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Empal Gentong - Cirebon Beef Soup

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.

Ingredients to prepare empal gentong (Cirebon beef soup).
Ingredients to prepare empal gentong (Cirebon beef soup).

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.

Empal gentong - Cirebon beef soup.
Empal gentong - Cirebon beef soup.

Herbs and spices to prepare empal gentong

To prepare empal gentong, you will need the following ingredients:

When serving this soup, I usually prepare the following:

Empal gentong - Cirebon beef soup.
Empal gentong - Cirebon beef soup.

Empal Gentong - Cirebon Beef Soup

4.9 from 10 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 mins

Total Time: 2 hours

Serves: 8

Print Recipe


  • 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


  1. Heat cooking oil in a soup pot and stir fry spice paste, lemongrass, and cloves until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the beef into the pot, mix well until the meat is no longer pink.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • elly elly says:

    hi anita in the ingredients it says: 2 cloves...is it 2 cloves of garlic? i want to try this one :) thanks :) elly

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Elly, hmm... the cloves is what we Indonesian call cengkeh. I've updated the recipe with Indonesian terms to clear up the confusion. :)

    • elly elly says:

      silly me heheh i know what you mean heheh

      • Anita Anita says:


  • Jessica Robinson Jessica Robinson says:

    This beef stew sounds absolutely delicious and perfect for the upcoming winter!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Same here. I start making soup all the time the moment the weather becomes chilly. Hot soup/stew is just the perfect remedy to chase away the cold.

  • Andrea Andrea says:

    Such a flavorful and hearty soup. I can't wait to try this.

  • Katie Katie says:

    So delicious and such unique flavors. We loved this!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Yay, I'm so happy. We love this too. :)

  • Jess Jess says:

    This beef soup looks and sounds so stinking good! I want to try this recipe later this week after I hit up the grocery store! YUM!

  • Ira Ira says:

    Can the leftover be kept in the fridge? If yes, for how long? Just in case the coconut milk in the recipe makes this spoil faster than normal soups.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Yes, you can safely store any leftover in the fridge, Ira. I have stored this soup for up to a week without any adverse effects. When you want to serve the soup again, simply reheat in a microwave, or if you prefer, you can reheat on a stove-top in a soup pot too. :)

  • Amy Amy says:

    I love the sound of this and it looks incredible!

  • Colleen Colleen says:

    Wow this looks amazing! I love Thai food, and this looks like there are some similarities. I can't wait to give this a try.

  • Annissa Annissa says:

    I've never tried Indonesion food before. With this combination of coconut milk and spices, though, this is a must-try recipe. Sounds amazing!

  • Tawnie Kroll Tawnie Kroll says:

    So easy to make and so filling. Love this soup so much, thank you!

  • Lisa Lisa says:

    I never try and heard empal gentong in Indonesia. I tried to cook it, it's very delicious and tasty! I'm using beef brisket cubes, but the meat was still hard even after boiled it for 1 hour. Is it not the right type of meat? Thanks, Anita.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Lisa, different cuts may take different time. But if after 1 hour the meat is still not tender, feel free to continue cooking for another 30-60 minutes, or until you are happy with the tenderness of the meat.

  • Rista Rista says:

    Hi... Anita turmeric I think is kunyit not kencur... Sorry if I'm wrong.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Rista, you are right! I wrote down the correct translation in the recipe card, but somehow got the one in the post itself wrong. It will be updated. :)

  • Pietra Pietra says:

    Delicious, flavorful, and simple ! easy to follow recipe and it was soooo good thank you very much :-)

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