Tongseng Sapi (Beef Tongseng)

Beef tongseng with steamed rice and shrimp cracker


Tongseng is an Indonesian dish from Central Java. It is a clear soup with base made of sweet soy sauce, tamarind, shallot, garlic, bird's eye chili, galangal, ginger, coriander, bay leaves, lemongrass, and in some other variations, coconut milk as well. The main ingredient that distinguishes it from other soup dishes is the sweet soy sauce. The meat used in tongseng is either beef or lamb. Unlike some other Indonesian dish, tongseng is one of the less well-known internationally.

Fast fact: Indonesia is an archipelago with over 17,000 islands and 50 different ethnics. Each ethnic has a unique culture that includes traditional cuisine. We have lots of traditional food unique to every provinces in Indonesia!

Another fast fact: In Indonesia (or most South East Asia), we eat using a pair of spoon and fork. Spoon is held on your dominant hand, and fork on the other. Just like what shown in the photo above.

In my version of tongseng I made today, I used beef as the meat and opted out the coconut milk.


Difficulty: Medium
Servings: 4

For the soup base:
To grind:
4cloves garlic
1tbsp ginger
1tbsp galangal
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp white pepper

Not to grind:
1large shallot (slice thinly)
2 bay leaves / kaffir lime leaves
12 red bird's eye chili (remove stem)
1stalk lemongrass (cut into 1inch pieces)
1tbsp tamarind paste (dilute with water)
7tbsp sweet soy sauce
2cups water

For the ingredient:
1tbsp olive oil / canola oil
1lb beef chuck eye (cube)
8slices cabbage leaves (cut into small pieces)


  1. Heat oil into a medium / large saucepan. Saute sliced shallots until they turn translucent. Add in the grind ingredients, lime leaves, bird's eye chili, and lemongrass. Saute until fragrant.
  2. Add the beef and cook until slightly browned on the outside.
  3. In a bowl, mix the tamarind paste with lukewarm water. Remove the seeds and lumps, keeping only the water.
  4. Combine with tamarind water, sweet soy sauce, and let cook for about 2 minutes. 
  5. Then, add the water and cook until boiling and beef fully cooked. Remove the scum with a wire mesh.
  6. Finally, throw in sliced cabbages and simmer until cabbages are soft and tender.
  7. Serve warm with a bowl of steamed with rice.


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