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Gulai Kale - Kale in Spicy Coconut Broth
Craving for Indonesian gulai daun singkong but can't find cassava leaves? Now you can use kale to replicate the taste and texture of your favorite Indonesian gulai.
Gulai Daun Singkong is my family’s favorite Indonesian vegetable stew. The main ingredient of a Gulai Daun Singkong is cassava leaves, which is difficult to find in the US. The easiest and best substitute for cassava leaves is kale, so today I share my recipe for Gulai kale (kale in spicy coconut broth). You can also just call it Indonesian kale curry. :)
Ingredients for Indonesian kale curry (gulai kale)
This recipe needs kale, coconut milk, daun salam, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, red chilies, garlic, shallot, ginger, galangal, candlenuts, coriander, turmeric, cumin, coconut palm sugar, and salt.
Which kale should you use?
You can use curly kale, Lacinato kale, or baby kale. The slight bitterness in kale matches so perfectly with the slight bitterness in cassava leaves, and when using baby kale, the cooking time is so much faster compared to cassava leaves. If you are using curly kale or Lacinato kale, please adjust the cooking time and make sure to cook until the leaves are tender.
You can substitute kale with spinach. Spinach is sweet and the curry will lack that certain bitterness, so it may or may not be a good thing if the aim is to replicate the taste and texture of gulai daun singkong.
Which red chilies should you use?
Use bird eye chilies if you want to follow the traditional Indonesian recipe, but let me warn you that bird eye chilies are very spicy. Fresno or cayenne chilies are better for people who prefer a milder dish since they both have a lower Scoville score compared to bird eye chilies.
You can also use dried red chilies if you are out of fresh chilies. Soak dry chilies for a while in hot water to soften before using.
Step-by-step to cook gulai kale (Indonesian kale curry)
1. Prep kale
If you are using curly kale or Lacinato kale, start by removing the stems and cut the leaves into thin strips. Skip this step if you are using baby kale. Wash and drain the leaves and set aside.
2. Make spice paste
Use a food processor or a spice attachment for your blender and grind red chilies, shallot, garlic, candlenuts, the white part of lemongrass, ginger, galangal, coriander, turmeric, and cumin into a smooth paste.
3. Cook the curry
Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Sauté spice paste, Indonesian bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, and the green part of lemongrass until fragrant. About 5 minutes.
Add water to the wok and bring to a boil. Add kale and cook until wilted and tender. Add coconut milk and season with salt and coconut palm sugar, adjust the amount as necessary. Once it boils, turn off the heat.
What can I serve with kale curry?
I make this dish when I am craving for Padang dishes. When you visit a Padang restaurant, you stroll in, sit on an empty table, and the server will bring in small plates of almost all the dishes they serve in the restaurant. So it is a very similar experience to going for a Chinese dim sum.
To replicate that Padang restaurant experience at home, you can try preparing several popular Padang dishes. My favorites include:
Gulai Kale - Kale in Spicy Coconut Broth
- 450 gram (1 lb) curly kale/Lacinato kale/baby kale
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 3 Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam), omit if you don't have these
- 3 kaffir lime leaves (Indonesian: daun jeruk)
- 2 lemongrass, green parts only, cut into 2 inch sections
- 2 cup water
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (from canned coconut milk)
- 2 tablespoon coconut palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Spice paste (grind together the following ingredients)
- 10 red Fresno/cayenne/bird-eye chilies, seeded
- 100 gram shallot
- 5 cloves garlic
- 6 candlenuts (Note 1)
- 2 lemongrass, white parts only
- 1 inch ginger
- 1/2 inch galangal
- 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds/powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Prep kale: If you are using curly kale or Lacinato kale, start by removing the stems and cut the leaves into thin strips. Skip this step if you are using baby kale. Wash and drain the leaves and set aside.
- Make spice paste: Use a food processor or a spice attachment for your blender and grind red chilies, shallot, garlic, candlenuts, the white part of lemongrass, ginger, galangal, coriander, turmeric, and cumin into a smooth paste.
- Cook the curry: Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Sauté spice paste, Indonesian bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, and the green part of lemongrass until fragrant. About 5 minutes.
- Add water to the wok and bring to a boil. Add kale and cook until wilted and tender. Add coconut milk and season with salt and coconut palm sugar, adjust the amount as necessary. Once it boils, turn off the heat.
- (1) Candlenut is the same as Hawaiian kukui nut. You can substitute with the same amount of macadamia, almond, or cashew.
If I don't use any chillies at all, which other spices to add? Or can I still keep the other spice measurements the same? My toddler won't even have a bite if she taste something a tad bit spicy. Thanks.
You can omit all the chilies but still use the rest of the spices.
Thanks Anita. I can't wait to try it. A friend of mine showed this dish a few years ago. And it tasted sooo gooood... But I have forgotten the recipe. I'm so glad I found yours! :)
Happy to help! I too know the feeling of finding that long lost recipe. It's like getting a present :)
Hi Anita, thanks for this recipe ! I cooked 3 times already ! It was closed enough to Daun Singkong for texture wise , if I can not find fresno I uses habanero / rawit instead & unseeded because I love spicy , It turns out so delicious ! I live in Europe where Indonesian ingredients not easy to find such as Daun Singkong , Kale in other hand are in every groceries , one of they say as super food , I ate this with steamed rice or if I missing so much my fave Nasi Padang style food back then when I live in Indonsian , I pair with Ayam Bakar Padang / rendang or dendeng balado , my stomach are so happy :).
I'm glad you like this gulai recipe with kale, Indri. It's the same in the US, very hard to find daun singkong, but kale is in every grocery store. :)
I made this with all the kale we have in our garden and it turned out so delicious! The spices were spot on and the coconut milk added so much creaminess. We'll be making this again!
I love this kale recipe! The flavor combo of kale and coconut is delicious and I'm able to use the kale I've been growing in my garden!
We have loads of kale growing in the garden, and this looks like a great way to use it.
Every time I see your recipes I want to make them Anita!! So authentic looking and tasty. Can't wait to try, thanks!!
I love kale and I love coconut so this is a win for me - but question, what's a candlenut? Never heard of that one!
Hi Jenn, candlenut is the same as Hawaiian kukui nut. We use it in Indonesian cuisine mainly as a thickener. I usually substitute with macadamia when I can't find candlenut/kukui nut. You can try almond or cashew too. Please make sure that all the nuts are unsalted, or if they are, hold on to adding any salt until you give the curry a taste try. :)
Anita, Thank you for the recipe. I just made it and it's delicious, very similar to gulai daun singkong. Best, Syarifa
Gosh, you're a genius! This is much easier than trying to hunt cassava leaves in the frozen section of asian grocery store in my town. I miss my mum Gulai Daun Singkong. She makes hers with those little white anvhovies fish. Delish. Can't wait to try your version.
Thank you for adding the accompanying pictures. I lost my mom in my early 20s and regret so much not learning how to cook all the Indonesian dishes from her. So happy I happened on to your blog, as this dish brings back fond childhood memories.
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