recipe 34

Sayur Asam (Vegetables in Tamarind Broth)


25 min


20 min


[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

recipe 34

Sayur asem or sayur asam is a popular Indonesian tamarind dish. Common ingredients are peanuts, young jackfruit, melinjo, bilimbi, chayote, long beans, all cooked in tamarind-based soups and sometimes enriched with beef stock.

Main Ingredients

  • 4 ‏cups (1 liter) water
  • 2 ‏salam leaves* or bay leaves
  • 1 ‏in (2 ½ cm) fresh galangal, bruised
  • 1 ‏fresh or frozen corn cob, cut into sections
  • 2 ‏cups (6 oz/180 g) spinach
  • 1 ‏cup (100 g) green beans, cut into short lengths
  • 1-2 ‏green finger-length chilies, deseeded and cut into short lengths (optional)
  • 1/2 ‏cup (75 g) lightly boiled raw peanuts or melinjo nuts
  • 1/4 ‏cup (60 ml) Tamarind Juice* or 4 to 6 carambola (belimbing wuluh), sliced
  • 1/2 ‏cup (125 g) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
  • 1 ‏ripe tomato, cut into wedges
  • 2 ‏tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 ‏teaspoon salt

Spice Paste

  • 2-3 ‏red finger-length chilies, deseeded
  • 3-4 ‏shallots, peeled
  • 3 ‏cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 ‏teaspoon salt


Grind all the Spice Paste ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar or blender, adding a little water if necessary to keep the mixture turning. Set aside

Bring the water to a boil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the Spice Paste, salam leaves (if using) and galangal, mix well and bring to a boil again, then simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Add the corn and boil for 2 more minutes, then add the vegetables, chili (if using), peanuts and Tamarind Juice or carambola.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Finally add the shrimp, tomato and sugar, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until the shrimp turn pink. Season with the salt and remove from the heat. Serve hot as part of a rice-based meal.


*salam leaves

*Tamarind Juice


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