Oseng-Oseng Mercon: Yogyakarta ‘Firecracker’ Beef

Oseng-oseng mercon is an ultra-spicy, semi-dry gravy beef dish consisting of boiled beef chunks sauteed in aromatic spices like galangal, lemongrass, and tons of chillies.

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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.

Calling all chilli lovers out there!

Oseng-oseng mercon is a super spicy dish created by a certain Bu Narti from Yogyakarta. In the late 90’s, during the Indonesian financial crisis, Bu Narti went through her own personal crisis when her beloved husband passed away. To earn money for a living, she opened a simple street food stall and started making a meat dish cooked with a large amount of chillies. The dish was so hot, it was as if firecrackers (mercon in Javanese) were exploding in the mouth – and so that’s how the dish was named. Dangerously delicious, the explosion is exactly what makes the dish so exciting.

To this day, the original mercon stall still exists and the dish has become one of Yogyakarta’s must-try dishes. Its popularity has also spread outside the area, inspiring people to recreate the dish now officially called oseng-oseng mercon. 

The dish is usually prepared using a mix of different beef parts such as the meat, tendons and fats. The tendons release gelatin during cooking, giving the dish a nice body and a richness of flavour. Simmered slowly, the meat will perfectly melt in the mouth.

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In this recipe, I’ve stated 500 gr of beef chunks, but when I cooked it, I was actually using 300 gr of meat (the shank) and 200 gr of a mix of fats and tendons, to get a more complex taste and texture. Any part of the beef can be used, but my favourite are tough parts such as the chuck or shank. These parts have stronger muscles and lots of collagen-rich connective tissues, which release gelatin and add extra flavour and moisture to the dish. Even without additional fats and tendons, the dish will be very delicious and is definitely a healthier option. 

This recipe is courtesy of my sister, Novel, who has been cooking a lot lately. As a typical Indonesian cook, she doesn’t use exact measurements, but just a list of ingredients. You can come up with your own measurements according to your taste. 

I was surprised with one particular ingredient included in this recipe. I didn’t expect to find oyster sauce in the list, but it blended really well with everything else. The dish turned out excellent! The flavour was just right. The dish tastes and smells like an authentic dish from Yogyakarta, too! The savoury-sweetness, the texture, the whole thing is a great balance. But don’t be fooled, inside the seemingly perfect flavour harmony, are hiding the fierce chillies ready to kick and punch anyone who dares to savour the dish. 

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Oseng-Oseng Mercon: Yogyakarta “Firecracker” Beef

Oseng-Oseng Mercon: Yogyakarta ‘Firecracker’ Beef

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal

Description

Oseng-oseng mercon is an ultra-spicy, semi-dry gravy beef dish consisting of boiled beef chunks sautéed in aromatic spices like galangal, lemongrass, and tons of chillies.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 500 gr beef chunks (use shank or brisket)
  • 50 gr bird’s eye chillies
  • 5 big red chillies, chopped
  • 8 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cm fresh galangal, chopped
  • 1 lemongrass, use only the white part, bruised, knotted
  • 2 salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaf)
  • 0.5 tsp roasted shrimp paste
  • 0.5 tbsp palm sugar, shaved
  • 0.5 tsp white pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauces
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • Water for boiling

Instructions

  1. Boil the beef chunks with enough water (around 1.5 lt) until tender (around 1 hr), set aside.
  2. Using a blender or food processor, blend into a smooth paste: bird’s eye chillies, big red chillies, shallots, garlic and fresh galangal.
  3. In a big wok, heat the cooking oil over medium high heat.
  4. Fry the blended spices until fragrant, around 2 minutes, then add lemongrass and salam leaves.

    Fry the blended spices

  5. Add the shrimp paste, palm sugar, white pepper powder and salt.
  6. Continue frying for another 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the meat and a little bit of the stock (around 100 ml).
  8. Add the sweet soy sauce and oyster sauce.

    Add the sweet soy sauce and oyster sauce

  9. Cook all the ingredients until all the liquids have evaporated and the meat is tender (around 25-40 minutes), stir regularly to avoid burning.

    Cook all the ingredients until all the liquids have evaporated

  10. If necessary, add a little bit more stock if the meat is not tender yet, but the gravy has already dried out.
  11. Transfer to a serving plate, and enjoy with plenty of rice. 

    Transfer the dish to a serving plate


Notes

  • Feel free to add or reduce the amount of chillies according to your preference. To make it more potent, add several whole bird’s eye chillies towards the end of the cooking process (just like I did).
  • The dish will taste even better overnight.

Keywords: Spicy, galangal, lemongrass

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Beware do not cook this when you planning on diet program !! The recipe is really easy to follow even a beginner cook. I use a different part of beef but the result is still so good, a tender beef coated with savory spice yummm i can’t stop munching this stuff ! Its a perfect pair for a bowl of warm rice ( in my case 2 bowl 😜 soo good ).
    This recipe remind me of yogyakarta and make me crave more yogyakartan dishes💜

    • Hi Ella thank you for your review. Yes this recipe definitely isn’t for the dieting enthusiast! It is gloriously unhealthy but delicious. Glad you enjoyed it!

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