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Daging Ungkep - Simmered Beef in Spices

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.

Daging Ungkep - Simmered Beef in Spices
Daging Ungkep - Simmered Beef in Spices

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.

Daging Ungkep - Simmered Beef in Spices
Daging Ungkep - Simmered Beef in Spices

Daging Ungkep - Simmered Beef in Spices

5.0 from 1 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 2 hours 15 mins

Total Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Serves: 8

Print 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
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 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)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder (Indonesian: bubuk jinten)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (Indonesian: bubuk kunyit)


  1. 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.
  2. Cook the meat on medium heat until the meat is no longer pink and all the juices are almost dry, stir occasionally.
  3. 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. (*)
  4. Turn off heat, and serve warm or at room temperature with steamed white rice.


  • (*) If the meat is still tough, add 1/2 cup of water, and cook until dry. Repeat this process for as many times as necessary until the meat is tender.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Rosinsko Rosinsko says:

    This looks amazing! Thank you for writing this, I've been searching for the name of this method (ungkep) for a long time. I have questions about cooking lenghty Indonesian dishes like rendang, gudeg, ungkep etc. I have a slow cooker, slow cooker at home, I mostly use it to make stew. Does it possible to cook Indonesian dishes like ungkeps, or rendang in a slow cooker? Thank you!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Rosinsko, I have never used slow cooker to cook ungkep or rendang personally. But I have had readers telling me that they have tried with a slow cooker (and pressure cooker too) and have been successful, so it should be doable.

      • Rosinsko Rosinsko says:

        Thanks for your reply! I just tried baked chicken thigh with kecap manis and it was amazing! Definitely subscribing... :)

        • Anita Anita says:

          Thank Rosinsko. I am happy you like my recipes :)

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