Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Sayur Lodeh is an Indonesian vegetable soup or curry cooked with coconut milk or cream. As with many Indonesian dishes there are lots of Sayur Lodeh varieties. Sayur Lodeh has many similarities to Sayur Asem because the same vegetables are used. The main difference between both is that Sayur Lodeh is coconut-based while Sayur Asem is tamarind-based.
The origin of Sayur Lodeh can be traced to Javanese people. According to Javanese Kejawen (Javanese religious tradition, consisting of an amalgam of animistic, Buddhist, and Hindu aspects) beliefs, Sayur Lodeh is an essential part of the slametan ceremony and it is believed as tolak bala, to ward off possible danger and disaster. Furthermore, Sayur Lodeh can deter disasters such as wind storm, earthquake, volcanic eruption, drought and plague. Sayur Lodeh is well known in Javanese cuisine and has spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Today, Sayur Lodeh is also a popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore.
Common ingredients of Sayur Lodeh are (mung) bean sprouts (taugé), cabbage, chayote, eggplant, melinjo beans and leaves and unripe jackfruit. The bumbu spice paste usually consists of candlenuts (kemiri), chillies, garlic, ground coriander (ketumbar), ground galangal (laos), ground turmeric (kunyit), shrimp paste (trassi) and palm sugar (gula Jawa). The bumbu spice paste is fried first, then cooked in coconut milk and sometimes enriched with vegetable or chicken stock.
My version of Sayur Lodeh is more a vegetable curry than a soup. In my opinion the taste is much richer if you add less coconut milk and cooking liquid and boil down the mixture a bit.
To prepare Sayur Lodeh first cook the vegetables al dente. I use carrots, Chinese cabbage, green beans and mung bean sprouts (taugé) but basically you can use any vegetable you like. Heat water in a large pan, add salt and wait until it boils. Add sliced carrots and halved green beans and place a steam colander on top of the pan. I prefer steaming the cabbage instead of boiling because it will get too soggy otherwise.
Cook the carrots and green beans on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add cabbage after 3 minutes and steam for the remaining time. In the mean time make sure you taste whether the carrots and green beans before 5 minutes have passed because you want them al dente and not cooked trough. Drain the pan with the carrots and green beans but make sure to keep some (100ml) of the boiled water. Rinse the vegetables with cold water so that they won't cook any further and set aside. Pour boiling water over the bean sprouts to reduce them a bit and set aside.
Next step is to make the spice paste (bumbu). Combine roughly chopped shallots and garlic in a food processor with ground coriander, galangal, turmeric, kemiri nuts, trassi shrimp paste (or substitute with 1 teaspoon salt for a vegan Sayur Lodeh) and sambal chilli paste. Pulse until a smooth bumbu spice paste forms.
Heat oil in a wok/ skillet/ frying pan and fry the bumbu spice paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add coconut cream/ milk and cooking liquid and reduce heat. Add crushed vegetable stock cube. Cook on medium heat for 5 - 10 minutes until the reduced mixture has thickened.
Now first add bean sprouts. Stir well and add cabbage, carrots and green beans. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes too thick but make sure you do it in stages, you don't want the dish to be too watery after all :)
Serve with any Indonesian meat or rice dish you want. In my essential Indonesian cooking workshops my guests cook a small rijsttafel (rice table) and combine Sayur Lodeh with pickled cucumber (Acar Ketimun), eggplant in sweet and spicy tomato sauce (Terong Balado), sweet and spicy pineapple (Rujak Manis), Ayam Rica Rica (chicken coconut curry) or sweet and spicy mackerel (Ikan Bali) and yellow rice (Nasi Kuning).
Ingredients for 4 people
300 gr/ 11 oz green beans, ends removed and cut in half
300 gr/ 11 oz carrots, cut in slices
300 gr / 11 oz cabbage (Chinese/ pointed/ white)
Keep 100 ml/ 3,4 fl. oz. remaining cooking liquid
200 gr/ 8 oz bean sprouts (taugé)
150 ml/ 5 fl. oz. coconut cream/ milk
1 vegetable stock cube
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut, peanut or sunflower oil)
2 teaspoons ground coriander (ketumbar)
2 teaspoons ground galangal (laos)
1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric (kunyit)
4 candle nuts (kemiri)
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon shrimp paste (trassi) or substitute with 1 teaspoon salt for a vegan Sayur Lodeh
1 tablespoon sambal chilli paste (or another chilli paste)
Cook the green beans and carrots al dente in about 5 minutes. Place a steam colander over the pan and steam the cabbage for 2 to 3 minutes while the other vegetables are cooking.
Drain vegetables and keep 100 ml/ 3,4 fl oz cooking liquid. Rinse the vegetables with water and drain again. Pour boiling water over the (mung) bean sprouts and set aside.
Roughly chop shallots and garlic and combine in a food processor with ground coriander, galangal, turmeric, kemiri nuts, trassi shrimp paste and sambal chilli paste. Pulse until a smooth bumbu spice paste forms.
Heat oil in a wok/ skillet/ frying pan and fry the bumbu spice paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
Add coconut cream/ milk and cooking liquid and reduce heat. Add crushed vegetable stock cube. Cook on medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the reduced mixture has thickened.
Add bean sprouts. Stir well and add cabbage, carrots and green beans.
Stir well and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes too thick.