The origin of this Indonesian vegetable tamarind soup or known as sayur asam can be traced to Sundanese people of West Java, Banten and Jakarta region.
This Indonesian vegetable tamarind soup, needless to say, is a favorite among many locals. Whenever we went to restaurants that serve native Indonesian cuisines, we always order this sayur asam soup. The soup are made with lots of different variety of vegetables.
Common vegetables used in this sayur asam are melinjo, chayote, long beans, corn, cabbage, tomatoes and all cooked in tamarind-based and spices soups. Melinjo or known as Gnetum Gnemon is native to Indonesia and the seeds are famously used in this sayur asam or ground into flour to make crackers call emping/melinjo crackers.
This is one of my favorite soups. I used to buy the Tamarind soup paste from the store and all you need are the other ingredients. I noticed though there are MSG in the ingredient list and so I have came up with my own vegetable tamarind soup after many rounds of adjustments made to the recipe, I think I finally got it to where I like it. I have no luck in finding melinjo so far, however, the sayur asam still turned out fabulous.
- 7 oz (200 g) of melinjo ( I used raw peanuts instead since I couldn't find melinjo)
- 3.5 oz (100 g) of long beans (cut into 2" length)
- 2 sweet corns (cut into smaller pieces)
- 8-10 of baby corns (if used canned baby corns, drain the liquid off)
- 2 chayotes (peeled and cubed)
- 5-6 of cabbage leaves (cut into smaller bite-size)
- 2 tomatoes (quartered)
- Thumb-size of galangal (mashed it with the side of a cleaver or heavy object and remove later before serving)
- 1 stalk of lemon grass (bend in half and lightly bruised with the side of a cleaver or heavy object)
- 5 bay leaves/daun salam
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (slightly tear the leaves to release flavor)
- 8 cups of beef broth
- 1 Tbsp of canola oil
- Salt to taste
- 10 shallots
- 6-7 bird's eye chilis (more if you want it spicier)
- 5 cloves garlic
- 7 candlenuts/kemiri
- 5 red chilis
- 1 tsp of shrimp paste /terasi
- 2 oz of Gula Jawa/ Indonesian dark palm sugar
- 2 oz of seedless tamarind/asam gelugur
Put all the ingredient for ground spices into a food processor and process into a fine paste, you may need a little water to get it going
Preheat a large pot and add 1 Tbsp of canola oil. Add in the paste and stir-fry until fragrant. Add in the lemongrass, galangal, bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves and beef broth. Bring it to a boil and then add in the rest of the vegetables and then lower the heat and let it gently simmer for about 30-45 minute until all the vegetables are cooked through but not mushy. Have a taste and season with a salt. It should be just slightly tangy and sweet, adding the salt help to bring all the flavor out
Serve with rice and other dishes as part of multi-course meal