Empal: Deep Fried Sliced Beef

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Empal is a fried meat dish made from large slices of beef. The beef is cooked in spices and then deep fried until it turns a deep brown. Although it’s very delicious, empal does not regularly feature on the dining table compared to other meat or protein dishes. That’s because it’s a relatively premium dish, since more expensive cuts of beef tend to be used, such as topside, rump or chuck. Empal also has a chewy texture which some people find a bit hard to eat, especially children and the elderly.

To make good empal, good quality meat is of utmost importance. Slice the meat along the grain and remove any fat from it. Pound the meat lightly after it simmers in the spice paste to loosen the meat fibers. Finally, fry the meat shortly before serving it. 

Different versions of Empal

Like many Indonesian dishes, empal has many different variations, in terms of the spices used to cook it. Some are sweet, some are cooked using coconut milk, and some are simpler, with no sugar or coconut milk added. Personally, I like them all and I will definitely feature different empal recipes in the future so that readers can choose the recipe they like best. 


This time, I made a salty, savoury empal, without additional sugar or coconut milk. The dominant flavour of this dish is coriander, because of the liberal use of coriander seeds. This makes it fragrant and very delicious. Enjoy this empal with rice, and vegetables (sayur asem goes very well with it). Don’t forget to complete it with sambal, especially either sambal tomat or sambal terasi

Empal is best enjoyed with the fingers, by shredding a small part of the meat using both hands, just like how most Indonesians do it. It’s the traditional way of eating it. Don’t worry about the oily fingers, it adds to the taste!

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Empal: Deep Fried Sliced Beef

Empal: Deep Fried Sliced Beef

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Deep Fry
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Empal is a dish of deep fried beef slices, considered a luxury in Indonesian home cooking because it calls for premium cuts of beef. The beef is stewed in a spice paste, lightly pounded, then fried, resulting in a rich and savoury dish.


  • 1 kg topside beef
  • 8 small shallots, peeled, chopped 
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped 
  • 2 candlenuts, chopped 
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam)
  • 3 cm galangal, skin-on, bruised
  • 1 tsp tamarind 
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • Oil for deep frying 


  1. Slice the meat along the grain, with each slice measuring around 2×10 cm. Set aside.
  2. Using a blender or food processor, blend the shallots, garlic, candlenut and coriander seeds into a fine paste. 
  3. In a nonstick cooking pot, put the sliced meat, spice paste, galangal and salt.

    Add sliced meat, spice paste, galangal and salt.

  4. Extract the tamarind juice by squeezing it with 2 tbsp of water. 
  5. Add the tamarind extract to the pan.

    Add tamarind extract

  6. Add 1 cup of water.
  7. Mix all the ingredients together and cook it under a medium high flame.
  8. When it boils, reduce the flame to medium. 
  9. Continue cooking for another 45 minutes or until the meat is tender, but still firm. If you find the pot drying up, add hot water to prevent burning.

    Continue cooking for 45 minutes

  10. Turn off the flame and cool off the meat.
  11. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the meat lightly, making sure the meat does not disintegrate.

    Pound the meat lightly

  12. Fry the meat until it turns brown, around 2-3 minutes each side.

    Deep fry until golden-brown


  • After Step 10, you can keep the cooked meat in the refrigerator and fry it later.

Keywords: Non-spicy, fried meat, tamarind, galangal, candlenut

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