Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ketupat sayur (spicy vegetable soup with rice cake)

It was a cold Sunday night when my husband and I were craving for a bowl of spicy soup and we ended up drooling over our imagination of a bowl of spicy vegetable soup with rice cake pieces underneath. That dish is called "ketupat sayur" or "lontong sayur" in Indonesia and you can read about the ketupat/lontong description, including how to make the rice cake using a very simple trick, in my post here. I realized that although I`ve made several dishes served with the rice cake, ketupat/lontong sayur wasn`t among of them. So I made them the next night and next thing I knew, each of us was holding a bowl of it devouring all the goodness. As my rice cake was rather in rectangular (ketupat) pieces than cylindrical (lontong) ones, I decided to call this dish as ketupat sayur, even though the rice cake wasn`t an original ketupat rice cake and the soup contained quite different vegetables.

Let`s cook now!
First thing to do is gather all the spices you have at home and I`m half kidding saying that. 
You can see the spices I used in the list I provide at the end of this post, but you certainly can experiment with your favorite spices. I also love adding dried shrimp or shrimp paste to this kind of spicy food. If you are not big with the "stinkiness" of the shrimp paste, then I recommend you to use the dried shrimp instead as it gives a much milder shrimpy aroma. 
Last year me would have blitz all these spices in a food processor until they turned into paste, but this year me is lazy and happy enough with the chop-chop work.

Next, heat oil in a pot and cook all the spices in the list and add the shrimp too until oh-so-good smell fills the whole kitchen.

After the solid, here comes the liquid. I use coconut milk powder dissolved with water, but you can also add chicken or beef stock for more flavor. One thing to consider with the liquid volume is you`d better add the coconut milk to fill only one third to half of the pot because you need to leave some space for vegetables later. If you need to, you can add the coconut milk or water again later after all the vegetables are in.
Stir and adjust the taste. For seasoning, I use fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
By the way, to make this dish as a vegan diet, just omit the dried shrimp/shrimp paste and fish sauce and use water instead of chicken/beef stock.

Veggie time!
I always use pre-packaged boiled bamboo shoots, so what I do is just wash and chop them.

For the 1000th time, I`m sorry to show you this shimeji mushroom again. Since I have lived here, I just don`t know how to live without it. Or any mushrooms, as a matter of fact.
Stir and simmer for about 15 minutes while adjusting the taste if necessary. 

After you`re done adjusting the soup taste, last thing to add is bean sprouts. Since the sprouts are very quick to cook, just turn off the heat, and put a lid on for 10 minutes to let the sprouts cook with the heat and steam.
Although I haven`t had the original ketupat sayur for certainly a long time, I still can remember how it tasted and adding these bean sprouts in the ketupat sayur dish really gave me a whole new pleasant experience.

Alright, the vegetable soup is done and now is time to arrange the dish.

What you need for ketupat sayur other then the vegetable soup is rice cake. My husband is always in charge with the rice cake making. So here`s the rice cake he`s made by pressing hot steamed rice in a tupper bowl lined with cling wrap and let cool for a while.

Cut the rice cakes, place them in a bowl, and add fried tofu strips. Please remember that this rice cake is basically a compact version of regular cooked rice, so although the rice cake pieces in the bowl seems not enough, it`s actually very fulfilling.
You can add the fried tofu in the soup instead, but I personally prefer this way.

Next thing to do is ladle the soup over and garnish with green onion and fried onion. I don`t have fried onion in hand, but I really wish I had.
It`s spicy, red, full of vegetables, and fulfilling. You certainly can serve the soup with regular cooked rice or even noodles, but in my opinion, the nice compact consistency of the rice cake brings a different texture to the whole dish.

I hope you will give this a try and love it too!
Have a nice weekend!

KETUPAT SAYUR (spicy vegetable curry with rice cake)
Serves 3-4 persons

6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 chili
4 Tbs chili powder 
1 Tbs grated ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cardamom
3 star anise
1/2 tsp turmeric

1 Tbs dried shrimps
1 Tbs fish sauce
500 ml coconut milk (or 1 cup coconut powder dissolved in 2 cups water or chicken/beef stock)
3 cups bamboo shoots, chopped
2 cups shimeji mushroom
3 cups bean sprouts
1 tsp brown sugar
Fried tofu strips for garnish
Chopped green onion for garnish
Fried onion (recommended, but not shown here)
Cooked rice for rice cake (check out the method here)

1. Heat oil in a pot and cook all the spices until fragrant.
2. Stir in coconut milk.
3. Add chopped bamboo shoots and shimeji mushroom to the pot.
4. Season with brown sugar, salt, and pepper and let simmer for about 15 mins with occasional stirring..
5. Add bean sprouts to the pot, turn off the heat, and put a lid for about 10 mins to let the sprouts cook.

To serve with rice cake
1. Cut the rice cake into desirable shapes and arrange the pieces on a bowl.
2. Add fried tofu strips to the bowl, pour over the soup, and garnish with chopped green onion and fried onion.


  1. It looks so unusual, exotic (I am a bit ignorant in what comes to Indonesian cuisine... I practically know only beef rendang...) but most of all delicious! When the temperature goes down a bit, I must try this soup. (I have all the ingredients almost constantly in my kitchen, apart from this specially cooked rice).

    1. Hi Sissi, it`s actually quite funny to me when I realized that in Indonesia, people don`t seem to mind about the weather when it comes to this kind of rich spicy food. It`s even possible that the hotter the weather is, the spicier people want their food to be :DDD

  2. This is a beautiful and hearty soup. i am sure both of you enjoyed it very much!

    1. Thank you, Katerina! We both did enjoy it a lot!

  3. I never thought of using saran wrap to make ketupat, what a brilliant idea. We use to use banana leaves to wrap them, or sometimes bamboo leaves. Thank you for bringing me back down to memory lane of growing up in Indonesia ;-)

    1. Hi Yudith, I too was very happy to find out this trick! Although I still miss the nice leafy scent of the original ketupat, this saran-wrapped rice cake is totally a life-saver for a person like me :)