Sayur Asem (Indonesia Traditional Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Vegetable Soup)


This is a wonderful and delicious dish if you wanna go all vegetarian. Although this dish consists only vegetables inside, but the taste is absolutely not simple but very rich. There are slight tastes of sweet, sour, spicy, and even savory. That is why many people fall in love with this dish immediately, and even my son liked this Indonesian version of vegetable soup. Since he doesn’t eat spicy food, I made this dish without using any chili at all.

This dish is believed came originally from West Java, one of the big province in Indonesia. There is another version of this dish that came from Surabaya, the capital city of East Java which is also one of the big province in Indonesia. This other version is using kangkong as one of the vegetable, but since my mom used to make the one that resembles the Sundanese (West Java) version at home, so this is what I always make here.


I wasn’t a big fan of sayur asem when I was still living in Jakarta. but when I moved here and this dish was (and still is) hard to get (especially the good one that I like), I started to miss eating my mom’s cooking of this dish. So I learned how to make this dish from my mom (through whats app) and have been cooking sayur asem for my little family since then.

Sayur asem is also a good companion for ayam goreng kuning (Indonesian traditional yellow fried chicken), grilled fish, grilled chicken, or even fried fish.

I made a big pot of this time every time and just keep some in the fridge for the next day.



For the vegetables:

  1. 2 corn, you can either cut into 4 parts or take the corn kernel
  2. 2 chayote / labu siam, cut into 2 x 2 cm
  3. 500 gr long beans / kacang panjang, cut into 2 cm in length
  4. 130 gr red beans IMG_2415
  5. other vegetables you can add are: raw peanuts (kacang tanah), belinjo (melinjo), and jackfruit (nangka muda)

Spices, herbs, and other things

  1. 5 shallots or 1 large red onion
  2. 10 garlic
  3. 4 candlenuts, stir fry without oil until fragrant and the color turns into light brown
  4. 4 tomatoes
  5. 7 bilimbi / belimbing wuluhIMG_2445
  6. 5 gr Indonesia dry shrimp paste/ terasi (optional)
  7. 5 salam leaves
  8. 10 lime leavesIMG_2446
  9. 50 gr palm sugar / gula merah
  10. 30 gr galanger / lengkuas, cut 4 and crushed
  11. 2 tbsp of salt, or to taste
  12. 1 tbsp sugar
  13. 5 gr tamarind / asam jawa. Add 3 tbsp of water and squeeze the tamarind with your fingers. Discard the tamarind. Set aside the water
  14. If you like it to be spicy, then add 1 or 2 tbsp sambal terasi (Indonesia traditional chili paste)
  15. 3 L of waterIMG_2447


  1. Place garlic, shallot, candlenuts, tomatoes, terasi (dry shrimp paste), air asam jawa (water from the tamarind), salt, and sugar in a food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer to a large pot
  2. Add 3 L of water to the large pot and add all other spices and herbs. Bring the water to boil in low heat (cook for about 1 hour)
  3. Add chayote, red beans, and corns. When they are half cooked, add long beans
  4. Cooking time depends on the desired tenderness of the vegetablesimg_6351
  5. Serve hot with white rice, keropok, fried anchovy, fried fish, or Indonesia traditional fried chickenIMG_2441




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