Skip to main content
Cooking tips and recipes, plus food news and views.
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Balinese spice paste turns leftover chicken into a delicious souvenir

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Ayam Suwir Bumbu Bali (Shredded Chicken With Balinese Spice Paste)
Active time:15 min
Total time:30 min, plus time to make Base Genep (see related recipe)
Active time:15 min
Total time:30 min, plus time to make Base Genep (see related recipe)

In Bali, this simple dish is usually served with a scoop of rice and a side of fresh vegetables called lalapan — food writer Pat Tanumihardja prefers sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. A superb way to use up leftover rotisserie chicken, this recipe also works well with canned tuna. For a cross-cultural culinary twist, serve ayam suwir as a taco filling!

A multi-layered spice paste recipe unlocks the cuisine of Bali

You can use brown sugar instead of coconut or palm sugar, but consider using just 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar because brown sugar is sweeter.

If using cooked chicken, simply shred it as directed, and where the recipe calls for reserved cooking liquid, use water or chicken broth.

Related recipe: Base Genep (Balinese Spice Paste)

Ayam Suwir Bumbu Bali (Shredded Chicken With Balinese Spice Paste)

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.

Where to Buy: Coconut or palm sugar can be found at Asian markets or online.

Want to save this recipe? Click the bookmark icon at the top of this page, then go to Saved Stories in My Post.

Scale this recipe and get a printer-friendly, desktop version here.


  • 1 pound bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or breasts or 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cooked chicken (see headnote)
  • 2 makrut lime leaves, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
  • 6 tablespoons Base Genep (see related recipe)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon coconut or palm sugar (see headnote)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)
  • Sliced long red chiles (optional)
  • Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
  • Sliced cucumbers, for serving (optional)
  • Sliced tomatoes, for serving (optional)

Step 1

Place the chicken in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Crumple 1 lime leaf and add it to the saucepan, along with a pinch of salt. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, skimming off any gray scum that rises to the surface.

Step 2

Cover, remove from the heat and let sit until the chicken is cooked and registers at least 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken away from the bone, 15 to 20 minutes. The juices should run clear when you pierce the chicken with a knife.

Let sit until cool enough to handle, then shred the chicken with your fingers or two forks and reserve the cooking liquid (see headnote).

Step 3

In a medium skillet over medium heat, stir together the base genep, coconut milk, 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid and the remaining lime leaf, and bring to a simmer.

Add the chicken, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated but the chicken is still moist, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the lime juice, taste, and season with more sugar, salt and/or lime juice, if desired. Stir in the bell pepper and chiles, if using, until combined and remove from the heat. Remove the lime leaf.

Step 4

Divide the chicken among shallow bowls and serve with rice and vegetables, if using.

Nutrition Information

Per serving

Calories: 334; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 73 mg; Sodium: 371 mg; Carbohydrates: 24 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 26 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From food writer Pat Tanumihardja.

Tested by Jim Webster; email questions to

Scale this recipe and get a printer-friendly, desktop version here.

Browse our Recipe Finder for more than 10,000 Post-tested recipes.

Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.