I still have no idea why the name of the dish is EMPAL in Bahasa Indonesia, but basically it’s a beef dish that’s been cooked for a very long time (in low heat until the beef is soft and tender) and then fried until brown. This fried beef dish tastes succulent with mild sweetness acquired from palm sugar but also taste savory from all the herbs and spices that added while cooking the beef.
From my experience, this is one of the dish that young children like, so that’s why we have to cook the beef until tender and easy to chew and swallow for the kids. It’s a very popular dish and easy to find in my hometown, but it’s not cheap since beef is considered expensive in Indonesia.
If not mistaken, it is a Sundanese dish that comes from West Java (mainly Bandung city and Bogor City), Indonesia.
The name of the dish is actually Empal, then there is an additional name which is Gepuk. Gepuk is actually the name of the technique that is used to make this dish. Gepuk means to beat something with a stone pestle until it reaches the consistency that we want. For example in this dish (Empal Gepuk), means we have to beat the beef mildly to make it thin and to stretch it. Then there is also Es Gepuk or Ice Gepuk, means we beat a big cube of ice into tiny small parts.
As a child, my mom used to make this dish and I loved it so much. I could eat at least 2 plates of rice with this dish (sadly now I can’t do that anymore because getting older means my metabolism is not as good as it used to be and eating too much rice will make me fat……………oh how I missed those time when I could eat a lot and still stayed slim). She usually didn’t fry the beef and she made the dish with pressure cooker. It was a different technique from this one, but it was still taste very delicious, and even until today I still learn a lot from her.
It is best to eat this dish with lots and lost homemade Indonesian traditional sambal ulek or chili paste made with mortar and pestle (I’ll give the link of the recipe below).
So, here is the recipe and since we don’t eat too much beef, this might be my only beef dish recipe in months………………and I don’t know when I will cook beef again………………
- 1/2 kg of beef (preferably tenderloin)
- 700 ml of water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large red onion or 8 shallots
- 6 garlic
- 8 candlenuts, stir fry in a non stick pan without oil until fragrant
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 thumbs of ginger, thinly slices
- 2 thumbs of galangal, thinly slices
- 5 salam leaves
- 10 kafir lime leaves
- 2 lemongrass, slice off the very bottom of the stalk, and peel off any dried-out layers, then cut into 2 and crush with a stone pestle
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 tsp tamarind, soak in 3 tbsp of water and squeeze the tamarind with 2 fingers. Strain and use the water only
- In a medium pot, add 700 ml of water and 1/2 kg of beef. Turn to low heat and bring to boil.
- Turn off the heat
- Take out the beef from the pot. Keep the water in the pot as we are going to use it later
- Cut the beef along the muscle fiber into half palm size
- Using stone pestle and a chopping board, beat the beef pieces mildly one by one to loosen the meat fibers and spread its size a little bit
- Try to stretch the size of the beef as big as you can so it becomes very thin, so the beef can absorb all the spices well
- Set aside the meat
- Prepare a blender and add shallots, garlic, candlenuts, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and salt. Pulse several times until they perform a smooth paste
- Heat a pan with 2 tbsp olive oil and add the paste in number 6, ginger, and galangal. Stir fry until fragrant
- Add lemongrass, salam leaves, and lime leaves. Stir fry for another 1 minute
- Add beef pieces, palm sugar, and tamarind water, mix well stir fry for 2 minutes
- Turn to low heat and add 600 ml of water that was used to boil the beef
- Cook until the spice are absorbed into the meat and the stock evaporate. Stir occasionally
- Taste and add salt if necessary. If there is only little water and the beef is not cooked yet, add more water little by little and continue cooking
- Turn off the heat and separate the beef from other ingredients (herbs and spices)
- Fried the beef until the color darken
- Serve with hot steam rice topped with fried shallots, sambal ulek or Indonesia traditional shrimp paste chili which the recipe can be seen in here, sayur asem or Indonesia sweet, sour, and spicy vegetable soup which the recipe can be seen in here, lalapan segar (salad from raw vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, and cabbage), and tempe goreng or fried tempeh with salt and garlic. If it’s too much, simply just serve this dish with hot steam rice…………….