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Labu Siam Tumis - Chayote in Spicy Coconut Milk

This chayote dish with coconut milk is really yummy, with plenty of spicy chili kick. You must have labu siam tumis when you make Indonesian nasi rames.

There is a really common nasi bungkus (wrapped rice) in Indonesia called nasi rames which is basically steamed white rice + labu siam tumis + meat/egg of your choice. Of course, the one with egg is cheaper than the one with meat (usually chicken).

The literal translation to tumis is stir fry, but I don’t think it is really appropriate for this dish since it is so wet and has lots of sauce, more like broth or stew than a stir fry. So, though most people lovingly called this dish labu siam tumis, I am going to translate this dish to chayote in spicy coconut milk. Note the spicy part, and be warned that this dish is super fiery hot! Just the perfect accompaniment for steamed white rice. ♥

Ingredients to prepare labu siam tumis: chayote, firm tofu, coconut milk, shallots, garlic, galangal, candlenuts, red chilies, palm sugar, and salt.
Ingredients to prepare labu siam tumis: chayote, firm tofu, coconut milk, shallots, garlic, galangal, candlenuts, red chilies, palm sugar, and salt.

What you need to make labu siam tumis at home

Whenever I see some fresh and lovely chayotes, it’s almost an automatic response to grab some of those, along with the following ingredients:

  • firm tofu
  • coconut milk
  • shallots, I buy the smaller Chinese/Asian shallots, but French shallots work too, even red onions if that’s all your grocery has
  • garlic
  • galangal
  • red chilies, we use a combination of cabe keriting (cayenne chilies) and cabe besar (Fresno chilies). If you want a milder dish, go with 100% Fresno. If you want a spicier dish, go with cabe rawit (bird eye chilies) and Fresno.
  • candlenuts, sub with an equal amount of macadamia nuts
  • palm sugar, block or granulated versions are both fine
  • daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), simply omit if you don’t have them
  • salt
Labu siam tumis - chayote in spicy coconut milk.
Labu siam tumis - chayote in spicy coconut milk.

How to prepare chayotes

Chayotes have a slight natural bitterness to it, and if that bothers you, you will need to do the following:

  1. Cut 1/2 to 1 inch of the top part.
  2. Rub the top part and the bottom part together in a circular motion until you see white residue emerges. Do this for about 2 minutes to draw out as much of the white stuff as possible.
  3. Wash and drain the chayote with cold water. Your chayotes should be so much less bitter now.

If the steps above sound familiar, it may be because you are also doing the same steps with cucumbers! Personally, I rarely do this since the bitterness is very slight and it doesn’t really bother me at all. I also don’t do these same steps with my cucumbers. So I guess, if you fall into the camp of people who need to do this with their cucumbers, you possible want to do the same with chayotes.

Whether or not you do the steps above, you need to do the following steps to prep the chayotes for this dish:

  1. Peel the skin with a peeler.
  2. Cut into half lengthwise, then cut into matchsticks. It is not necessary to remove the seed/pit as that can be eaten.

Now that your chayotes are ready, let’s finish cooking labu siam tumis following my recipe. :)

Serve labu siam tumis with steamed white rice, or as part of Indonesian nasi rames meal set.
Serve labu siam tumis with steamed white rice, or as part of Indonesian nasi rames meal set.

What other dishes do I need to prepare nasi rames?

For festive occasions or for when you just want to indulge yourself, why not make a complete Indonesian nasi rames meal set? Some dishes that you can make other than this labu siam tumis and steamed white rice include:

When I think of nasi rames, or when most Indonesians think of nasi rames, we think of a rice meal set with at least three dishes on top of the rice. So if you want to serve your nasi rames with labu siam tumis, you can pick another two dishes from my suggestion.

Labu Siam Tumis - Chayote in Spicy Coconut Milk

5.0 from 9 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves: 6

Print Recipe


  • 4 tablespoon oil
  • 2 Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 4 red Fresno chilies (Indonesian: cabe merah besar), sliced diagonally
  • 1 chayote (Indonesian: labu siam), about 300 to 400 gram, peeled and cut into match sticks
  • 2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoon palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa), or to taste
  • 500 ml coconut milk (Indonesian: santan)
  • 1 block (1 lb./450 gram) of firm tofu (Indonesian: tahu putih), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 100 gram shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah)
  • 4 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
  • 8 red cayenne chilies (Indonesian: cabe keriting merah)
  • 2 red Fresno chilies (Indonesian: cabe besar merah)
  • 4 candlenuts (Indonesian: kemiri)
  • 1 inch galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas)


  1. Heat oil and sauté spice paste and Indonesian bay leaves (if using) until fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add sliced Fresno chilies and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add chayote sticks, season with salt and palm sugar. Stir so everything is mixed well.
  4. Pour coconut milk, stir, and cook on medium heat until boiling. Stir every 2 minutes or so, this is to prevent the coconut milk from curdling.
  5. Once the chayote is cooked, make sure it is still slightly crunchy, add the tofu, mix well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and serve immediately.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Anjna Anjna says:

    I really miss Nasi Rames since I now live in DC! I'm really excited to try out this recipe and am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog! I shall certainly be visiting your site again!

  • Dominique Dominique says:

    Just stumbled across this recipe! So excited to try it out, I love labu but never made it before. Wish me luck! Haha

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Dominique, have fun trying out the recipe :)

  • Mike Mike says:

    I cooked this for my dinner and it is really good and delicious; had to cut down on the chilies but it reminds of the labu siam tumis that my grandmother makes back in Indonesia. It is really good!

  • Gavin Gavin says:

    I’ve never heard or eaten anything like this - I’m SUPER intrigued to make it. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Jas @ All that's Jas Jas @ All that's Jas says:

    This dish sounds so interesting! I hope I can find the ingredients so I can make it soon.

  • Erica Schwarz Erica Schwarz says:

    This sounds so exotic and lovely! Can't wait to try this!

  • Megan Ellam Megan Ellam says:

    Oh looks amazing. I am chayote fan and I can easily adapt this to my keto lifestyle. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sadia Malik Sadia Malik says:

    Never had chayote wonder what it tastes like, the dish looks yum.

  • Milky Milky says:

    Lately, grocery stores are having trouble keeping stocked with basics and easy-to-prepare foods- but I noticed that there is lots of fresh chayote available, so I thought it would be a good time to try this. I have never cooked this vegetable before, so your guide was very helpful!

    I used 3 seeded serrano peppers and 2 seeded dry Thai chilies, so the result wasn't that lovely orange, but it still tasted delicious. Besides my usual substitution of red onion for shallot, I only had 1 can of coconut milk which is 400ml so I just added water to compensate. I also tried a package of shelf-stable "firm" tofu (Morinaga brand?)- the texture was more like silken to me, but it still absorbed all the flavors. Save for the effort of making the spice paste, it was super quick and easy, and most of the ingredients are easy to get (at least for me, the only 'non-negotiable' part requiring a trip to an Asian market is galangal).

    So now I feel like I have been neglecting the poor little chayote!- it has a great 'bite' and retains firmness better than other squashes and it's pretty easy to find. I look forward to trying it again in another DailyCookingQuest recipe!

  • Elisa Elisa says:

    Hello, this recipe looks amazing ! But I cannot buy chayote where I live. Could I replace it with zuchini or potatoes ? What do you advise ? Thanks for your blog it reminds me of my days traveling in Indonesia =)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Elisa, you can use zucchini to replace chayote. :)

  • Jesus Jesus says:

    Hello Anita, I made this dish yesterday with tempe. the indonesian chayote is harder from the states. so it took longer cooking time to make it soft it was very good. Can I just put more water / reduce the coconut milk in the future? because this time it was very dense. How do u make the santan flavors to be light? Thank you.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Jesus, yes you can use 50% coconut milk and 50% water. Canned coconut milk can vary slightly in thickness depending on the brand, though in general they are much thicker compared to Indonesian "santan cair".

  • Rhonda Rivera Rhonda Rivera says:

    Can the tofu be browned a lil first before adding it?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Rhonda, yes, you can fry the tofu to brown it first before adding it.

  • Poonam Poonam says:

    Hi Anita, Wondering if you tumeric in this recipe? As the curry is yellow and I dont see it in the ingredients?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Poonam, I don't use turmeric. The color comes from the combination of chilies, palm sugar, and all the spices used when mixed with coconut milk. That said, if you want to use turmeric, you can certainly do so. I would add 1 teaspoon of turmeric to the spice paste, or about 2 inch of fresh turmeric root.

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