Lemper Ayam Panggang

2009 September 24

Lemper is like an Indonesian sushi. It is made from a sticky glutinous rice filled with kencur chicken and wrapped in banana leaves. The way Indonesian people eat it is by grilling/burning the banana leaves wrapping so that the fragrance of the leaves could be absorbed into the sticky rice. Lemper is one of the most popular ‘Jajanan Pasar’ in Indonesia. Jajanan means food and Pasar means traditional market.

The most important ingredients of Lemper are garlic puree and kencur. Fresh kencur is impossible to find in Sydney market. Thank God for a commercial bottle Kencur sold in Indonesia groceries store. However, fresh baby celery is not less important than Kencur. How lucky I am to find fresh baby celery in Thai grocery store just when I thought of making Lemper. That was the first time ever I saw those baby celery in Sydney. This baby celery is different from the usual celery. They look more like coriander but the smell is not as strong and smelly (no offense to Coriander lover.. but I couldn’t stand the smell).

This is the second time I made Lemper Ayam and the taste and appearance is much better than the first. Gosh I still remember how I screwed the large order of 250 pcs Lemper Ayam together with 1000 pcs of Klepon. The Klepon was excellence as I am used to making so many of them, however the Lemper was a disaster. I hadn’t had a chance to experiment with it and the Lemper order was the last minute thing, and how silly I was to accept the request. My grandmother was supporting me on the phone (while she was in Indonesia) and told me that they are easy-peasy. I am not saying that I shouldn’t listen to her but she was so used to accept a very large order (a very large order that I mean is like 10,000 pcs). I was so inexperienced with the cooking glutinous rice that they were all unevenly cooked and still raw. Since that moment, I was so traumatised  with cooking glutinous rice and never want to even try cooking them again, and that was 6 years ago. Last August I succeed cooking Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice) for my toddler’s second birthday that I regain my confidence and want to have another go.

I was never taught how to cook Lemper step by step, so I just rely on my grandma’s saying and my memory of how it tastes like. As my grandma never measure all the ingredient that she uses in cooking, so she pretty much describes the taste over the phone. I wish I would pay much attention while she was doing the cooking back then, and now I will make myself taking notes while she is cooking when I go back to Indonesia ;)

Lemper Ayam Panggang

This is how the Lempers look like after being wrap in banana leaves. They are ready to be packed in a container so I could store them in the fridge.

Lemper Ayam Panggang - with banana wrapping

I was running out of banana leaves so what I did was laying a layer of sticky rice in a rectangular glassware (about 1 cm in thickness), then spreading the filling on half top of sticky rice, so that I could fold them like making a sandwich. Then I cut and wrapped them using plastic wrap, so the surface wouldn’t harden as they are exposed to the air.

Lemper Ayam Panggang - without babana leaves wrapping

Ingredients for the Glutinuous Rice

  • 1 kg glutinous rice, wash and drained
  • 1 pandan leave, torn and knotted
  • 500 ml coconut cream
  • 425 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp pureed garlic
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2tbsp salt

Ingredients for the Chicken Filling

  • a pair of chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp pureed garlic
  • 425 ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp Kencur
  • about 20 pcs lime leaves, chopped finely
  • fresh baby celery, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • oil for stir frying

Ingredients for wrapping

  • extra pandan leaves to wrap, wash and pat dry
  • banana leaves to wrap
  • toothpicks to secure

Instructions for the Glutinous Rice

  1. Mix coconut cream, coconut milk, pandan leave, garlic, salt and sugar in a non stick pan. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes so the salt and sugar could dissolve and turn off the heat.
  2. Meanwhile, steam the glutinous rice for 5 minutes and then take it out and mix it into the coconut mixture. Keep stirring and mixing until all the coconut is absorbed into the glutinous rice.
  3. Steam the glutinous rice again for about 20-25 minutes or until cook. Remember to stir them occasionally every 5 minutes so they are cooked evenly.
  4. After cook, keep them warm in the steamer until you are ready to wrapped them.

Instructions for the Chicken Filling

  1. Boil/steam chicken breast until cook. Using hand not knife, shred the chicken according to its shape as fine as possible. (It should looks like a short noodle)
  2. Heat oil in the wok and stir fry the garlic until fragrant. Add chopped lime leaves and stir it for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add shredded chicken breast and kencur, stir for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add coconut milk, salt and sugar. Let it simmer on low heat until all coconut juice is absorbed into the chicken.
  5. Add it chopped baby celery. Turn off your stove. Mix until combined and set aside to cool.

Instructions for wrapping

  1. Turn your cook top on. Working quickly, place banana leave on top of the cook top until it changes color slightly.
  2. Wipe the leaves with damp towel to clean it and torn them about 10 cm in width.
  3. Using plastic gloves, take a mixture of glutinous rice (about half size of your fist). Put it in your palm and get another palm to press it down so you could put the filling in (about 2tsp of filling). Roll it over and shape it into ball. You could take out some of the glutinous rice off the ball if it is too thick.
  4. Divide the pandan leaves into 3 or 4 parts vertically (depends on how wide your leave is). Then fold and cut each of them into 3 or 4 pieces (as long as it could wrap and go around your Lemper ball).
  5. Wrap the Lemper ball with pandan leave and then wrap them in banana leave like you wrap a present. Secure both side with a toothpick.
  6. To serve, using a non stick pan, grill your lemper until it burned. Let it cool and it is ready to be serve.

Preparation time (duration): 90

Culinary tradition: Indonesian

Please leave your comment/suggestion if you find this recipe useful. Can’t wait to hear from you and Thank You!!!

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 December 6
    Nancy Allen permalink

    Hi Linda
    Lovely recipe. I’m working on a culinary textbook for Prentice Hall and your lemper saga helps. Your lemper are gorgeous. Worth the effort. I ate first ate lemper on a plane ride from Jakarta to Bali or Malaysia. Lovely. I will include several types of lemper, along with other Indonesian dishes, in my Southeast Asian section. Do you have any suggestions for the top 6 to 12 dishes I should include?
    Warm regards,
    Northern Michigan chef-educator

    • 2009 December 7
      linda permalink

      Hi Nancy,
      Thank you for your comments. I am flattered. It really took me a long time to wrap them in banana leaves but at least I could satisfied my crave over my grandma’s lemper.
      Wow you are working on a culinary book…interesting and challenging work ;)
      My suggestions on Indonesian dishes… probably a very traditional and authentic ones such as:
      1. Empek-empek Palembang (a mixture of mackerel fish paste combine with tapioca starch, formed into such shapes, and eaten with spicy palm sugar vinegarette sauce and diced cucumber)
      2. Sate Padang (Sate made from beef, especially the tongue part, cooked in herb, then skewered, and eaten with a spicy rice flour turmeric sauce)
      3. Siomay Bandung (a mixture of mackarel pish paste combine with sheredded chokoes, formed into a dough or combined with tofu or pare (forgot the english names, they are very bitter), eaten with peanut sauce)
      4. Martabak Telor (plain flour dough looks like a spring roll paper filled with beef mince, onions, scallions, and eggs, and pan fried, eaten with a spicy palm sugar vinegarette sauce and pickled cucumber, carrots, and shallots)
      5. Gado-gado
      6. can’t think of any at the moment… let me know if you need some suggestions about Indonesian’s food. I am happy to help.
      I hope my list helps you.


  2. 2009 December 6
    Nancy Allen permalink

    Uh, that was Indonesian dishes I should include.

  3. 2010 January 9
    Nancy Allen permalink


    I’d like to adapt your lemper recipe and give you credit–in my book–and site your website–would that be okay? Can you tell me your last name. I want to quote you. My email address is: nallenchef@gmail.com

    Warm regards and a thousand thanks!

    • 2010 January 11
      linda permalink

      Wow I am flattered. Of course you can. My last name is Kurniawan. Would you like me to send it through email as well so you have a formal acknowledgment?

      Let me know if the book is released so I could check it out. Good luck on the project.

      Kind regards,

      • 2010 January 12
        Nancy Allen permalink

        Sure, that would be great to have an email correspondence.
        One other question: what’s your definition of bumbu? Is it a spice paste or just general spices?
        Warm thanks

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