Have you ever tried chayote before? You can find this beloved squash in many traditional Indonesian dishes. Today I will introduce you to sambal tauco labu siam, a spicy vegetable (and vegetarian) stew dish. This is usually a side dish for many Indonesian rice dishes, such as nasi rames, nasi liwet, e.t.c. But you can always prepare this as one of your many sides to create an Indonesian feast.
How to handle chayote (labu siam)
This is a quick guide to handle chayote. Prior to cooking, we peel the skin, and remove the seed from the chayote. You can cut it into chunks, wedges, thin slices, julien, etc. The simplest way Indonesian enjoy chayote is to cut into big chunks/wedges, and steam until soft, and enjoy with other vegetables in a lalapan. Note that if you handle chayote bare-handed, your fingers and palms might be covered with a thin film that makes your skin tight. I usually just wash it away with soap under warm/slightly hot water. But you can always wear a pair of gloves to avoid this problem in the first place.
Tauco (fermented/salted soy beans)
The second important ingredient to prepare this dish is of course tauco (fermented/salted soy beans). In my experience, even a tiny Mom-and-Pop Asian grocery store carries them. And there are quite a bit of varieties too, from the still solid beans, to a mix of solid and ground beans, to a totally ground version. Preferabbly you choose the ones where the beans are still solid, but if all you see are the ground variety, they are also okay. If your neighborhood store doesn’t carry them, you can also buy it online from Amazon. I like the ones from Yeo’s and Dragonfly.
There is a really common nasi bungkus (wrapped rice) in Indonesia called nasi rames which is basically steamed white rice + labu siam tumis + meat/egg of your choice. Of course, the one with egg is cheaper than the one with meat (usually chicken).
The literal translation to tumis is stir fry, but I don’t think it is really appropriate for this dish since it is so wet and has lots of sauce, more like broth or stew than a stir fry. So, though most people lovingly called this dish labu siam tumis, I am going to translate this dish to chayote in spicy coconut milk. Note the spicy part, and be warned that this dish is super fiery hot! Just the perfect accompaniment for steamed white rice. ♥
What you need to make labu siam tumis at home
Whenever I see some fresh and lovely chayotes, it’s almost an automatic response to grab some of those, along with the following ingredients:
shallots, I buy the smaller Chinese/Asian shallots, but French shallots work too, even red onions if that’s all your grocery has
red chilies, we use a combination of cabe keriting (cayenne chilies) and cabe besar (Fresno chilies). If you want a milder dish, go with 100% Fresno. If you want a spicier dish, go with cabe rawit (bird eye chilies) and Fresno.
candlenuts, sub with an equal amount of macadamia nuts
palm sugar, block or granulated versions are both fine
daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), simply omit if you don’t have them
How to prepare chayotes
Chayotes have a slight natural bitterness to it, and if that bothers you, you will need to do the following:
Cut 1/2 to 1 inch of the top part.
Rub the top part and the bottom part together in a circular motion until you see white residue emerges. Do this for about 2 minutes to draw out as much of the white stuff as possible.
Wash and drain the chayote with cold water. Your chayotes should be so much less bitter now.
If the steps above sound familiar, it may be because you are also doing the same steps with cucumbers! Personally, I rarely do this since the bitterness is very slight and it doesn’t really bother me at all. I also don’t do these same steps with my cucumbers. So I guess, if you fall into the camp of people who need to do this with their cucumbers, you possible want to do the same with chayotes.
Whether or not you do the steps above, you need to do the following steps to prep the chayotes for this dish:
Peel the skin with a peeler.
Cut into half lengthwise, then cut into matchsticks. It is not necessary to remove the seed/pit as that can be eaten.
Now that your chayotes are ready, let’s finish cooking labu siam tumis following my recipe. 🙂
What other dishes do I need to prepare nasi rames?
For festive occasions or for when you just want to indulge yourself, why not make a complete Indonesian nasi rames meal set? Some dishes that you can make other than this labu siam tumis and steamed white rice include:
When I think of nasi rames, or when most Indonesians think of nasi rames, we think of a rice meal set with at least three dishes on top of the rice. So if you want to serve your nasi rames with labu siam tumis, you can pick another two dishes from my suggestion.