Essential Indonesian Ingredients – Sambal

Essential Indonesian Ingredients – Sambal

This is an additional article, and a follow up, to my previous article about Sambal Terasi. Sambal is so variable, and flexible, with such an importance to the cuisine, I felt it required an additional article to explain this.


Ok, so first of all, Sambal isn’t necessarilly an ingredient. It is more typically used as a condiment, and can be found in almost every Warung and Kaki Lima – street food vendors – in Indonesia.

If I had to give a metaphor, to help Westerners understand this amazing condiment, it would be this; Sambal is to Indonesia, what parmesan is to the Italians; Pepper to the French, and tomato kethup to the British. It is something on the side of every meal, which people add to their own taste.

That is where the similarities end though, because whereas my European examples take a “one size fits all” approach, the opposite is true in Indonesia. A large number of Indonesian dishes will have their own specific sambal, and each vendor of that dish, is likely to have their own version of it. Such is the importance of this condiment to the national cuisine, a vendor’s livelihood can often depend on his sambal quality, as much his, or her, main product.

To give you an example of this, let me refer to a rather funny altercation with my wife, as we went out in search of Mie Ayam – Chicken Noodles. It is one  of her favourite meals, and being Indonesian, she considers herself a sambal connoisseur. We went to a street vendor, and everything seemed great. The noodles were the right ones, and well cooked. The chicken tasted great, and the broth was perfect. Then came the sambal, which wasn’t the correct one for the dish, nor well made. We’ve NEVER eaten there again.

Now you can see its importance, let’s move on to how you eat with it. Now in England, we have two types of Ketchup eaters – the “to the siders” and the “go crazy, and pour all over.” In Indonesia, there is only “to the side”, and you add small amounts of it, to each bite you have, just a small amount mind, as it can overpower the taste. The only exception to this, is when eating soups, or broths, when you add the sambal to alter the flavour or spice, and this is entirely to taste.

If you’re interested in cooking, and eating, Indonesian food, always try to “Google” the dish you want to try, to see if it has its own sambal. If I ever cover a dish, with a specific sambal, I will ensure to post it alongside. Pairing the right sambal with an Indonesian meal, is almost as important as the cooking of the meal itself.

To end with, let me give you a quick recipe for the most basic of all sambals – Sambal Oelek. The name comes from Ulek, the stone pestal and mortar.



20 keriting chilies, long thin ones
4 garlic cloves
6 Indonesian shallots – 2 ordinary ones


  1. I like to pre-chop all my ingredient, before mashing them into a paste, so do this first.
  2. Add your chopped chilies, shallots, and garlic to you cobek and ulek-ulek, or mortar and pestle, add salt to help you grind it, then grind.
  3. Add in a splash of oil to bring it together.
  4. (Optional) put the mixture in a frying pan, and cook the paste for a minute or two. I prefer this, as it blends the flavours nicer, and mellows the garlic, and shallots a bit.
  5. Salt to taste.

Sambal Oelek is the base for most sambals, so it is a great place to begin. From here you can add a whole host of ingredients to replicate Indonesian recipes, or make your own. Popular ingredient would be – lime, lemon, various vinegars, sugar, tomatoes, terasi, spicier chilies, bell peppers, etc…

Sambal Oelek is also what is commonl referred to as “chili paste” in many recipes.





Sambal Terasi

Sambal Terasi

If there is one  thing, which is definitively Indonesian, it is Sambal. It is said you are not Indonesian, if you don’t like and know how to make it.

That’s all well and good, but there are almost as many different sambals, as there are islands in Indonesia. This isn’t even an exaggeration, the dish you eat will most likely have a certain sambal; different ethnic groups will have their own, and each ibu – ibu will have their own recipe for each one.


In this post, I’m just going to talk about one type in particular – sambal terasi. It is a favourite amongst Indonesians, especially those in Java. It is special, because of the rather pungent ingredient, terasi, or shrimp paste. For more information on this fragrant ingredient, check out my previous post.


This sambal is easy to make, its main ingredients are simply; chili, garlic, red onions, and terasi. Secondary to these, I added salt, lime juice, a little palm sugar and vegetable oil. There is a secret in the oil I use though. My wife’s aunty shared this with me, and it is a bit of a game changer. Don’t use new oil, but oil that has been previously used to fry something. Indonesians often use oil from frying ayam goreng – something I’ll post one day – for this recipe, I used oil leftover from making buffalo wings with my secret sauce. No I won’t be posting that.

Ayo! Mari bikin sambal terasi.

6 cabe keriting – the long red, curly chillies
3 cabe lombok – the big fat chillies
3 cabe rawit – birds eyes chillies
3 cloves of garlic
4 red shallots – the small Asian ones. If you can’t get them, use 1 1/2 ordinary ones.
1teaspoon of terasi
1 teaspoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon of palm sugar
3 teaspoons of used oil


I should say here, that everyone makes their sambal differently. It a matter of personal taste. Some people, for example, will even add one tomato to this. The number of chillies is flexible, I use lombok to bulk out the body, and keep the spicy level to something in between mild, and hell. You could use no lombok and up to 15-18 keriting, to make it spicier. Though, if you really want heat, add more birds eyes.

Ultimately, this recipe is super flexible, and these amounts just represent my – and by that, I mean my wife’s – personal preference.

1. Roast the terasi – put it in a frying pan, no oil and  heat it gently for 2-3 minutes.

2. Chop up your main ingredients – chilies, shallots, and garlic. Yeah, you’re going to pound them into a paste, but this just makes life easier.

3.  Get out your cobek and ulek – ulek, or mortar and pestle. Honestly, don’t use a blender, you’re looking for some whole chilli pieces, this is not hot sauce. Bash, smash, mash and grind the chilies, garlic, shallots, sugar and terasi into a loose paste. See the photo for a rough guide.


Note: use salt to help your grinding effort. It reduces the moisture, and increases the abrasive action of your grinder.

4. Heat the oil gently in a pan, then add this paste. Cook the paste out for about two minutes.

5. Finish off with the lime juice.


This makes an amazing dip, as a condiment for all forms of food – sauces, soups and anything else you want a hint of spice in.

Essential Indonesian ingredients – terasi

Essential Indonesian ingredients – terasi


Terasi,or shrimp paste as it is known to us westerners, is an ingredient, which will ultimately divide opinion of all those who read this. It is made by taking the shells of shrimps, and putting them through a fermentation process. The result, is a  paste, or sometimes sauce, which is quite essential to a variety of Indonesian dishes.

The role shrimp paste plays in Indonesian cuisine, is actually very subtle, yet surprisingly essential. It is to Indonesia, what fish sauce is to Thai, and Vietnamese cooking, and the anchovi to the French. It brings seasoning, and that precious hint of unami to your  cooking.

The paste is actually prevalent across South East Asia, with almost every country, and often every village, city or town, within  it, having their own varieties. Contrary to popular belief – I’m looking at you Wikipedia – it is not used in most dishes, but when it is, it simply can’t be substituted, yes anchovies and fish sauce do the same job, but the flavour is very different.


Note: Indonesia never uses fish sauce – I repeat – never uses fish sauce. Just because Thai and Vietnamese cuisine does, doesn’t mean all South East Asian countries do.

The paste, as previously stated, is essential to a number of dishes. It is most often used in fish or vegetable based dishes and quite often dips too. One condiment, to which it is beyond essential, is sambal terasi. A favourite accompaniment to many Indonesian dishes.

When using terasi, there are a few things to be aware off. First of all, it stinks. It beyond stinks. It is wretched. It will make you vomit. Second, you have to roast it gently before use. This will make it smell worse, and worse again, it will make your whole house stink – windows  wide open people. Third, start off with small amounts. Properly used it takes dishes to an entirely new level; over used and it will ruin them completely. Finally, it is worth it. To really appreciate it’s subtle flavour, you need to make sambal terasi; both with and without the terasi. Once you’ve tasted the difference, you’ll learn to accept the ingredient. Though you’ll never love it’s smell.

With this in mind, I’ll be exploring the vast world of sambal this weekend, and finishing with an authentic sambal terasi recipe.


Ketoprak – Indonesia’s Finest Vegetarian Street Food.

Ketoprak – Indonesia’s Finest Vegetarian Street Food.

Ketoprak, it is a meal which is truly more than the sum of its ingredients. First of all, I had salad, I hate meals with no meat, and I actually hate a lot of the individual ingredients of this dish. Yet, it is 100% true to say, that of all Indonesian street food, ketoprak is my favourite.


This is a salad with a difference. Salads as the West know them, are typically dressed with an oily vinaigrette, or some form of mayonnaise. With ketoprak, the dressing is a thick, salty, sweet peanut sauce with a light tang to it.

The actual components of the salad are very different too. Protein in the form of eggs and tofu, starch from bihun (vermicelli noodles) and ketupat (rice cake) and the vegetables are beansprouts and cucumber. Finally, it is finished off with crackers, and some glorious crispy fried shallots for that crunchy texture. And lets not forget about that thick peanut sauce.

All of these ingredients are simple, and on their own slightly bland, but when you bring them together and mix them together in this incredible sauce; you get the kind of meal that a deathrow convict would order for their final meal.

Most of these ingredients are simple to find anywhere, though it is possible you’ll struggle with the tamarind juice in the peanut sauce, and the starchy ketupat. Tamarind juice, or asam in Indonesian, is a tangy acidic liquid, and if can be processed directly from the tamarind fruit. Just ensure that it is the sour variety, and not the sweet one. If you can’t find it, then simply use lemon or lime juice which is watered down in water. Use a ratio of about 1:2; 1 part lime, or lemon, juice and two part water. Ketupat is an essential part of the dish, and some Asian superstores may sell packs which help you make your own, ask for ketupat or rice cakes. If its not possible to find it, it can be roughly substituted for boiled new potatoes, just ensure you remove the skin.


Ayo! Mari bikin ketoprak – Lets make Ketoprak.


Peanut Sauce

500g peanuts – toasted, but not salted
2 cloves of garlic
2 birds eye chillies
1 tablespoon red sugar
watered down tamarind sauce – 2 parts tamarind, 3 parts water
sweet soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Salad ingredients –  ultimately, the amounts are up to you, but this is a rough guide.

1/2 handful of bihun – vermicelli noodles
1/2 handful of beansprouts
5cm of cucumber cut up into chunks
8-10 bitesize pieces of tofu
1 clove of garlic
8-10 bitesize pieces of ketupat / 4 – 5 halved new potatoes
1 boiled egg (remove and this can be vegan – yay)
8 – 10 Asian crackers
fried crispy shallots to garnish

1. All of the ingredients in this meal are cold, so start of by boiling your eggs, and allowing them to cool before shelling. At the same time, in a pan, with about 1cm of oil in it and a clove of garlic, gently fry the tofu until the outside is browned.

2. Next make the paste for the sauce. Indonesian’s use a cobek and ulek – ulek, but you can use a mortar and pestle. I don’t recommend a blender, but if you’re lazy, don’t over blitz anything. Start of with grinding up the garlic and chillies with the salt. This does need to be made into a fine paste, and the salt helps do this.

3. Once the garlic and chillies are done, add in the sugar, follow by the peanuts. Don’t over grind the peanuts, some of its needs to be chunky for added texture. Now the paste is complete.

Note: This paste will actually make 3-4 portions of ketoprak, it is simply easier to make too much and then freeze it until next time.


4. Take about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the peanut paste, and add it into your serving bowl. From here add about 2 tablespoons of kecap manis / sweet soy sauce, and three tablespoons of the tangy tamarind water. Mix together thoroughly, and you should have a thick salty and sweet sauce. From here, add more of sweet soy sauce or tamarind water depending on your preference, what it is currently is my personal preference.

5. Once your sauce is made, lets begin assembling the salad. On top of the sauce, add the tofu and ketupat first.

6. Then on top of this add the bihun and beansprouts, and then scatter the cucumber. I then like to add a little more sweet soy sauce to the beansprouts and bihun, and then mix it all together.

7. Finally, sprinkle a few pieces of the crispy shallots, and add boiled egg, cut in half. Serve with the crackers on the side.



Essential Indonesian ingredients – kecap manis

Essential Indonesian ingredients – kecap manis

Indonesian cuisine is a treasure trove of unique ingredients combining to make incredible dishes. Despite its rich history, and fair share of famous meals, many of this cuisines most essential ingredients are not widely known. In this part of my blog, I hope to give you useful information regarding the best ingredients that Indonesian has to offer.

Kecap manis, quite possibly one of Indonesia’s best kept culinary secrets, is  an essential sauce in any Indonesia’s home. Kecap, generally refers to soy based sauces (kecap asin or kecap manis), and manis means sweet. It is essentially a sweet soy sauce.


The flavour this sauce brings is deep, and complex, and it’s always best to add it in smaller amounts, until you’re used to its properties. Like all soy sauces it brings a real depth of unami to your dish, as well as a mild sweetness, with a slight hint of aniseed. It is used both within the actual cooking of a meal, and as a condiment on the side for personal tweaking.

This versatile sauce is used across a myriad of different Indonesian foods, and in many different ways too. It is essential to any mie goreng or nasi goreng (that’s fried noodles and rice to the English speakers  out there), here it is added as the final ingredient, and then cooked out to reduce the moisture and intensify the flavour. It is often used in combination with peanuts, where it perfectly balances the nuts saltiness to make sauces for things such as ketoprak, gado-gado, and sate sauce. Finally, it is a prominent ingredient for meat marinades, and is used in all forms of grilled meat meals, such as dates, and the delicious ayam bakar (translated as burnt chicken).


Sweet soy sauce is really an ingredient unique to Indonesia, in fact over 90% of its consumption happens here alone. That being said, it does, in my belief, have the potential to be the next sriracha in terms of Asian sauces becoming popular. It makes amazing sauces for a quick, and simple stir fry, and has incredible potential in meat marinades. Both regular soy sauce, and honey are common in marinades, and this one ingredient can take the place of both. It has the opportunity for some incredible creativity.

In terms of locating this sauce outside of Indonesia, it is difficult, but not impossible. Within Europe, the Netherlands has strong ties to Indonesia, so frequently stocks the sauce. Though not everyone has the good luck to be Dutch. There are many Asian supermarkets which do sell the sauce in England, so try your luck with that or a nearby Chinatown.

In terms of brands to buy, there are 3 or 4, but there are only 2 which are worthwhile to me. Bango, and ABC, see the photos for a clearer view. Like all good sauces, the taste varies slightly between the two. ABC is saltier, and Bango sweeter, though either will do perfectly if you can only find one. My personal preference is always Bango, however, for me this sauce’s main objective is sweetness, so Bango just works better.


I hope that was informative for you, keep an eye out for my next recipe blog this weekend. I’ll be using this incredible ingredient to change your perspective of salads forever.

Mie Goreng Tek-Tek “Fried Noodles”

Hi all!

Welcome to my first official recipe post on this new blog.


I’m choosing to start this off with with a firm staple of Indonesian Street Food – Mie Goreng Tek – Tek. Mie (noodles), Goreng (fried) Tek-Tek (an onomatopoeic reference to advertising noise the seller makes) is really a favourite among locals, and travelers to the country. It is a simple and easy to make dish, which is eaten all day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. To buy it on the streets, where it tastes the best, will set you back between 10,000 to 15,000 Rupiah, or to us British; 50 – 75p.

First let me talk about some relatively unique ingredient; bawang merah, kecap manis, and bakso. Bawang merah is a small shallot like onion, though it is sweeter, and not quite as powerful as its English equivalent. It’s difficult to impossible to find outside of Asia, so if you can’t find it, substitute with about a 1/3 of a medium sized shallot.

Kecap manis, or sweet soy sauce, and if you haven’t tried this yet, then get to your local Asian store, and buy some. It is a staple of Indonesian cooking, and it tastes amazing, sweet with a hint of aniseed. It should be easily found at any good Asian store.

Finally, Bakso; this is basically a form process meatball which is common over most of Asia. It is commonly used in Mie Goreng, and many other Indonesian dishes. In this case though, if you can’t find it in an Asian store, simply exchange for chicken or beef.

So lets begin


250 grams of dry or fresh egg noodles.
5 – 6 bakso balls
1/2 a chicken breast
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
5 bawang merah (finely cut)
2 red chili (optional) (finely chopped)
2 eggs
1 bunch of mustard greens / spinach
cooking oil
1/3 cup of kecap manis
salt to taste.


Note: You’ll spend most of the cooking time on high flame, so have all your ingredients ready, and easily accessible.

  1. Begin by partly cooking your noodles. If they are dry, follow pack instructions, but only go about 2/3 of the way, the rest will be done in the wok. If fresh, then poor in hot water, and allow to sit for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Scramble your eggs, and then cook them into basic, thin omelette. Set then roll it up and cut into ribbons. Set aside for later.
  3. In your wok, heat up your oil on a high flame, and fry the chicken. Then set aside.
  4. Then add to your wok, some extra oil, the chili, bawah merah, and garlic. Saute for a minute or two, but don’t brown. Your basically just flavouring the oil.
  5. Add the bakso, greens and chicken and fry for a little longer. Allow the greens to wilt a little.
  6. Add your noodles, and stir them around so that the flavoured oil coats them all evenly, this needs only take a moment.
  7. Add your kecap manis, and stir well to thoroughly combine. Every ingredient must be well coated in this sticky goodness.
  8. Continue to fry for an additional two minutes, this allows the noodles to finish and to cook the edge off the kecap manis.
  9. Add to plate, and top with your ribboned egg

enjoy! Or as Indonesian’s would say; “Makan!”



Selamat Datang – Welcome to My Blog

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my blog; Bule Kitchen. This is a new blog, and my first attempt at this sort of media, so please bare with me.

I’m a Brit living in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I’ve been here now for three years. Since being here, I’ve noticed two things. First, Indonesians really can’t cook Western food, and Westerners really do butcher Indonesian classics.

As a result of these two facts, this blog has come about, as I want to share the recipes, I have learnt, and developed while being here. It will part Indonesian, and part everywhere else.

Terima kasih, and stay tuned for my first recipe – Indonesia’s finest; Mie Goreng.