Sweet and Sticky Sambal Chicken


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

It’s true that under most circumstances, I would tell you to let the hot roasted chicken rest before you did anything else to it but this time, I stray away from my own rules. It is and I stress on this, imperative that you paint the hot bird with the chilli sauce as soon as it comes out of the oven. The hot skin takes to the sauce like a magnet to an iron nail. There will come a point when you might feel like you’re painting the chicken like a wall and you’re right, paint-dry-paint-dry till that final coat of perfection is achieved. The drippings in the pan are always a bonus!

Forbidden rice and a quick cucumber salad are the light fixtures and furniture of this painted room of a chicken. (Okay, I’ll stop with the metaphors now.)

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Sweet and Sticky Sambal Chicken

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A roast chicken is rewarding, in that it can feed several at once. Leftovers can find alternate lives and bones can make stocks but today, I don’t really don’t want to focus on what might happen down the road but rather on what is on hand. What I do want to chat about is this glistening roast chicken slathered with several strokes of a chilli sauce made from the Indonesian fermented chilli paste, sambal oelek. Honey, vinegar, and soy sauce form the glue that holds it all together.

  • Yield: 4


For the chicken

One 4 lb/1.8 kg whole roasting chicken

Fine sea salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups/480 ml water

¼ cup/60 ml apple cider vinegar or black vinegar

¼ cup/60 ml runny honey

¼ cup/60 g sambal oelek

1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 whole star anise

For the rice

2 ½ cups/600 ml water

1 cup/100 g of black/forbidden rice, rinsed and drained

fine sea salt

For the cucumber salad

1 large/about 300 g English cucumber, peeled and sliced

2 tsp fresh lime or lemon juice

Fine sea salt

4 scallions, both white and green parts thinly sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
  2. Pat the chicken dry with clean absorbent paper towels and place the chicken over a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. If using a wire rack, place the wire rack perpendicular to the baking sheet to allow easy access to the liquids in the pan during basting.
  3. In a small bowl mix together, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, and baking soda. Rub the mixture all over the skin of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the chicken. Transfer the baking sheet with the chicken to the preheated oven. Fill the pan with water and let the chicken roast in the oven. After 20 minutes, rotate the tray and begin to baste the chicken with juices in the pan, every 10 minutes. The chicken will be done when the skin turns golden brown and crisp, and the internal temperature reaches 165F/74C, total cooking time 45 minutes to 1 hour. During roasting, if the water in the pan begins to dry out, add ½ cup/120ml more water. Remove from the oven.
  4. While the chicken roasts, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan bring the vinegar, honey, sambal oelek, soy sauce, and star anise to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes, not more than 1 hour. Discard the star anise.
  5. As soon as the chicken comes out of the oven, brush it with the sauce and let rest for 1 minute. Get into all the nooks and crannies when you brush it. Repeat and brush until there is no more sauce left behind in the saucepan.
  6. While the chicken cooks, prepare the rice. Add the water, rice, and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer covered until all the water is absorbed by the grains and they turn tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Keep covered and warm.
  7. Toss the cucumber in a medium mixing bowl with the lime juice. Taste and season with salt.
  8. Serve the hot or warm chicken with the cooked rice and the cucumber salad. Garnish with the scallions.


  • You don’t need to own a roasting pan, a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack set on top will work just as well. Remember to keep the wire rack at an angle or perpendicular so that you have enough space to access the liquids in the pan. Of course, make sure your oven door shuts easily.
  • I don’t use a turkey baster; a ladle or large spoon will get the job done.
  • The pan should always have at least ½ cup/120ml of water or liquid at the bottom. This provides the necessary humidity in the oven and prevents the chicken from drying out.
  • Get a Thermapen or a thermometer with a long probe, they are game changers. They’re also fantastic for pastry and dessert work.
  • As soon as the chicken comes out of the oven, it’s immediately brushed with the sauce. This helps with the absorption and the heat from the chicken helps the sauce thicken.
  • Forbidden or black rice does not need to be washed or soaked or a large portion of the beautiful purplish-black color will be lost to the water. Rinse very briefly and cook.

4 Responses

  1. Sounds lovely! Do roast the chicken the whole time with the breast side up or do you turn it halfway through or so?

    1. Because this uses basting and the oven is opened often, I don’t find it necessary to rotate the roasting pan halfway through during cooking. I usually do that, if the oven is not opened a lot.

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