If you want a bowl of comforting soup, you can't go wrong with some empal gentong. Try serving this beef soup with ketupat (rice cake) and sambal rebus.
Empal gentong is a traditional beef soup from the city of Cirebon in West Java, Indonesia. I’d like to think of this soup as the representative soto (traditional Indonesian soup) of Cirebon. This beef soup is very rich and savory from the use of spices and coconut milk. It is enjoyed with either steamed white rice, or ketupat/lontong, and a side of sambal rebus.
Choosing the right beef cut to use for empal gentong
Like most other Indonesian soto/soup that use beef as its main ingredient, the most popular cut is beef brisket (Indonesian: sandung lamur). Basically, this is our most common stew cut to make any kind of soto. You don’t have to stick to this particular cut, and you can use other beef cuts that are also suitable for stew, such as:
- beef chuck
- beef round
- any beef cut that is labeled as beef stew cut
Aside from the meat, traditionally we also add equal part beef entrails to make empal gentong. Honeycomb tripe and intestines are always popular, but if you feel squeamish, or if it is not easy to obtain these, you can use 100% beef meat.
Herbs and spices to prepare empal gentong
To prepare empal gentong, you will need the following ingredients:
- lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh)
- kaffir lime leaves (Indonesian: daun jeruk)
- cloves (Indonesian: cengkeh)
- shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah), preferably Asian/Chinese shallots, but you can use French shallots too
- garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
- candlenut (Indonesian: kemiri), you can sub with an equal amount of macadamia nuts
- turmeric (Indonesian: kunyit)
- nutmeg (Indonesian: pala)
- coconut milk (Indonesian: santan)
- kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
When serving this soup, I usually prepare the following:
Empal Gentong - Cirebon Beef Soup
- 4 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2 lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh), bruised
- 2 cloves (Indonesian: cengkeh)
- 1 kilogram beef brisket (Indonesian: sandung lamur) or other beef cuts for stew, bite sizes
- 1500 ml (6 cup) beef stock/water
- 200 ml (~ 1/2 can) coconut milk
- 3 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (Indonesian: daun jeruk)
- Grind the following into spice paste
- 100 gram shallot (Indonesian: bawang merah)
- 4 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
- 5 candlenut (Indonesian: kemiri)
- 1 fresh turmeric (Indonesian: kunyit), or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (Indonesian: pala)
- For the garnishes
- thinly sliced scallions
- thinly sliced chives (Indonesian: kucai)
- chili flakes (Indonesian: cabe kering tumbuk)
- deep-fried shallot (Indonesian: bawang goreng)
- lime juice
- Heat cooking oil in a soup pot and stir fry spice paste, lemongrass, and cloves until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the beef into the pot, mix well until the meat is no longer pink.
- Pour the beef stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the meat is fully cooked and tender.
- Add the coconut milk, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), and kaffir lime leaves. Stir and bring to a boil again. Once it boils, immediately turn off the heat.
- Add scallions, deep-fried shallot, and lime juice prior to serving. Serve empal gentong with steamed white rice, or ketupat/rice cakes, and sambal rebus.