Lemper ayam is an Indonesian snack consists of steamed glutinous rice filled with spiced chicken floss, and typically wrapped in banana leaves. I think of lemper as Indonesian version of onigiri, except of course we don’t eat the banana leaves, just the rice and the filling. And if I have to choose between the two, I will always choose lemper.
What is lemper ayam?
Lemper ayam is basically a steamed glutinous rice/sticky rice snack with chicken floss (or other savory) filling, and typically wrapped in banana leaves. As such, there are two components in any lemper making endeavor:
- sticky rice/glutinous rice (Indonesian: beras ketan)
The sticky rice component stays the same regardless of which filling you make, so once you master this recipe, you can go wild and experiment with other filling.
- meat filling
The most common filling for lemper is undoubtedly spiced chicken floss, and since Indonesian for chicken is ayam, we call this particular combo lemper ayam.
This lemper ayam recipe does call for a long list of ingredients, but it is actually very easy to cook the two parts that make up of a typical lemper:
- Steam the sticky/glutinous rice with salt, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam, and pandan leaves.
- Poach, shred, and fry the chicken (or other meat of your choice) with all the listed spices.
Once you are done preparing the sticky rice and the meat filling, the next step is assembling the lemper.
How to assemble lemper, the traditional way
The traditional way to assemble a lemper is by taking a handful of steamed sticky rice/glutinous rice, place some meat filling at the center, enclose the meat witht the rice, then wrap the whole thing in banana leaves. And repeat until all the steamed rice and/or meat filling is used up.
Sounds complicated and tedious? Well, let me tell you how I do it at home because it is so dead simple compared to the traditional way.
A much easier way to assemble lemper
Instead of all the complicated steps that I just mentioned, here is how I assemble my lemper, which I guarantee is exceedingly easy.
First, grab an 8″ square cake pan, line with saran plastic (with overhangs!).
Next, spread half of the steamed sticky rice on the pan and press into an even layer.
Then, spread all the spiced chicken floss on top and press again into an even layer.
And finally, spread and press the remaining half of the sticky rice on top of the chicken layer.
Serving the lemper
When you want to serve the lemper, grab the saran plastic overhang to remove the rice/meat assembly from the pan. With an oiled knife (or better yet, a plastic knife), cut into serving sizes.
If you want big portions, then 2×4 (8 pieces) is the way to go. I usually cut it into 3×5 (15 pieces) since I think this size is closest to what I find in Indonesia. Or, if you prefer squares, you can do 3×3 (9 pieces) or 4×4 (16 pieces).
Whichever way you choose to cut, I think a pot of hot tea will go down nicely with lemper for tea time.
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