Bruneian Buttermilk Chicken

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This blog has been around in various forms for a long time now. Almost 10 years, if I do recall. Well, more like 8 and a half years, but that’s close enough. And when it comes down to it, the very first reason that I made this blog was because we had made buttermilk chicken and I was eager to share it. I didn’t make it my first blog post of course, but it was one of the first.

I’ve actually had a couple of recipes for it – one using evaporated milk (v1) and one using condensed milk (v2). Between the two of them, I would say version 1 is better. Unfortunately, my recipes from back then didn’t really have very good pictures. So I thought I’d update a few of my favourite recipes. The tested and true. Give them the attention they deserve. First on the queue are these, Buttermilk Chicken.

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And for good reason. Years and years after I first made the original recipe, this recipe for buttermilk chicken is consistently on of the most popular recipes on this blog. Probably because of homesick Bruneian students in the UK, maybe because of people who want to learn how to make their favourite dish at home, I don’t know. It really is one of the most popular pages here.

 People outside of Brunei may not have had the chance to sample this particular delicacy. I’m not quite sure where it all started, but the very first buttermilk chicken that I’ve tried was from the Teo Poi Hoon restaurant, which sadly, is no longer available to me right now. But practically every restaurant in Brunei has a buttermilk chicken dish.

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There’s a good reason Bruneians love this dish so. Simply because it’s delicious. The chicken pieces are seasoned and deep fried to golden crisp perfection. Then a sweet yet savoury, spicy yet creamy sauce is poured over it. You get the fragrance of curry leaves with every bite. I don’t need to describe the flavour, practically every Bruneian knows it.

I’ve seen buttermilk used in almost everything, not just chicken. Fish is a popular substitute. Prawns. Never seen buttermilk beef, I don’t think. But I’ve seen buttermilk chicken burgers, buttermilk chicken pizzas. Mind you, not all are to my taste but it just goes to show you just how beloved buttermilk chicken is.

And with this, you can tweak and tailor the dish to your taste. Want it more spicy? Add more chillies. Sweeter? More sugar. Thicker sauce, thinner sauce? All are possible. I dare say that the version we make is better than the ones we get outside. Our current favourite for buttermilk chicken right now though, is Nonya restaurant. It’s delicious. But these are even more so. Don’t believe it? Give it a try. 

Bruneian Buttermilk Chicken
In Brunei, buttermilk chicken is a popular dish. It's delicious; crispy chicken under a sauce that's sweet yet savoury, spicy yet creamy. Give it a try!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. 500 g boneless, skinless chicken thigh, cut into strips
  2. Cornflour, for dusting
  3. Salt and pepper, for seasoning
For the sauce
  1. 4-5 tablespoons butter
  2. Fresh chillies, sliced, to taste
  3. 1 stalk fresh curry leaves
  4. 200 mL evaporated milk
  5. 3-4 tablespoons sugar
Instructions
  1. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Coat with cornflour.
  2. Add enough oil to a small wok to deep fry the chicken pieces and heat over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chicken pieces slowly, one at a time. Fry until the chicken pieces are golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  3. To make the sauce, heat the butter over medium heat. Once hot, add in the fresh chillies and curry leaves. Fry until fragrant and the curry leaves are crisp.
  4. Add in the evaporated milk and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Lower the heat and keep on stirring, until the sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Season as necessary with salt.
  6. Add in the fried chicken pieces with the sauce. Mix well, and serve immediately.
Notes
  1. To get the lovely yellow colour, you can't skip the sauce thickening. The butter has to be combined with the milk, otherwise you're going to get greasy butter puddles at the top. Not pretty.
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I don’t normally like sweet chicken dishes. Definitely very much a salty salty salty chicken kind of girl. But this piques my tastebuds. I really like the undercurrent of the curry leaves under the spicy sauce. And the sauce may be sweet, but its also very savoury. And goes very well with the crisp coating on the chicken. I would definitely go with boneless chicken thighs for this one, but you can use boneless chicken breast if you prefer.

Normally though, I have to say, I prefer butter chicken – the drier cousin of buttermilk chicken. Now that one, I haven’t been able to replicate. It’s a bit harder to get the strands of egg without ending up with an unrecognisable mush, but that’s probably a good thing. Otherwise, I might just have too much of it.

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In the meantime, enjoy this over steaming hot white rice. Go on. You deserve it.

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17 thoughts on “Bruneian Buttermilk Chicken

  1. A secret way to boost this even further is to add toasted Nestum after you’ve finished mixing the chicken pieces with the buttermilk — it transforms to buttermilk nestum chicken!!! 😀

    • Hi K.R.

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with the recipe. There really is no trick to it. The water from the milk should evaporate and thicken it. Did you add enough butter? That’s the only thing I can think of that might affect it.

  2. I think you just saved my life. I was looking all over for this recipe and almost gave up.
    I’m so gonna try it this weekend! Just one question, is there any substitute for the evaporated milk?

    Thanks!

    • You can use either evaporated milk with sugar, or just condensed milk. I do prefer evaporated milk as it gives a creamier sauce. Its probably possible to just do it with fresh milk and sugar, but it might take awhile to thicken.

      Sorry for the late reply!

  3. tasha says:

    Oh God, thank you so much! Loving ur fuss-free recipe!! Will give it a try today for Iftar!

  4. Linda Jafaar says:

    Hi! I’ve tried cooking your recipe and it didn’t turn out as expected… The buttermilk sauce consistency has become sticky and toffee-ish.. What do you think happened? Can it be because I heated it for too long? I followed the measurements. 4 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of sugar. And its super sweet despite choosing the lowest measurement! Is that normal and how its suppose to taste like?

    • Hi Linda,

      I’m so sorry to hear that the recipe did not turn out well! From what you are describing it as, it does sound like you heated it for too long. The sauce tends to get thicker, the longer you leave it. If it was too sweet for you, you could perhaps reduce the amount of sugar (though 3 tablespoons of sugar in 200 mL of evaporated milk usually isn’t too sweet). May I ask also, if you used evaporated milk and not condensed milk? Condensed milk (or susu manis) is already sweetened and much too thick to use in this recipe. The sauce should taste nice and creamy, slightly spicy, slightly sweet. It’s delicious, usually.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you need more answers.

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