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Sayur Asem - Vegetables in Tamarind Soup

The Sundanese are famous for their dishes that use a lot of fresh vegetables. Lalap with sambal terasi, gado-gado, karedok, and sayur asem are probably among the most famous and most familiar dishes to all Indonesian.

They are also quite famous for their fish dishes, especially ikan goreng gurame (deep fried butterflied gourami), and their pepes (steamed food wrapped in banana leaves followed by grilling).

Sayur Asem - Vegetables in Tamarind Soup

Sayur Asem - Vegetables in Tamarind Soup

What are the common ingredients in sayur asem

As with most Indonesian soup, there is no set rule to what should and should not be included in a proper sayur asem. Nevertheless, here is a list of vegetables that I use to cook sayur asem in my own home, along with their easier to find substitutes since some of the ingredients can be almost impossible to find outside of Indonesia:

  • young jackfruit
  • cabbage
  • chayote, can be substituted with zucchini
  • snake beans, can be substituted with green beans
  • corn
  • melinjo seeds, can be substituted with raw peanuts
  • melinjo leaves, can be omitted

Sayur Asem - Vegetables in Tamarind Soup

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 45 mins

Cook Time: 45 mins

Total Time: 1 hour 30 mins

Serves: 8


  • 500 gram cabbage, cored and cut into bite sizes
  • 500 gram chayote (Indonesian: labu siam), peeled, cored, and cut into bite sizes
  • 150 gram melinjo nuts (Indonesian: buah melinjo)
  • 150 gram melinjo leaves (Indonesian: daun melinjo)
  • 100 gram snake bean (Indonesian: kacang panjang), cut into 2 inches lengths
  • 1 corn (Indonesian: jagung), cut into 1 inch sections
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 1½ liter water
  • 2 lemon grass (Indonesian: sereh), bruised
  • 8 fresh bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 25 gram galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas), peeled and bruised
  • 60 gram palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
  • 20 gram tamarind pulp (Indonesian: asam Jawa)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 10 red chilies
  • 5 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 candlenuts
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled (or about 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 10 gram (about ½ tablespoon) shrimp paste (Indonesian: terasi)


  1. Boil water in a soup pot, then add the spice paste, lemon grass, bay leaves, galangal, palm sugar, tamarind pulp, and salt and cook for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add the melinjo nuts and melinjo leaves and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Add cabbage, chayote, snake beans, corns, and tomatoes and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender and cooked through. Adjust salt as needed. Remove from heat and serve warm.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen

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