Recipe: Chef Indra’s Sayur Bening
This plant-based Indonesian broth is a healthy, versatile one-pot wonder. Tanaman’s Chef Indra Saputra shares his mother’s own recipe for Indonesia’s favourite soup.
Preparation time: 30 minutes, cooking time: approximately 2 hours
Sayur Bening is an Indonesian comfort classic: aromatic spices, power-packed herbs and lots and lots of vegetables in a clear, warm broth. Our rendition at Tanaman comes courtesy of chef Indra Saputra’s mother. “Almost every Indonesian mom has their own sayur bening recipe,” he says, “because it is super easy to make, yet delicious and very healthy.”
The beauty of this dish is its versatility and nourishing properties. The broth – simple in its essence and execution – is laden with immune-boosting ginger, galangal, garlic and lemongrass, with bay leaf and shiitake mushrooms for depth. The choice of vegetables that go in, Saputra says, is really up to you. The only indispensable ingredient is corn. “It has to be in the soup. But you can use any beautiful seasonal vegetables such as zucchini, celeriac, kale and chard, as you please.”
Pair it with steamed rice or, as per Saputra’s recommendations, “fried tempe or tofu for protein” and sambal for extra punch. “A classic, killer combination.”
Here’s the recipe.
750ml aromatic broth (ingredients below)
1 medium-sized carrot, diced
½ medium-sized chayote, peeled and diced
¼ peeled Chinese okra, sliced
For the broth
2 tbsp soybean oil
5 medium red shallots, peeled and sliced
8 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups fresh shiitake mushroom10 cm knob ginger, peeled and grilled over a medium-low flame for approximately 15 minutes or until tender, sliced
4L filtered water
2 cups green amaranth or spinach
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
Half tsp unrefined sugar (or to taste)
White pepper powder, a dash or to taste
5 cm knob galangal, cleaned, pounded
8 cm fingerroot, sliced
3-4 lemongrass hearts, sliced
5 Indonesian bay leaves
5 pieces sweet corn, husks removed, quartered
3 medium tomatoes, quartered
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
A sprinkling of crisped red shallots or onions, store-bought or sliced fresh and fried in soybean oil for approximately 10-15 minutes or until brown. Indra says: “for the best results, wash the sliced red shallots three times and pat dry with tissue or cloth before frying. It will reduce bitterness and allow them to crisp-up with ease.”
Start by making the broth. In a stock pot, heat oil, red shallots, garlic and shiitake mushroom at a medium temperature for five minutes, or until fragrant. Pour in water, bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, add ginger, galangal, fingerroot and lemongrass. Allow to boil for another 10 minutes, then lower heat to a simmer.
Add corn cobs and tomato and simmer for one hour. After one hour, cover the pot with a lid or aluminium foil, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Strain the broth and set the corn cobs aside. You should have approximately 1.5 litres of liquid. Remove the kernels from the strained cob, set aside.
Bring the strained aromatic broth to boil in a pot, and season with salt, white pepper and unrefined sugar. Add carrot and chayote and boil for around 5-7 minutes, depending on how big or small the vegetables have been chopped.
Taste and correct the seasoning, then add green amaranth and pre-cooked corn kernels. Boil for one minute, then remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with deep-fried red shallots or onions. Serve hot.
Chef Indra’s tips
– To speed-up the process you can also cook the vegetables with the broth, strain it and keep it in the fridge to be used as needed.
– If you can’t source fingerroot, substitute it with 20g grilled ginger (for the best results, wrap the ginger in aluminium foil as you grill) and 10g fresh galangal.
– Indonesian bay leaves can be substituted with seven dried regular bay leaves.
– Use a cheesecloth to strain the broth for better clarity.
– Simmer low and slow for the best results.
– Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days.