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Indonesian Cooking

Indonesian Flavours


For a breakdown of what flavours and staples traditional Indonesian cooking uses, please enjoy Jesse's blog post that gives an excellent account of our Indonesian Cooking workshop.


In a nutshell, Indonesian cuisine is similar to that of Malaysia, Thailand and other South Asian countries. There is a huge love for snacky fried foods and sipping tea with friends and family. We invite you to try the following delicious recipes, and make it family style. Selamat makan!


What is Tempeh?


Tempeh is fermented soy bean from Indonesia that is enjoyed as a cheap alternative to meat. It's much more flavourful than tofu, and takes on a kind of nutty fermented taste that goes well with traditional Indonesian flavours.

Indonesians typically buy tempeh raw and marinate it themselves, however here in grocery stores you'll usually find it pre-marinated and sliced. Since it's treated as more of a specialty item here, you won't find it as cheap as you would in Indonesia.


We tried Emil's tempeh that he bought raw and marinated using the tempeh and tahu bacem recipe below, and all agreed that it was much better than the premade stuff found in grocery stores. Check out our Where to Buy section below to see where you can buy raw tempeh.




Gado-gado is a hearty and delicious Indonesian salad that contains various lightly blanched or steamed vegetables accompanied by proteins such as boiled eggs, tofu and tempeh, topped with a traditional peanut sauce.

Feel free to use some or all of these ingredients. We like chopping them into chunky mouth-sized pieces (like any salad).


  • fresh lettuce, cut

  • cucumber, sliced

  • green beans, cut

  • carrots, sliced

  • 250 g Chinese cabbage, cut

  • 250 g potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 150 g bean sprouts

  • 3 tomatoes, cut into wedges


  • 3 eggs, boiled and wedged

  • tofu (fresh, fried or puff)

  • tempeh (fried or boiled)

  • Bird's eye chili

  • salt


Garnish: fried shallots, shrimp crackers, emping (fried chips/crackers)


  1. Chop or slice all of the above ingredients.

  2. Boil the potatoes, green beans, and eggs separately. Drain and set aside. When the eggs are cool, peel and cut.

  3. Put Chinese cabbage and bean sprouts in a colander. Slowly pour a kettle of boiling water over top, and let it sit for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.

  4. Season the fresh cucumber and tomato with a bit of salt.

  5. Mix together all of the ingredients with traditional peanut sauce, and serve with garnish on top. Serve warm or chilled.


Traditional Peanut Sauce


This flavorful sauce is the heart of Gado-gado, but can also serve as a dipping sauce for Indonesian snacks, such as lontong or ketupat (Indonesian rice cakes), shrimp crackers, or tofu and tempeh bacem.


  • 200 g roasted or fried peanuts, finely ground

  • 3 kaffir lime leaves

  • 600 ml coconut milk

  • 2 tsp sweet soy sauce

  • 50 g palm sugar, grated

  • salt to taste


Wet rub:

  • 4 red chilis

  • 4 shallot cloves

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • coriander and salt


Wet rub optional: 

  • 2 inch galangal 

  • 1/2 tsp shrimp paste

  • 1 tbsp tamarind


  1. To make the wet rub, combine ingredients in a mortar and pestle and crush into a fine paste. 

  2. On medium heat, saute the wet rub and lime leaves until fragrant.

  3. Mix in the peanuts and sweet soy sauce until smooth.

  4. Mix in the coconut milk, grated palm sugar and salt, and stir until it boils. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.



  • Crunchy peanut butter instead of ground roasted peanut

  • Regular soy sauce instead of sweet (add more palm sugar)

  • Lime juice instead of lime leaves

  • Use a blender/food processor for wet rub and peanuts


Tip: If you really don't have time, you can find premade blocks of peanut sauce base in Asian grocery stores. Simply boil water and mix in a bowl until it becomes a sauce. However, the store-bought stuff tastes sweeter, and has less depth of flavour.



Tempeh and Tahu Bacem


Tempeh and Tahu Bacem is marinated tempeh and tofu. This recipe can be added to gado-gado, accompanied with other dishes (rice and noodles!!), or simply enjoyed by itself.


  • 300 g raw tempeh and tofu

  • 2 inch galangal, smashed

  • 1 piece lemongrass, bruised

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 1/4 tsp tamarind

  • 1 tbsp palm sugar

  • 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce

  • 500 ml coconut water

  • vegetable oil for frying


Wet rub:

  • 6 shallot cloves

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 tsp coriander

  • 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush and mix the wet rub ingredients into a fine paste. Set aside.

  2. Cut the tempeh and tofu into thick pieces.

  3. In a large pot, pour in the coconut water, and add the tempeh and tofu. Add the wet rub, galangal, lemongrass, bay leaves, tamarind, palm sugar and sweet sauce.

  4. Simmer until the wet rub dissolves, the liquid has been reduced to half, and the tofu and tempeh pieces are brown.

  5. Regrigerate overnight until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Store in fridge and fry as needed throughout the week.

  6. To serve, heat enough oil in a wok or pan over medium heat. Fry tofu and tempeh until golden brown.

Gulai Daun Singkong (Cassava Leaves Stew) 


  • 2 bunches of cassava leaves (about 250 g), washed and drained

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

  • 5 bay leaves

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped into 4 pieces

  • 750 ml water

  • 250 ml thick coconut milk


Spice Paste:

  • 5 red chilies

  • 8 shallots

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 3 candlenuts

  • 2-1 inch pieces fresh turmeric

  • 1 inch fresh ginger

  • 1 inch fresh galangal

  • ½ tbsp ground coriander

  • ½ tbsp salt

  • 1 tsp sugar


  1. Grind spice paste ingredients in a mortar and pestle or food processor.

  2. Heat cooking oil in a deep skillet (or a pot) and fry the spice paste until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

  3. Add bay leaves and lemongrass and cook for another 2 minutes.

  4. Toss in the cassava leaves and pour water into the skillet. Cook until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Add coconut milk, mix well, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Adjust salt and sugar as needed.

  6. (Optional) With a scissor, cut the cassava leaves into smaller pieces so they are easier to scoop with a spoon when consumed.

  7. Turn off heat and serve hot or at room temperature with steamed white rice.

Sambal Petai


Spice lovers, rejoice! Sambal is a spicy condiment that goes with just about anything savoury. Feel free to adjust the amount of chillies to your spice level. Petai beans are common to Southeast Asian cooking, and share a scent sometimes compared to shiitake mushrooms or natural gas.


2 boards of petai beans (stinky beans)

20 red chillies (+10 Bird's eye chillies)

5 shallots

3 garlic cloves

1 tomato

1 1/2 tsp finely ground palm sugar

1 1/2 tsp shrimp paste

1 1/2 tsp salt

cooking oil


  1. Finely grind together all of the ingredients above except for the petai beans and oil.

  2. Heat oil, then cook the mixture until fragrant

  3. Add the petai beans in and cook until petai is wilted, for about 10-15 minutes.

  4. Serve as a condiment.

Where to Buy


  • You can easily find turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, shrimp paste, shrimp crackers and candlenuts at bigger Asian supermarkets like T&T or H Mart, or some specialty Thai or Filipino grocery stores.


  • Idris bought her cassava leaves from a Filipino store on Fraser and 49th.


  • Your best bet for a one stop shop is to go to Asia Market at 265 E Hastings St., especially for more specialty items such as raw tempeh, petai beans, Bird's eye chillies and instant peanut sauce. Emil told us that sometimes you can find super special raw tempeh sold there, made by a local Indonesian lady (but not always!). They also have Indonesian style shrimp crackers.

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