Sayur Asem - Vegetables in Tamarind Soup

5.0 from 20 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Serves: 8


  • 1/2 cup dry red skin peanuts, or 1 cup fresh melinjo nuts (Indonesian: buah melinjo)
  • 20 gram tamarind (Indonesian: asam Jawa)
  • 6 cup (1½ liter) water
  • 2 lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh), bruised
  • 8 daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves)
  • 60 gram coconut palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 500 gram cabbage, cored and cut into bite sizes
  • 500 gram zucchini, or chayote (Indonesian: labu siam), 1-inch pieces
  • 100 gram green beans, or snake bean (Indonesian: kacang panjang), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 corn (Indonesian: jagung), cut into 1 inch sections
  • 100 gram kale, or melinjo leaves (Indonesian: daun melinjo)
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 10 red chilies
  • 75 gram shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 candlenuts (Indonesian: kemiri), or macadamia nuts
  • 1 inch (25 gram) ginger
  • 1 inch (25 gram) galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas)
  • 10 gram (about ½ tablespoon) terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, toasted (Note 1)


  1. Boil peanuts: Boil dry peanuts topped with 2 inches of water in a pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, or until peanuts are soft. Drain and set aside.
  2. Make tamarind juice: Mix tamarind 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.
  3. Prepare tamarind broth: Boil water in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add spice paste, tamarind juice, lemongrass, daun salam, coconut palm sugar, turmeric, salt, and ground white pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add boiled peanuts. Reduce heat to a medium, cover the pot, and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Add cabbage, corn, zucchini, and green beans. Cook, covered, for another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Add kale and tomatoes. Cook until kale is wilted and the tomatoes are just starting to become soft, about 5 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, taste test, and add more salt if needed. Serve the soup immediately with steamed white rice.


  • (1) Place shrimp paste in a microwave-proof bowl, covered with a microwave-proof plate. Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds to toast. Toasted shrimp paste should have pale color, crumbly, and very fragrant.

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