pansoh”. This dish is usually served with “Lemang” which is sticky glutinous rice with coconut, also cooked in a bamboo log. Being in Melbourne and away from family and all of their festivities tomorrow, I thought it was appropriate for me to try and recreate this dish with a few small cooking alterations due to my limited supply of rare ingredients.

Before I go into details of how to recreate this one of a kind dish only found in Sarawak, let me just first and foremost say this has got to be one of my proudest cooking achievements. I was very, very happy with the flavours of this dish and the tenderness of the chicken and the aroma it produced!

Hubby even said “You have possibly invented something people will really, really like Kim”.

Although, in all fairness I didn’t ‘invent’ this dish – just altered the cooking style and substituted some rarer ingredients!

I also had a small group of friends over so they had a little taste. They all loved it!

So let’s cut to the chase and find out how to cook this dish ay?


Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes to marinate chicken
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4

1.5 kg chicken maryland, chopped into smaller pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks lemongrass, stripped and sliced
2.5 cm (12 g) cube ginger, julienned
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
15-20 Thai basil leaves
2 large red chillies, seeds removed, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Banana leaves*
1 cup liquid chicken stock

*Available at most Asian grocers.


1) In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces, olive oil, lemongrass, julienned ginger, chopped garlic, Thai Basil leaves and sliced red chillies. Season well with salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2) Now here’s the twist… Usually, this chicken mixture is stuffed into a bamboo log and sealed with banana leaves at both ends and cooked over a woodfire/charcoal fire…

But I have searched and searched and no luck in finding an actual bamboo log. The idea is for the log to ‘trap’ the flavours which makes the dish so flavoursome… so what do I do as an alternative, living in a Western country with limited access to rare ingredients such as a whole bamboo log? If I was in China, it would be abundant. But even florists have told me it’s rare to find whole bamboo log these days in Australia…

TADA! I’ve figured if the idea was to “trap” the flavours then what better way to do it than to use my favourite pot in the whole wide world… the tagine!

3) Place a couple of banana leaves in the tagine to form a base and add the marinated chicken on top of the leaves. Pour in the chicken stock.

4) Cover the tagine and cook over medium low heat for approximately 45 minutes.

Enjoy and Selamat Hari Gawai! Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai :)