Semur is one of my favourite dishes. It’s versatile, can be cooked using different ingredients and has a wholesome, slightly sweet and savoury taste that goes really well with steamed rice. It’s just delicious!
Semur comes from the Dutch word ‘smoor’, meaning ‘to braise’ in Dutch — it is a Dutch-influenced stew. You can use a variety of proteins such as beef, chicken, buffalo meat, egg, tempeh or tofu as the main ingredient. The ingredients are braised in spices with sweet soy sauce to give the dish its signature dark brown color.
There are a few variants of semur, and the spices used are slightly different depending on the region. But sweet soy sauce is always present!
For this recipe, I cooked Betawi-style semur. The Betawi people are native to the city of Jakarta and its immediate outskirts. Compared to Central Javanese semur, the Betawi version uses more spices. The result is a more intense, fragrant flavour as opposed to the lighter Central Javanese version. Both are equally delicious.
For the Betawi people, semur is a special dish that’s usually served during Hari Raya, or Eid. They have a tradition called andilan (from the word andil, meaning ‘to have one’s share’), where people will collectively buy a buffalo before Ramadan. The whole neighborhood will take care of the buffalo, which will be slaughtered just before Hari Raya for the meat to be shared. This meat is used to make semur on Hari Raya. Unfortunately this tradition has almost disappeared due to many factors.
As buffalo meat is rarely available, people usually make it from other meat, such as beef or chicken. Tempe, tofu and egg are also quite popular. Semur is a favourite all year long. It is usually available in eating places such as in the local warteg.
This recipe is actually a request from one of our readers, for semur tahu (semur with tofu). I’ve also added eggs along with tofu, because this is a popular semur duo.Print
Semur is a sweet and savoury stew, whose name derives from the Dutch word smoor, or “to braise”. It can be made with a variety of proteins, in various regional styles. For this recipe, we’ve chosen to make Betawi-style semur with tofu and eggs.
- 2 square blocks of firm tofu
- 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
- 6 small shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 candlenuts
- 3 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and knotted
- 1 Indonesian bay leaf (daun salam)
- 0.5 tsp white pepper powder
- 0.5 tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ¼ grated nutmeg
- 2 star anise
- 2 cloves
- 3 cm cinnamon stick
- Salt to taste
- 1 big red tomato, cut into small pieces
- 0.5 lt water
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- Cut each tofu in half. Deep fry and set aside.
- Using a blender or food processor, blend into a smooth paste the shallots, garlic and candlenut.
- Heat the water in a medium-sized cooking pan.
- Heat the oil in a small frying pan, and sauté the blended spices until fragrant, around 3 minutes.
- Transfer the sautéed spices to the pan of water.
- Add the lemongrass, ginger and bay leaf.
- When the water boils, add the white pepper powder, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and salt.
- After cooking for 5 minutes, add the tofu and sweet soy sauce.
- Add the tomatoes.
- Add the boiled eggs.
- Cook for another 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- The eggs can be omitted.
- Semur keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator and is best enjoyed with steamed rice and sambal terasi.
Keywords: Non spicy, one-pot meal, common ingredients