Sekba babi is a very famous Indonesian-Chinese peranakan dish. A peranakan dish typically means that the dish that has been adapted over time and has evolved into something quite entirely different from its original dish. I have never encountered this so called Chinese dish outside of Indonesia. To me, sekba babi is pretty similar to babi dan tahu kecap (taw yew bak/豆油肉), which I prepare quite often and is one of my favorite comfort food. If my guess is right, then somehow taw yew bak evolves into sekba babi, and along the way the ingredients list expanded to include preserved green mustard (Indonesian: sayur asam) and potatoes, on top of tofu and hard boiled eggs which are also present in taw yew bak.
Anyway, enough with my conjecture and let’s talk a bit about sekba babi. In Jakarta, this dish is very easy to find in Chinese neighborhoods such as Kota (the old city) or in Northern Jakarta. Most places will include not only pork meat, but also more exotic parts of the pig, such as ear, tripe, innards, and so on. It can be a rather shocking experience for the uninitiated, so I just use pork meat, specifically pork shoulder ribs, in this recipe. That said, for those who are adventurous and you can find the more exotic parts of the pig (which you most likely can get a hold of if you visit Chinatown or Chinese groceries), feel free to add them to the stew 🙂
Young jackfruit is a very common vegetables in Indonesia. Each region has its own signature young jackfruit dish. In Medan where I grew up, our signature dish is probably this sayur gori – jackfruit stew in coconut milk. This dish involves a long list of spices and aromatics, but I guarantee that it is a super easy dish to prepare. If you are fellow Medan expats, you will want to give this recipe a try and cook this lovely sayur gori in your kitchen 🙂
On rare occasions, your Asian markets may stock fresh young jackfruit. If you are feeling adventurous, you can buy one (it will be really large and heavy!), bring it home, and chop it all up yourself. You will need to boil raw young jackfruit until a bit tender before starting with this recipe (Call it Step 0 if you will). But on most occasions, you can always get some canned young jackfruit. I will assume you are going to use the can version 🙂
The long list of spices and aromatics
Aside from the young jackfruit, here is the super long list of what you need to make this dish. The easy ones: shallot, garlic, ginger, red chilies, coconut milk, turmeric powder, salt, pepper, sugar. These you may need to go to your Asian markets: galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, candlenuts (or macadamia), and tamarind. Phew! Once you have everything, let’s start cooking.
When I have plenty of vegetables that need to be cooked, I love turning them into sayur lontong. Sayur lontong is essentially a medley of vegetables and meat cooked in a spiced coconut milk broth. Since summer is the season when zucchini looks its best, I decided to prepare sayur lontong with zucchini.
Ebi = not vegetarian friendly
Although you can substitute the meat (typically beef, or chicken) with tofu, you cannot turn sayur lontong into vegetarian friendly dish. The broth for sayur lontong definitely needs to have ebi (toasted ground shrimp) in it, or it just won’t be the same. Dried shrimps can be easily found in almost any Asian market. You can also use shrimp powder (same amount) to cut prep time. I actually prefer the shrimp powder since the quality is much more consistent. Sometimes I go to my local Asian market and walk away disappointed with the inferior quality compared to the ones sold in Indonesia.
Choice of vegetables
You can use all sort of vegetables for this dish. The more common and popular ones include chayote, snake beans, stink beans, cabbage, and eggplant. Since some of the more commonly used vegetables can be hard to find in the United States, I also use zucchini, or other squashes, carrots, and green beans.
Here is my tips on how to cook the vegetables. Since different vegetables need different cooking time, I add the ones that need longer cooking time first before adding the broth. And once the meat is cooked, then I add the remaining vegetables that only needs short cooking time and cook only until those vegetables are tender but still retains its crispiness.
Cold weather is the best time to enjoy a steaming pot of spicy dish, especially with how cold the weather gets in Minnesota, this is the perfect time to share the recipe for Korean spicy pork zucchini stew. It should take only 30 minutes from start to finish, so this is a good dish to prepare when you are busy and cold.
Must have Korean ingredients
This dish requires several Korean sauce and spices, and I will provide a good substitution for each when an acceptable substitute is available:
Gookganjang (soy sauce for soup), the best substitute is Japanese white soy sauce, followed with Japanese usukuchi soy sauce, and worst substitute is regular soy sauce.
Gochugaru (chili powder), there are two versions of gochugaru, fine and coarse, feel free to use whichever one you have. Although not ideal, gochugaru can be substituted with regular chili powder/paprika powder.
This stew doesn’t require expensive cuts since the meat is thinly sliced, I usually either use pork belly, or pork shoulder. Also, don’t cook the pork too long or it can tend to become tough and chewy. Instead once you see that most of the pork color turns pale (no longer pink), quickly follow with the rest of the cooking steps.
Sayur lodeh is Indonesian vegetable stew in coconut milk. Like its cousin, sayur asem, sayur lodeh has no fixed rules on which vegetables to use.
As long as you have the ingredients to prepare the spiced coconut milk broth, you can create your own version of lodeh from an assortment of vegetables you have in your home.
To me, cooking a batch of lodeh is a great way to clean up my fridge from the odd carrot, celery, and whatnot. 🙂
What are the typical vegetables that go into an Indonesian sayur lodeh?
It is true you can use an assorted mixture of vegetables to prepare sayur lodeh, but here is a list of the more commonly used vegetables in a typical Indonesia sayur lodeh:
snake/long bean (Indonesian: kacang panjang)
Thai eggplant (Indonesian: terong hijau)
Chinese eggplant (Indonesian: terong ungu)
Indonesian tempe/soybean tempeh, if you want, you can use my recipe to make homemade tempeh
corn (Indonesian: jagung)
cabbage (Indonesian: kol)
chayote (Indonesian: labu siam)
melinjo leaves (Indonesian: daun melinjo)
Those are just the more popular and more common vegetables you see in a typical lodeh. You don’t have to use all of them, just pick at least 3 vegetables, then choose either tempeh or tofu for the protein, and you should get a proper Indonesian lodeh. 🙂
What are the spices to prepare sayur lodeh broth?
To prepare the coconut milk broth, you will need:
coconut milk (Indonesian: santan)
water, or chicken stock
shallot (Indonesian: bawang merah)
garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
red chilies (Indonesian: cabe merah), I use Fresno chilies, but you can use bird-eye chilies or cayenne chilies too
If you prefer a white-colored broth, omit red chilies and ground turmeric when you make the spice paste. Simply slice the red chilies and add them with the vegetables when cooking the stew.
If you prefer an orange-colored broth like the one in my photos, please add the red chilies (plus 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric, if you wish) when you make the spice paste.
I must say that most Indonesians prefer the white-colored broth though. 🙂
How do you cook sayur lodeh?
Sayur lodeh is one of the easiest vegetable stew you can make. Once all the prep work is done, please do the following:
Heat oil in a soup pot/wok over medium-high heat. Fry the spice paste until fragrant. This should take about 5 minutes.
Add daun salam (if using) and thinly sliced chilies (if not included in the spice paste). Stir for another minute.
Add coconut milk, water/chicken stock, season with salt and palm sugar. Bring to a boil.
Add long/snake beans, eggplants, soybean tempeh, and tomato. Once it boils again, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are fully cooked and tender. Adjust the amount of salt/palm sugar as needed.
Turn off the heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve immediately with steamed white rice.
What do I serve with sayur lodeh?
Sayur lodeh is one of Indonesian festive food. As such, it is usually served together with many other dishes, such as:
Tongseng is an Indonesian meat stew with sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis), coconut milk, cabbage, and tomatoes. I am using chicken (Indonesian: ayam) in this recipe, but the version with mutton and beef is quite popular too, with mutton being the most popular version of tongseng.
Tongseng originates from Surakarta, popularly known as Solo. This is a city steeped in history, and one of the only two cities in Indonesia with surviving Javanese court (keraton).
Many popular Indonesian dishes come from this city. Aside from tongseng, you may have also heard of nasi liwet, nasi timlo, serabi, gudeg Solo, and kimlo.
Ingredients for tongseng ayam
Like most Indonesian dishes, the list of ingredients for tongseng is quite long. To make it more manageable, I am going to separate the list into sections.
If you wish, you can also add an inch each of ginger and galangal. I usually don’t use these when I use chicken, but I highly recommend adding these if you are using mutton or beef instead of chicken.
Daun salam is one of the most common ingredients in Indonesian recipes, especially for preparing Javanese dishes, so I highly recommend hunting down this ingredient if possible.
Please do not substitute daun salam with regular bay leaves. The flavor profile of these two leaves is so different that you will end up with a different dish. It is still a better option to leave out daun salam if you don’t have them rather than trying to substitute with regular bay leaves.
3. Ground spices
For the spices, we will need coriander, cumin, nutmeg, curry powder, salt, and pepper.
Step-by-step to cook Indonesian tongseng
1. Prepare and sauté spice paste
Use a food processor, blender, or a mortar and pestle to grind shallot, garlic, coriander, cumin, curry powder, nutmeg, salt, and pepper into a smooth spice paste.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium heat and sauté spice paste until fragrant.
2. Add chicken
Add bite-size chicken pieces into the pot, and stir until no longer pink.
3. Prepare broth
Add bruised lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), coconut milk, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), and water/chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the chicken is tender.
4. Add cabbage and tomatoes
Add cabbage and most of the tomatoes. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes, or until the cabbage starts to wilt.
5. Garnish and serve
Turn off the heat, and garnish with reserved tomatoes and chopped celery leaves. Serve immediately with steamed white rice, sambal rebus, fried shallots, and melinjo crackers.
1. Can I use a pressure cooker?
I would say it is not necessary if you are preparing the chicken version since it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get soft and tender chicken.
For mutton or beef version, however, it can take up to 2 hours to get tender melt-in-your-mouth meat. If you use a pressure cooker, you can reduce the cooking time to a mere 30 minutes.
2. Can I add chilies since I love spicy tongseng?
If you love spicy food, feel free to add some red chilies when you grind the spice paste. Most Indonesians should be able to handle up to 5 bird-eye chilies. For a milder dish, use cayenne or Fresno chilies instead of bird-eye chilies.
Personally, I prefer omitting the chili completely and serve sambal rebus on the side. It is much easier to let everyone customize how spicy they want their tongseng to be.
The top two young jackfruit dishes in Indonesia are Padang jackfruit curry and Yogyakarta jackfruit stew (gudeg Jogja).
Traditionally, we cook gudeg by simmering young jackfruits for long hours in a Javanese clay pot. The dish is done when the jackfruit has absorbed all the spices and liquid, resulting in super flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth jackfruit meat. ♥
Ingredients for gudeg Jogja
We will need young jackfruit, coconut milk, coconut palm sugar, hard-boiled eggs, salt, coriander, black tea, garlic, shallot, galangal, lemongrass, candlenuts, kaffir lime leaves, and daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves).
Where to buy young jackfruit for making gudeg Jogja
Niku Jaga (肉じゃが) is a quintessential Japanese home dish. Food is very seasonal in Japan, and niku jaga typically appears on dining tables across the nation in wintertime.
Meat and potatoes are the main ingredients of niku jaga, but it is in no way an expensive dish since there is more potato than meat in a typical niku jaga.
If you have never tried niku jaga before, it may surprise you that you may need to hunt it down in restaurants that specialize in serving homecooked meals. I wager that if you have easy access to Japanese pantry ingredients, such as soy sauce, dashi, sake, and mirin, it will be much easier to learn how to cook this dish yourself than trying to find one in a restaurant unless you live in Japan.
Ingredients to prepare a typical niku jaga
The absolute minimum ingredients to prepare niku jaga are:
Thinly sliced beef or pork are the usual choices, with more households opting for pork since it is usually cheaper compared to beef.
For beef, you can choose from brisket, rib, or sirloin. For pork, choose between pork belly, pork shoulder, or pork loin.
If your supermarket sells thinly sliced meat packages for hot pot, you can grab one of those and save yourself from cutting meat into thin slices.
Always choose potatoes that are better suited for stewing and won’t easily turn to mush. I love using either Yukon gold or new potatoes.
If you are in a pinch and all you have are russet potatoes, you can use those too. Since russets have higher starch content, be careful not to cook them too long to prevent them from disintegrating.
Onion is a must for niku jaga. For me, niku jaga without onion is just weird. Anything else is not necessary.
Some of the more commonly used add-ons include carrots, snow peas, green beans, konnyaku, and shirataki. But really, just about any hardy vegetables that work in a stew can be used and added to a niku jaga.
Dashi is a basic Japanese stock made from kombu seaweed and dried bonito fish. You can make dashi from scratch, but using store-bought dashi granules to prepare dashi stock is still a great way to make niku jaga at home.
Instead of cooking sake, I usually use drinkable sake for cooking Japanese dishes. My Asian supermarket usually has several cheap options in different bottle sizes to choose from, and they are not expensive too, typically less than US$10 for a 750 ml bottle. When they have sales going on, sometimes even the 1500 ml bottle is under US$10! If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can also order Gekkeikan sake online.
If you buy pork or beef in a slab, you must start by cutting the meat into thin slices (hot pot thin). It is easier to cut partially frozen meat into thin slices compared to fresh meat, so chill them in the freezer until slightly solid before cutting.
For potatoes, peel and cut each into eight wedges. And for onion, peel and cut into thin slices.
If you are using other vegetables like carrots, cut them so they take about the same time to cook as the potatoes.
2. Cook meat potatoes
Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat and lightly sauté thinly sliced pork/beef. Add potato and onion, mix well.
3. Cook the sauce
Add all sauce ingredients (dashi stock, sake, soy sauce, sugar, and mirin) into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes, and other vegetables, are tender (about 15 minutes).
4. Prepare green beans
Meanwhile, blanch green beans and cut them into thin diagonal slices. I always store frozen green beans at home, so this is an automatic add-on. You can also use snow peas instead of green beans.
Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Scatter blanched green beans on top of the stew and served immediately with steamed white rice.
TIPS: Store the blanched green beans separately from the leftover stew. You don’t need to reheat the blanched green beans, just the leftover stew.