Indonesian ingredients.

Below I’ve listed some of the more unusual ingredients as used in my recipes. I’ve tried to include as many spellings and different names as I could find but can not promise that this list is fully complete. Many of the more common fresh ingredients such as Ginger and Lemongrass are now available in the larger supermarkets but a very good source for fresh produce, sauces and spice mixes are your local Chinese / Asian food stores. Many of the Herbs and Spices are available in your local stores and health food shops. The rule here is to buy as little as needed, so they are always fresh. I prefer to buy spices like Cumin and Coriander as seeds and then grind them in a pestle when I need them, the extra aroma is amazing.

Bean sprouts, Taogé

Sprout of the mung or soya bean. Wash before use, remove as much of the seed pot as possible. Available fresh in most supermarkets. Also sold in tins but those have lost most of their crunchiness and flavour.

Coconut milk, Santen

This is not the clear liquid found inside a whole Coconut but rather an extract from the grated flesh of a Coconut. Use one of the following methods to make your milk.
Fresh: – Grate one Coconut in a bowl and add 1 to 1½ cup of hot water. Squeeze coconut until water is turned white and the flesh is dry, set aside milk and add more water to coconut, repeat above until you have about ½ litre of milk.

Desiccated Coconut: – As above, but the yield will be less.
Creamed Coconut: – Sold as solid blocks of Coconut cream. Dissolve in hot water to get the right consistency or use straight from pack to thicken sauces etc.
Tinned Coconut milk: – use straight from can.

For further information, read this article at Marketman Manilla

Coriander, Ketumbar, Cilantro, Chinese Parsley

Green herb, resembling Parsley, with a very pleasant and distinct flavour. The chopped leaves are used to flavour and decorate dishes. The roots can be put in the dish during cooking but must be removed before serving. The seeds can be bought as a spice, whole or ground.


Cooking Oil

For cooking I use Groundnut (peanut) oil or plain vegetable oil. Both have a high burning point and don’t go of as fast as some more delicate oils.

Curry leaf

Paler version of Kaffir Lime leaves. Distinct aroma,. Used in the same way as Kaffir Lime leaves.


Cumin, Jinten

Ground seeds of the Cumin plant used as flavouring in marinades and sauces.

Lemon grass, Seréh

Grass like plant with a strong lemon flavour. Can be bought fresh, dried or powdered. Fresh: remove outer stalks and chop finely to be used in dish or pound stalks and cook with dish and remove before serving. Dried: Use for cooking, then remove before serving. Powdered: Use sparingly in cooking, will still give a wonderful flavour to dishes. As a substitute you can use zest of lemon, half a lemon or lemon juice.

Chilli’s, Peppers, Lomboks, Sambal Ulek

Chilli’s are available in many varieties and can range from mild to extremely hot. Which one you choose is mainly a question of taste and experience but you should not omit them from the recipes as their flavour is essential in most Indonesian dishes. The variety I use is usual the Lombok, which is moderate in heat. They are about 7 cm. (3 inch) long and usually sold as plain red or green peppers. If you want to cut down in heat, remove the seeds and inner white flesh before chopping. Don’t forget to wash your utensils and hands after handling chilli’s. Sambal ulek is a ready made paste made from chilli’s and some salt that is perfect for cooking and as a condiment on the table.

Daun jeruk purut, Kaffir Lime leaf

Glossy dark green leaves that impart a lemon flavour. Available fresh or dried. Used whole in cooking. Remove before serving.

Ginger, Jahé

Root of the Ginger plant. Uniform, light, tan colour. Sold fresh in most supermarkets. Peel root before use. Can by finely chopped, sliced or grated. Also available freeze-dried to be used in cooking. Ground Ginger or Ginger powder are no substitute, but it can be used in some marinades when indicated. Stem ginger: – Small pieces of ginger preserved in a sweet syrup. Used in my sauce for Babi Panggang.

Galingale, Galangal, Lengkuas, Laos powder

Root of the same plant family as ginger. Darker in colour then ginger with distinct rings around root. Flesh has a hint of pink. Sold fresh, dried and powdered. Slice before use and remove before serving. If using dried Galangal, soak in water for ½ hour before use. Powdered Galangal is known as Laos powder and can be used in marinades and sauces.


Kécap Manis, Soya sauce

Indonesian sweet soya sauce. Very thick and dark in colour. Delicious aromatic dark sauce to cook with and as a condiment on table. If unavailable you can use dark Chinese soy sauce to which you add 1 or 2 spoons of dark brown sugar but the result will not be nearly as good.


Palm Sugar, Gula Djawa, Jaggery

Sugar made from the sap of various palm trees.
Palm sugar is used in sweet and savoury dishes. It is sold in blocks, cylinders or in jars in most asion shops. If unavailable use any other strong dark sugar.


Terasi, Trassie, Blachen

Shrimp paste. Extreme strong smell which disappears during cooking. Essential ingredient in most Indonesian dishes. Available in blocks, which need to be sliced thinly and then toasted after which they can be ground up and used as instructed. Also available ready ground.

Turmeric, Kunyit, Kunir

Plant root resembling ginger, but smaller. Used for it’s yellow colour and pungent taste. For use, peel and grind in pestle with other spices. Hard to find fresh but as ready ground spice widely available.

Salam leaf

Much the same as Curry leaves. If unavailable can be replaced with a bay leaf.


Tamarind, Asam, Asam jawa

Fruit of the Tamarind tree. Very tardy, tangy flavour. This is sold in oriental stores as blocks of pressed pulp. To make tamarind water, break about 40 grams of pulp into a bowl, add 200 cl. hot water and soak, stirring occasionally. Sieve mixture, pressing through as much pulp as possible and use as directed in recipe.Also available in jars ready for use.


Kemirie Nuts, Candle Nuts

An Indonesian nut that looks like a large hazelnut. Used as a thickening and flavouring. Should be ground up before use and never be eaten raw. If not available use Macadamia or Brazil nuts instead.


White Vinegar

Where vinegar is used in my recipes, I recommend Chinese White Rice vinegar, White Wine vinegar or Cider vinegar.


There seems to have grown a great mystery about cooking rice, which puts some people off cooking rice. To be honest, most of the pre-packed, easy cook rice is very simple to cook if you follow the instructions on the bag. Allow between 50 to 75 grams per person. Always wash the rice in cold water until water runs clear. An easy way to cook rice is as follows : Wash rice and put in enough water so that the depth between the rice and the surface is about the length of one finger digit. Bring rice to boil and boil under lid until the top water has disappeared and there are holes forming in the rice. Turned heat as low as possible and leave with well fitting lid for a further 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve. For plain boiled rice I use Basmati rice, which has a lovely flavour and is slightly sticky. If the rice is needed for frying, use American long grain which gives a nice dry and firm kernel.

One Response

  1. Nieneke Hardenbol 30th March 2015

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