Jangan Ndeso: Javanese Coconut Stew with Tempeh & Green Chillies (Vegan)

A simple and delicious village dish from Central Java, consisting of tempeh and green chillies stewed in a coconut milk soup. Vegan, healthy, and spicy.

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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.

Jangan ndeso, sometimes also called jangan lombok ijo, is a very simple dish made of diced tempeh with heaps of sliced green chillies. Literally, jangan lombok ijo means ‘green chili dish’. The name comes from the considerable amount of green chilies used in it. It’s so important, sometimes the ratio can be 1:1 – one part tempeh to one part green chilies. The chillies function more like a vegetable, rather than a spice. 

The dish is said to have originated from rural areas of Wonogiri and Wonosari in Central Java. Thus the name Jangan ndeso, literally “village dish”.

In the past, jangan ndeso was known as a poor person’s dish. It’s cooked by villagers because the ingredients are very cheap and the recipe doesn’t require long, complicated cooking. Despite all the simplicity, the dish is very tasty, satisfying and filling, especially eaten with rice or tiwul, a rice substitute made of dried cassava. 

Nowadays, though, the dish has become popular and it’s frequently cooked in many households, not only in Central Java but also in other regions. Authentic jangan ndeso is also a dish that is sought after by many city dwellers visiting Central Java, who want a complete rural experience, or to feed their nostalgia. 

Usually, when making the dish, locals prefer to use tempe semangit. It’s a fresh, ready to use tempeh that is left at room temperature for one or two days, until it’s overly fermented. Tempe semangit has a slightly softer texture with a stronger, smokier aroma. It’s the aroma that gives a distinctive flavor to the dish, loved by Javanese. Several Javanese dishes call for tempe semangit as a key ingredient, such as sayur lodeh, sambel tumpang, and jangan ndeso, to name a few. 

If you want a taste of Central Java, jangan ndeso is quintessentially Javanese. It’s moderately spicy, it’s creamy and savory from the coconut milk, and as a typical Javanese dish, it is slightly sweet with a sharp aroma of galangal and salam leaf.

In this recipe, garlic and shallots are blended into a fine paste, but some people prefer to just slice everything. Feel free to choose your preferred method. Both ways are delicious. Also, please feel free to adjust the amount of green chilies. Go easy if you want less spicy, or go crazy if you are a chili lover (some hard core even adds small green bird’s eye chilies to increase the level of spiciness). You can also experiment by using tempe semangit instead of normal fresh tempeh. See if you like the stronger aroma. In my case, I usually end up using tempe semangit only because I often have no time to cook fresh tempeh, and I end up loving it. Maybe you will too!

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Jangan Ndeso: Javanese Coconut Stew with Tempeh & Green Chillies (Vegan)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

A simple and delicious village coconut stew from Central Java. Made with tempeh and chillies in a rich coconut milk soup, it’s vegan, healthy, and spicy.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 500 tempe, cut into small cubes
  • 150 gr curly green chillies, sliced diagonally
  • 8 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cm galangal, sliced or bruised
  • 2 salam leaves
  • 10 petai beans, halved (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 lt water
  • 1 small can coconut milk (around 5 oz)

 


Instructions

  1. Blend the shallots and garlic into a fine paste, set aside.
  2. Prepare a large wok or a medium-sized cooking pan. Add the cooking oil and heat it over medium flame.
  3. Fry the blended shallots and garlic until fragrant, around 3 minutes.
  4. Add the green chillies, fry for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the galangal and salam leaves.
  6. Add the water, then put in the coconut milk. Mix well.
  7. Add the salt.
  8. Add the cubed tempeh, mix well, and cook over medium low for about 35 minutes until the liquid is slightly reduced, and the tempeh is soft and absorbs the flavor. Gently stir the mixture from time to time, to avoid the coconut milk breaking up.
  9. Add the petai beans, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat and let the dish rest for a while before serving.

Notes

  • Keeping the dish overnight will intensify its flavor.
  • Adjust the amount of chillies according to your preference.

Keywords: vegetarian, coconut soup, healthy tempeh recipes

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