Versatile Vegetable Stew

Seafood Recipes, Vegetable Recipes

(My version of gulai sayur. Origin: Indonesia)

Here is my version of gulai, which refers to the flavorful yellow broth made of turmeric, chili peppers, garlic, shallot, and coconut milk. It makes such a wonderful vegetable stew. In fact, I have written a couple of versions of this recipe before, titled Chayote Squash in Spicy Broth and Spicy Kale. Today, I’d like to adjust it a bit to show how easy and versatile it could be.

Squash and Shiitake Mushroom by Tiny Chili Pepper

When summer comes to an end, it usually yield tons of produce. Like many of you, I love going to farmers market to get those goodies. Maybe like some of you, I tend to get too many things. Just like the other day, I got a variety of peppers and tons of shallots and garlic—the three key ingredients in Indonesian cooking and in this vegetable stew recipe. I also had a couple of Chayote squash and two handful of shiitake mushroom in the fridge.  So, here’s what I did with them:

Prepared the vegetables:

  • Peeled, cored, and sliced the Chayote squash into long and thin cuts. Then I soaked the cuts in a bowl of water mixed with salt for about 30 minutes to get rid of the sap. Could be substituted with summer squash/zucchini/ bell pepper (see more vegetable options on the bottom of the page)
  • Remove the shiitake stems and roughly chopped the mushroom

Prepared the gulai broth:

List of ingredients:

  • 4 shallots
  • 4 garlic
  • 3 hot peppers (red/orange color)
  • 3 sweet peppers (red/orange color)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 1/2 can of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 inch of sliced galangal root (or 1 lemongrass) to add lemony aroma to the stew. Could be substituted with lemon zest (from one lemon).


  • Chopped shallots, garlic, hot peppers, and sweet peppers in a food processor (or blender)
  • Added turmeric powder and a little bit of salt to the mixture
  • Sweat it in a heated pot with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, to release the moisture
  • Added water and galangal root, let it simmer
  • Added coconut milk, stirred
  • Once the broth simmered for the second time, I added the squash and mushroom
  • Let them stew for about five minutes or until the broth simmered for the third time
  • Removed galangal root before serving

At dinner time, my guy had a good point. He said that the stew’s contents could vary. We could have different types of vegetables with (or without) mushroom or even with tofu/tempeh/some seafood in it. Aha! That comment gave me an idea. I listed several produce that would taste great in this vegetable stew recipe:

Choose one vegetable or do a pairing of a vegetable with either mushroom/one of the seafood selections/tofu/tempeh from the following list: (I’d combine up to two things to avoid stew overcrowd)


  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Chayote
  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • String beans

For these greens, I prefer to have it just by itself in the stew, not in a combination.

  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collard Green


  • (I like using) Shiitake mushroom


  • Smoked salmon (I’d cut it into small square and add into the stew closer to the end of cooking, since it is already cooked)
  • Shrimp (cook together with the vegetable of choice in the simmering broth until shrimp is fully cooked, about 5 minutes)

Soy-based protein goodies:

  • Tofu (extra firm and cut into small square. Cook together with the vegetable of choice in the simmering broth for about 5 minutes)
  • Tempeh (cut into small square and cook together with the vegetable of choice in the simmering broth for about 5-10 minutes)

What do you think? Anything else we could try? I’ll add to the list if I could think of more.

Thanks for stopping by!

Spicy Kale

Vegetable Recipes

This entry was originally titled Kale Braised in Coconut Milk and was published back on January 26, 2012. Since then I have tweaked the recipe and arrived at a point where I could say, “This is even better!” So here it is, dear readers. Let’s turn the hardy green leaves into a tender and flavorful dish. 

Almost a decade ago, a good friend introduced me to kale. Originally, we wanted to cook braised cassava leaves in spices and coconut milk (gulai daun singkong), a native dish to the West Sumatrans, but could not find the vegetable in Michigan. My friend believed Kale’s texture and taste would work for the dish we wanted to make. And OH WOW, did it work great!  Since then on this super vegetable has been one of my regular side dish menus. 

Both Jeff and I love this dish. It is spicy but yet there’s also a little sweetness that comes from the mixture of red bell pepper, shallots, and coconut milk. 

Here’s a list of things we will need:

  • 2 bundle of kale (remove the stem, wash, and chop the leaves)
  • 4 shallots (finely chopped)
  • 4 garlic (chopped)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 10 hot finger peppers (finely chopped)
  • Light coconut milk (one can)
  • One cup of water Chicken stock (use half a cup) 
  • One inch cut of galangal root (for aroma)
  • A pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • Salt


  • Heat up the canola oil in a medium pot
  • In a food processor, chop and mix garlic, shallots, and all peppers. Add shallots and garlic into the pot and let them turn to light brown
  • Sweat the garlic, shallots, and peppers mix in the medium pot for 2 minutes
  • Add salt and turmeric powder
  • Add water and bring to boil Mix the leaves with shallots and garlic
  • Add coconut milk, stir, and bring to boil one more time chicken stock and peppers. Cover the pot with its lid and let the dish boil
  • Add kale, bring to boil, and then remove pot from the heat immediately (to avoid overcooking the vegetable) Add coconut milk, stir and mix well, and let it cook for another 20 minutes until the vegetable becomes tender
  • Uncover the pot to reduce the liquid for no more than 2 minutes
  • Add salt to taste

Great with rice and a grilled chicken or a beef dish.

Hope you like it!

(Serves 4)

Roast Chicken with Turmeric and Spices

Poultry Recipes

The quest to have a collection of easy and flavorful roast chicken recipes continues.

I definitely have been on a roast chicken kick lately. I love the crispy exterior, but tender interior, and flavorful roast chicken. Now, the goal is to have a few different versions. So I play with the seasonings each time I roast. Last month I did a dry-rub with rosemary and thyme. This time, I’ll do a wet-rub with turmeric and other spices!

My recipe below is inspired by a traditional Javanese yellow fried chicken or ayam goreng kuning (the yellow coloring comes from turmeric). When you travel to Java Island, this is the kind of fried chicken you’d find at local restaurants. The chicken tend to be much smaller, so flavorful and aromatic, crispy on the outside but so tender in the inside. It is usually served with white rice, some green vegetables, and chilies. I am a huge fan!

For my version though, I opt out of frying and choose to roast instead. I find roasting to be a lot “friendlier” than frying on many levels. With roasting, I get to just place the chicken in the oven, set the timer, and leave it alone for a while. Also, I would not have to deal with the oil splattering onto my skin, my clothes, and my whole kitchen. Less mess, less stress. Most importantly, roasting does the job. The chicken comes out with that beautiful golden color and the crispy and tender texture that I expect.

So here’s how we do it. We will need:

  • A whole chicken (cut up into 12 pieces—I like smaller cuts)
  • 5 shallots (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • An inch of galangal root (smashed)
  • One lemongrass (the white part only, smashed)
  • You may substitute the galangal root and lemongrass with lemon zest and juice from two lemons.


  • In a large and deep cooking pan, boil 3 cups of water, and then turn the heat off.
  • Add all of the spices into the water and mix it well. Let it cool down. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  • Place the chicken into the spice mixture.
  • Once the liquid is cool enough, using your clean hands, rub the chicken with the spice mixture. Make sure that the chicken is well coated. (Would be good if the chicken is submerged.)
  • Cover with a lid and store in the fridge overnight or at least half a day.


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Place chicken on an oven rack set on top of a tray (to collect the juices)
  • Cook for 40-45 minutes (until chicken temperature reaches 165 degrees F).
  • For golden color on the outer part, I turn on the broiler and let the chicken brown for 2-5 minutes. To avoid charring, leave the oven door slightly ajar (a couple of inches) and please don’t wander off too far 🙂
  • Serve with rice

Serve 4 generously

Chicken Soup Cooked with Turmeric and Coconut Milk

Poultry Recipes

(Harini’s Version of Soto Bangilan, Origin: East Java)

It’s hard to give a short answer to the question “What’s Indonesian food like?” It depends on: who is being asked and where in Indonesia this person comes from. Cuisines vary from one island to the next. People may also find unalike tastes and types of food in different parts of an island. Now imagine if you have thousands of islands. The immense diversity of culture, ethnicity, and dialect in the archipelago unquestionably gets reflected in the cuisines too.

I have been able to cook some of the home-cooked dishes I grew up with, mostly cuisines from West Sumatra and East Java. Though I have perfected some recipes I still have plenty to try and learn to do. Recently I taught myself to make one more dish native to one part of East Java: Chicken Soup with Turmeric and Coconut Milk (Soto Bangilan). Soto is basically chicken soup that is cooked with turmeric and is infused with spices. (The significance of Soto is its yellow color that comes from turmeric.) Bangilan is the name of a small town in East Java where this particular Soto can be found and enjoyed. There are many varieties of Soto throughout the island and in the country. Chicken Soto is very popular in Java along with Soto Madura which is of the Madura island origin.

Anyway, one day my mom and I had a food talk about Soto Bangilan. She kept talking about how delicious it was. I never had the dish before. Curiosity led me to ask for Soto Bangilan‘s recipe from one of my aunts. Thanks to her I was able to add one more dish to my recipe collection!

Here is my version of the recipe:


  • 5-6 Smaller size of boneless chicken thighs (diced)
  • 2-3 Boiled eggs (halved)
  • 1 Lime
  • Sweet soya sauce (usually available at Asian grocery stores)
  • A handful of thin rice noodle (dip them in boiling water until they get soft, drain, and set aside)
  • 1 Box of chicken stock (32 oz)
  • 2-3 Handful of bean sprouts (dip them in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, and set aside)
  • A handful of fried shallots (usually available at Asian grocery stores)
  • White jasmine rice (The recipe calls for lontong, a compressed rice that can be cut into pieces like cakes. I prefer to have it with regular white rice.)
  • 5-6 Scallions (chopped)

Spices to be mixed in a food processor:

  • 3 Shallots
  • 1 Teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon of corriander
  • ½ Teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 Inch of Galangal root
  • 5-6 Candlenuts
  • ½ Teaspoon of shrimp paste
  • Salt

Add to the pot:

  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 Lemongrass
  • 1 Can of light coconut milk (the original recipe requests for more coconut milk but I prefer to have it light)


  • In a bigger pot, saute the spices, lime leaves, and lemongrass with a little canola oil
  • Add the chicken and mix well with the spices
  • Add the chicken stock and a cup of water (or two)
  • Let it boil until the chicken is well cooked, add the coconut milk, and stir
  • Let it cook for another 10 minutes
  • Add fried shallots to the broth

Serve in a deep plate or a bowl:

  • A little bit of white jasmine rice, bean sprouts, scallions, thin rice noodles, halved boiled egg, and pour the Soto (with the diced chicken) on top of them
  • Top with a little squeeze of lime and a little sweet soya sauce
  • Serve with a little sambal (chilies) on the side (Only for those who love spicy, please)
  • Mix everything and enjoy!

Here is how to make the sambal for Soto:

  • Boil 10-15 Thai peppers and 2-3 candle nuts for 5-10 minutes
  • Drain and chop them up in a food processor
  • Add a little salt and serve
  • Note: only take a little at a time and mix with the dish

Enjoy a bowl of multifarious goodness. The warmth of the soup and its big flavor fill up a hungry stomach perfectly. Leftover is to be expected. Great for next day’s lunch!

Serve 2-4