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Tongseng Ayam - Javanese Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken Stew

Use kecap manis, coconut milk, cabbage, tomato, and meat (chicken, mutton, or beef) to cook this delicious Indonesian stew that is sure to become your new favorite.
Tongseng Ayam - Javanese Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken Stew.

Tongseng Ayam - Javanese Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken Stew.

Tongseng is an Indonesian meat stew with sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis), coconut milk, cabbage, and tomatoes. I am using chicken (Indonesian: ayam) in this recipe, but the version with mutton and beef is quite popular too, with mutton being the most popular version of tongseng.

Tongseng originates from Surakarta, popularly known as Solo. This is a city steeped in history, and one of the only two cities in Indonesia with surviving Javanese court (keraton).

Many popular Indonesian dishes come from this city. Aside from tongseng, you may have also heard of nasi liwet, nasi timlo, serabi, gudeg Solo, and kimlo.

Ingredients for tongseng ayam: chicken, cabbage, tomatoes, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), coconut milk, salt, pepper, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, and curry powder.

Ingredients for tongseng ayam: chicken, cabbage, tomatoes, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), coconut milk, salt, pepper, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, and curry powder.

Ingredients for tongseng ayam

Like most Indonesian dishes, the list of ingredients for tongseng is quite long. To make it more manageable, I am going to separate the list into sections.

1. Basic ingredients

I consider chicken, cabbage, tomatoes, coconut milk, and kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) as the most basic ingredients for a tongseng. I feel that if anything from this list is missing, it just won’t be a proper tongseng anymore.

If you want to prepare tongseng with mutton or beef, simply replace chicken with your meat of choice and keep everything else the same.

2. Herbs and aromatics

For this part, we will need garlic, shallot, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves).

If you wish, you can also add an inch each of ginger and galangal. I usually don’t use these when I use chicken, but I highly recommend adding these if you are using mutton or beef instead of chicken.

Daun salam is one of the most common ingredients in Indonesian recipes, especially for preparing Javanese dishes, so I highly recommend hunting down this ingredient if possible.

Please do not substitute daun salam with regular bay leaves. The flavor profile of these two leaves is so different that you will end up with a different dish. It is still a better option to leave out daun salam if you don’t have them rather than trying to substitute with regular bay leaves.

3. Ground spices

For the spices, we will need coriander, cumin, nutmeg, curry powder, salt, and pepper.

(1) Sauté spice paste. (2) Cook chicken until no longer pink. (3) Add lemongrass, daun salam, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, and kecap manis. (4) Add cabbage and tomatoes.

(1) Sauté spice paste. (2) Cook chicken until no longer pink. (3) Add lemongrass, daun salam, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, and kecap manis. (4) Add cabbage and tomatoes.

Step-by-step to cook Indonesian tongseng

1. Prepare and sauté spice paste

Use a food processor, blender, or a mortar and pestle to grind shallot, garlic, coriander, cumin, curry powder, nutmeg, salt, and pepper into a smooth spice paste.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium heat and sauté spice paste until fragrant.

2. Add chicken

Add bite-size chicken pieces into the pot, and stir until no longer pink.

3. Prepare broth

Add bruised lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), coconut milk, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), and water/chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the chicken is tender.

4. Add cabbage and tomatoes

Add cabbage and most of the tomatoes. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes, or until the cabbage starts to wilt.

5. Garnish and serve

Turn off the heat, and garnish with reserved tomatoes and chopped celery leaves. Serve immediately with steamed white rice, sambal rebus, fried shallots, and melinjo crackers.

Garnish tongseng ayam with celery leaves and tomatoes.

Garnish tongseng ayam with celery leaves and tomatoes.

FAQs

1. Can I use a pressure cooker?

I would say it is not necessary if you are preparing the chicken version since it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get soft and tender chicken.

For mutton or beef version, however, it can take up to 2 hours to get tender melt-in-your-mouth meat. If you use a pressure cooker, you can reduce the cooking time to a mere 30 minutes.

2. Can I add chilies since I love spicy tongseng?

If you love spicy food, feel free to add some red chilies when you grind the spice paste. Most Indonesians should be able to handle up to 5 bird-eye chilies. For a milder dish, use cayenne or Fresno chilies instead of bird-eye chilies.

Personally, I prefer omitting the chili completely and serve sambal rebus on the side. It is much easier to let everyone customize how spicy they want their tongseng to be.

Serve tongseng ayam with steamed white rice.

Serve tongseng ayam with steamed white rice.

Tongseng Ayam - Javanese Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken Stew

5.0 from 11 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson

Categories:

Cuisine:

Ingredients:

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 25 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

Serves: 4

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • 700 gram (24 oz) chicken meat, cut into bite-sizes (Note 1)
  • 2 lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh), bruised
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (Indonesian: daun jeruk)
  • 2 Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
  • 3 cup (750 ml) chicken stock/water
  • 4 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis)
  • 1/2 head (about 500 gram / 17 ounce) cabbage, cut into wedges
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into cubes
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 100 gram shallot
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch ginger (Note 2)
  • 1 inch galangal (Note 2)
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander (Indonesian: bubuk ketumbar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (Indonesian: bubuk jinten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (Indonesian: bubuk kari)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (Indonesian: bubuk pala)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white/black pepper, or to taste
  • Garnish and accompaniments
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves (optional)
  • sambal rebus
  • fried shallots (Indonesian: bawang goreng)
  • melinjo crackers (Indonesian: emping)

Instructions

  1. Prepare and sauté spice paste: Use a food processor, blender, or a mortar and pestle to grind shallot, garlic, coriander, cumin, curry powder, nutmeg, salt, and pepper into a smooth spice paste. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium heat and sauté spice paste until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken: Add bite-size chicken pieces into the pot, and stir until no longer pink.
  3. Prepare broth: Add bruised lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), coconut milk, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), and water/chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the chicken is tender.
  4. Add cabbage and tomatoes: Add cabbage and most of the tomatoes. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes, or until the cabbage starts to wilt.
  5. Garnish and serve: Turn off the heat, and garnish with reserved tomatoes and chopped celery leaves. Serve immediately with steamed white rice, sambal rebus, fried shallots, and melinjo crackers.

Notes

  • (1) You can use the same amount of mutton or beef instead of chicken.
  • (2) I usually don’t use ginger and galangal when I use chicken, but I highly recommend adding these if you are using mutton or beef instead of chicken.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen

Comments

  • Esther Esther says:

    I just found your website! It’s amazing! All recipes are well written and easily followed! I will be this particular recipe soon! :)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment Esther :) I hope you will love this recipe.

  • Pris Pris says:

    Oh my this looks so lovely!!! I ADORE Indonesian food and I just found your blog. You are on my bookmarks now :-) Kecap manis is something that I wish I had never tried, because of the sugar... but oh, well... somethings are worth it :-)

  • Anjali  Anjali says:

    This dish looks so rich and comforting!! I love all of the flavors you've added to it!

  • Jeannette Jeannette says:

    WOW this looks incredible! I've never tried adding tomatoes to to soy-based stew, but it looks like such a great combo! Thanks for sharing yet another fabulous recipe for home cooks, Anita!

  • Sara Welch Sara Welch says:

    This is my kind of comfort food! Adding this to my dinner line up for the week; looks too good to pass up!

  • Jere Cassidy Jere Cassidy says:

    I love the flavorings in your soup and can't wait to try it. There is something so delicious with a coconut milk broth that I love.

  • Traci Traci says:

    I love the authentic Asian flavors in this chicken stew! I am going to crave this recipe on the regular. Thanks for sharing and making it so easy to follow!

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Gorgeous! Just so vibrant, with such interesting flavors! I haven't used kecap manis since my cooking school days, but it's absolutely delicious, and I'm excited to have this new recipe to try using it again!

  • Beth Beth says:

    Yummy! This looks out of this world delicious! Can't wait to give this a try!

  • Shashi at Savory Spin Shashi at Savory Spin says:

    That broth looks so flavorful - I could slurp it down in seconds! I've never used Indonesian bay leaf and I'm fascinated by it - going to see if I can find so I can make this!

  • Chichi Uguru Chichi Uguru says:

    This recipe looks delicious. will be making it soon. Yum!

  • Jason Jason says:

    This Javanese sweet soy sauce chicken stew is really special. Spice mix makes this recipe different. I also like spicy, but I cut fresh red chili, it both make this soup spicy and also decorates. Chicken has deep taste! Really love this site!

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