Jamu Kunyit Asam: Turmeric & Tamarind Herbal Drink (Vegan)

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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.

I grew up with jamu, a generic term for Indonesian traditional herbal medicine made from rhizomes, leaves, fruits, flowers, bark and seeds. Jamu was very much a part of my childhood. My grandmother made it a point to conduct a jamu ritual for us, her grandchildren, every Sunday morning. She would either prepare the jamu herself, or asked Mbah Sumo, an elderly neighbourhood jamu seller, to prepare the concoction for us.

Mbah Sumo would come to our place, carrying a bamboo basket full of bottles of jamu on her back. She had a different type of jamu in each bottle, and she would mix them depending on the remedies we needed (such as weight loss, increased appetite, cleanse blood, etc). I liked watching her shake the bottles and fill each glass with different jamu liquids to create a specific potion. She made such a graceful and flowing movements, just like a professional bartender.

The Jamu Ritual

Our jamu ritual always began with the swallowing of an extremely bitter jamu, such as one made of raw papaya leaves and a rhizome called temulawak (curcuma xanthorrhiza). It tasted awful, especially for little children. This potion is not just excruciatingly bitter, but the green liquid also looks dreadful! And to make it worse, my grandmother would make sure we drank all the liquid to the last drop. She would say that the concoction was good for us. It would increase our appetites and make our blood so bitter, no mosquitoes would bite us.

As much as I hated the bitter part of this jamu ritual, I always looked forward to the next part, where we got our reward. After we painfully finished the first jamu, we were usually placated with sweet jamu. We could choose our own sweet jamu combination, such as jamu made of tamarind and palm sugar, ginger with rock sugar, pounded rice with lesser galangal and sugar, etc. After the bitter one, all tasted like a treat. The second part of the ritual, which was my favourite part, is sweet and refreshing. It’s totally worth the endurance. 


When my first period came, my grandmother started giving me jamu kunyit asam regularly. This jamu is made of fresh turmeric (kunyit), tamarind (asam) and palm sugar. She told me that kunyit asam helps reduce menstrual cramps, eliminates body odor and controls weight. I took this jamu diligently, partly because I really liked the taste. 

Drinking Jamu Kunyit Asam

Jamu kunyit asam is sweet and sour with a strong turmeric flavour. It’s an acquired taste for some people, especially those who are not familiar with herbal drinks. I sometimes prepare and drink it as a refreshing drink. I usually pour it in a glass over some ice and drink it on a hot day. To reduce the thickness and avoid drinking the turmeric residue, let the drink settle and pour only the clear part without the residue (I personally will drink everything, so I shake the bottle before drinking instead). This jamu can be kept for several days in the refrigerator. 

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Jamu Kunyit Asam: Turmeric & Tamarind Herbal Drink (Vegan)

Jamu Kunyit Asam: Turmeric & Tamarind Herbal Drink (Vegan)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


Jamu kunyit asam is an Indonesian herbal drink made of turmeric, tamarind and sugar. It’s especially beneficial for menstrual cramps, to eliminate body odor, and for weight maintenance.


  • 300 gr fresh turmeric
  • 100 gr tamarind
  • 250 gr palm sugar
  • 2 lt water


  1. Roast the fresh turmeric over the stove around 3 minutes each side, cool off.
  2. Peel and chop the turmeric, and blend it with 500 ml water.

    Blend the turmeric

  3. Knead the tamarind with 100 ml water to extract the juice.
  4. Put the tamarind, turmeric and the rest of the water into a cooking pan and boil it over medium heat.

    Put the tamarind, turmeric and the rest of the water into a cooking pan

  5. When the mixtures boil, add the palm sugar and cook it again until the sugar melts.
  6. Cool the drink mixtures, and sieve it. 
  7. Store in a glass bottle. The drink is ready to serve, cold or at room temperature.


  • Turmeric will stain anything it comes in contact with. To avoid staining your hands, use gloves. 
  • Equipment made of glass is easier to clean than other materials such as plastic or wood.

Keywords: Vegan, Healthy, Common Ingredients

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