Ungkep is a cooking method where meat, and sometimes tofu or tempeh, is simmered in spices and water in a covered pot until all the liquid is dry or almost dry. This method of cooking is so simple, and is perfect for tougher cuts of meat since they will become melt-in-your mouth tender, and the spices will fully penetrate the meat, making even the blandest protein like tofu become flavorful.
All ungkep dishes freeze really well, so you can prepare a large batch and store some portions for future. Sometimes, to make an ungkep dish even more interesting, the finished dish is further fried in hot oil. I usually don’t do this for beef, but I love the further treatment when preparing chicken, as you can see in my ayam ungkep recipe.
- 1 kilogram beef (any stew cut is okay), cut into thin slices
- 2 tablespoon palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon tamarind paste (Indonesian: air asam Jawa tebal)
- 4 Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
- 2 cups water
- 6 asian shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah), about 75 gram
- 6 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
- 1 lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh), white part only
- 2 inch ginger (Indonesian: jahe)
- 2 inch galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas)
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder (Indonesian: bubuk ketumbar)
- ¼ teaspoon cumin powder (Indonesian: bubuk jinten)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (Indonesian: bubuk kunyit)
- Place beef, spice paste, palm sugar, salt, and tamarind paste in a wok/pot. Massage the spices to the meat, then add Indonesian bay leaves.
- Cook the meat on medium heat until the meat is no longer pink and all the juices are almost dry, stir occasionally.
- Add water, mix well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, cover the wok/pan, and cook until dry or almost dry. This should take about 2 hours and the meat should become tender at the end of the cooking process. (*)
- Turn off heat, and serve warm or at room temperature with steamed white rice.