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.
Bakwan sayur is Indonesian deep fried vegetable fritters. Found nation wide, mostly sold by street food vendors, the most popular version uses a mix of cabbage, carrot, and mung bean sprouts. Some regions in Indonesia call this as bala-bala, though it is more widely known as bakwan sayur.
If you are Indonesian living overseas, I am sure there are times that you crave some freshly fried bakwan sayur. Now with this recipe, you can cook some to cure that homesickness. ♥
Vegetables mix for bakwan sayur
Although cabbage, carrot, and mung bean sprouts are the most common mix, you can use your own mixture.
If you are familiar with Japanese yasai tempura (vegetables tempura), then all the vegetables that you can use for yasai tempura can be used in bakwan sayur.
For this particular recipe, I keep it as simple as possible and use a mixture of shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and thinly sliced scallions. But reallly, there is no fixed rules, so feel free to improvise.
Batter for bakwan/Indonesian fritters
My bakwan batter uses very simple ingredients: all-purpose flour, rice flour, salt, sugar, ground white/black pepper, grated garlic, egg, and ice cold water.
Rice flour is the secret ingredient to get crispy fritters. You can substitute rice flour with tapioca starch to get the same effect.
As you increase the amount of rice flour/tapioca starch, the crispier the fritters get but it will be less chewy. Everyone has a different preference to the crispiness and chewiness level of their fritters, so feel free to experiment.
For beginners, stick with 150 gram all-purpose flour and 50 gram rice flour ratio. If you decide that you want a crispier batch next time, you can use 100 gram all-purpose flour and 100 gram rice flour.
You cannot avoid deep frying
If you want to whip up authentic bakwan, there is no avoiding deep frying. To get crispy bakwan, my trick is to make sure the oil is hot, and the bakwan batter is super cold.
If you have a thermometer, you want the oil to reach 170 Celsius (340 Fahrenheit). If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil should look shimmering, and a drop of batter should sink slightly in the hot oil and immediately float up the surface.
To make sure the batter is cold, use ice cold water. Usually, I even put the batter back in the fridge while my pot of oil is heating up.
Once out from the hot oil, drain the bakwan over a wire rack to remove excess oil. Please don’t drain excess oil with paper towels as they will make the fritters soggy. Serve the fritters immediately, as is, or with your favorite chili sauce.
Sayur asem or vegetables in tamarind soup is arguably Indonesia’s most popular vegetable soup.
This Sundanese soup is packed with plenty of fresh vegetables. The broth is extremely flavorful, with spiciness from chilies, sourness from tamarind and tomatoes, freshness from lemongrass, earthiness from ginger and galangal, and bold umami from terasi/belacan/shrimp paste.
This recipe has a very long list of ingredients, but I promise it will be your new favorite soup and it is going to be love at first sip!
What are the common vegetables in sayur asem
There is no set rule to what should and should not be included in a proper sayur asem, but the more popular vegetables you will find include cabbage, chayote, young jackfruit, snake beans, corn, tomatoes, melinjo seeds, and melinjo leaves.
If you live outside of Indonesia, finding all the above vegetables can be very daunting, if not impossible. You can use a mix of more commonly available vegetables in your country.
Since I live in the US, these are the vegetables I use whenever I cook a pot of sayur asem:
zucchini, to substitute chayote
green beans, to substitute snake beans
kale, to substitute melinjo leaves
dry red skin peanuts, to substitute melinjo nuts
Before using the peanuts for sayur asem, I boil them first in a pot cover with two inches of water for one hour to soften the peanuts.
Spices, herbs, and seasoning for sayur asem
There are a lot of spices, herbs, and seasonings that go into this soup. The list is long, but you will love the result. There is a reason why this is one of Indonesia’s most beloved vegetable soup.
Daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves) are very different from regular bay leaves. It is best to omit if you don’t have these. Using regular bay leaves will give a very different flavor profile to the soup.
I use wet tamarind sold in plastic packaging. To use this, please mix the stated amount with half a cup of hot water. Stir to mix and when cool enough to handle, use fingers to massage the tamarind in the hot water to make tamarind paste/juice. Strain to remove pulps and seeds.
How to cook sayur asem
First, boil water in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add spice paste, lemongrass, daun salam, tamarind juice, coconut palm sugar, turmeric, salt, and white pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant.
Add boiled peanuts. Reduce heat to a medium, cover the pot, and cook for 10 minutes.
Add cabbage, corn, zucchini, and green beans. Cook, covered, for another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Finally, add kale and tomatoes. Cook until kale is wilted and the tomatoes are just starting to become soft, about 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat, taste test, and add more salt if needed. Serve the soup immediately with steamed white rice.
What to serve with sayur asem?
Most Indonesian restaurants offer rice meal sets on their menu. These set meals are perfect for students and working people who don’t always have the luxury to eat at home, especially during lunch hours.
If you visit Indonesia and have no idea which dishes go well together, choosing one of the many offered rice meal sets is often a great idea. Also, if you are traveling alone, set meals let you sample many different dishes in one sitting. 🙂
An Indonesian rice meal with sayur asem typically looks like this:
Other Sundanese dishes to try
Sayur asem is one of the signature dishes of the Sundanese people. Many popular Indonesian dishes come from this cuisine.
Other than sayur asem, you may have heard of dishes such as lalap, karedok (similar to gado-gado, but with the emphasis of using raw vegetables), ayam bekakak/grilled chicken, soto bandung/beef and daikon soup, and ikan bakar/grilled fish.
These are far from exhaustive, and it may take me many years to cover even just a portion of Sundanese recipes.
Summer in the US can get very hot. Instead of cooking and spending my time in front of a hot stove, I make pickles instead.
Today I am going to share a recipe for Japanese style pickled vegetables (和風ピクルス), which is easy and perfect for new cooks. You won’t need any specialized tool other than a cooking pot, a knife, and a cutting board. It is also a fun way to enjoy some fresh vegetables.
Ingredients for Japanese pickled vegetables
Japanese pickle usually contains cucumber, carrot, celery, and red chilies. And the pickling juice is a simple mix of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu.
Use Japanese cucumbers if possible. You can also use common garden cucumbers or Kirby/pickling cucumbers.
There are two kinds of Japanese rice vinegar, unseasoned rice vinegar, and seasoned rice vinegar. We will use unseasoned rice vinegar to make this pickle.
Kombu is a type of dried seaweed widely used in Japanese cuisine. If you regularly prepare homemade dashi (Japanese stock) from scratch, you should be very familiar with this seaweed.
How to prepare Japanese pickled vegetables
1. Prep the vegetables
Wash and scrubs cucumber skin to remove any wax, remove the seeds and cut into batons. Peel carrot, then cut carrot and celery sticks into batons about the same size as cucumber batons.
2. Salt the vegetables
Combine 2 1/2 cups of water with a tablespoon of salt in a mixing bowl. Soak cucumber, carrot, and celery batons in the salt solution for two hours.
3. Pickle the vegetables
To make the pickling juice, boil rice vinegar, water, kombu, salt, and sugar in a pot. Remove the piece of kombu right before boiling.
Drain and pat dry vegetable batons. Arrange into glass jars along with red chilies. Fill the jars with pickling juice and seal. You should be able to fill three 8-ounce glass jars.
Once the jars are cool, store in the fridge for at least one night before serving. The pickle should be fresh for up to 1 week.