Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

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Sayur Lodeh is a Malay Vegetable Curry that goes very well with just about any Malay rice meal. It comes light and spicy, and isn’t as rich with coconut milk the way that other curries can be. There’s a variant of this dish (of the same name) in Indonesia, but it’s slightly different in that you see tempeh as an ingredient (of course!), and it also contains belinjo leaves and young jackfruit.

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In Singapore, I grew up eating Sayur Lodeh mainly at the Nasi Padang stalls in hawker centres. We’d never think about cooking it at home as it’s so cheap and nearby!

But come to Melbourne and the tables are turned. You can get this at a few select places, but taste-wise they don’t quite hit the mark. Hence my interest in cooking it at home.

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Now that you’ve seen two food-styled photos of Sayur Lodeh, with garnishing et. al… let me throw you back towards a more realistic view of how Sayur Lodeh is more likely to end up looking when you’re eating it. You could call the (ugly) photo above the “Harsh Realities of the Lodeh”… ha ha ha!

It’s basically a very yellow yellow watery vegetable curry slathered all over your rice. Yellow because of the liberal use of turmeric powder (and maybe the fresh root). But oh my goodness… so delicious! It goes very well with beef rendang, sambal telur (fried boiled eggs in chilli sambal) and ayam goreng (deep fried chicken).

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Curry Paste – Dry Ingredients
Candlenuts, Turmeric Powder, Hae Bee (dried shrimp), dried red chillies, belacan (shrimp paste) 

Here are the dry ingredients required to make the curry paste. Nothing beats making your curry pastes from scratch, I’d say. Take note that the use of hae bee and belacan makes this dish not exactly vegetarian. To make it vegetarian, I’d substitute the belacan with a bit of vegemite and omit the dried prawn.

Most of these dried ingredients needs to be softened by soaking in water (I’d even do that with the candlenuts to make them easier to grind). And the belacan (cut out a 1cm thick square from the block) needs to be toasted by dry frying in a pan.

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Curry Paste – Wet Ingredients
Lemongrass, Shallots, Garlic, Fresh Red Chillies, Ginger, Galangal 

And here’s the fresh ingredients that makes up the rest of the paste. Just peel and chop them up into smaller pieces to facilitate grinding in the food processor. Take note, you only need to use the softer, white fragrant base stem/root section of the lemongrass, the fibrous green tops can be discarded as they’re not as fragrant and they’re very hard to blend.

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Fried Firm Tofu, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Coconut Milk, Stock

Here are the other ingredients needed to make the curry. I used chicken stock (from leftover Hainanese Chicken Rice broth, ha ha!) because that’s what I had in my freezer. But you can use vegetable stock just as easily. And if you’re willing to spend just a bit more, use fresh kaffir lime leaves. As for the tofu, the original recipe I followed asked for taupok (tofu puffs), but mom and I personally prefer the texture of taukwa (deep fried firm tofu) with this dish.

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Cabbage, Carrot, Snake Beans (Eggplant – optional)

And finally, the vegetables! These four are the most classic ones that you’d find in Malay-style Lodeh. Personally, I found that the eggplants got too soft & squishy in the curry and omitted it from the final recipe. And I used snake beans instead of regular beans.

All that said, you’re quite free to choose whatever vegetables you’d prefer, some recipes even used squash. But whatever you do, please don’t leave out the cabbage. In my culinary worldview, Lodeh isn’t Lodeh without cabbage… Booyah!

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Once all the peeling, soaking and chopping prep work is done, cooking it is pretty easy. Make the paste, and fry!

I found that the food processor I had only managed to grind my paste into a semi-fine consistency even though I blended everything twice through. It made my curry a little bit thicker, which was fine except that the texture of the resultant broth (which tasted great) wasn’t as watery as I’d like it to be. A second thought is…  what if I replaced galangal and ginger root with the powdered version to make it less thick?

Also, the original recipe from 3 Hungry Tummies that I‘d followed seemed to ask for not enough liquid stock, so the final recipe here has had its quantities tweaked, where you use less cabbage and more stock / water.

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And here’s the mighty delicious Lodeh… on the simmer. I’m so happy that I now know how to make a good version of this dish in Melbourne.

On a final note, if you add squares of steamed rice cakes, hard boiled eggs and deep fried bergedil (potato and onion patties) to this brothy-watery curry dish, it becomes Lontong – another very yummy Singaporean dish that’s often eaten at breakfast!

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Sayur Lodeh Recipe

Adapted from 3 Hungry Tummies

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 1 hour 

Curry Paste

10 Dried Chillies
3 Red Chillies
6 Buah Keras (Candlenuts)
4 Cloves of Garlic
150g Shallots, chopped
15g Turmeric Powder
20g Belacan (Shrimp Paste), toasted
30g Hae Bee (Dried Shrimp)
35g Ginger, peeled
35g Galangal, peeled
2 Lemongrass

Other Ingredients

300g Snake Beans, cut into 5 cm length
1 Large Carrot, peeled and cut into 5 cm strips
¼ Cabbage (approx 500g), cut into pieces
400g Fried Firm Tofu, cut into squares
300-400 ml Coconut Milk
500ml Vegetable Stock (or Chicken Stock)
3 Kaffir Lime Leaves

Curry Paste

Soak in hot water till softened:
Dried Chillies (remove seeds if you prefer a less spicy curry)

Soak in water till soft:
Hae Bee

Cut out the white fragrant base from the Lemongrass, discard the green tops.

Chop all the Curry Paste Ingredients coarsely, then blend in a food processor till you get a fine Curry Paste.


Heat 6 tbsp of oil in a wok, then fry over medium heat till it darkens slightly and becomes fragrant:
Curry Paste

Add and bring to a boil:
300ml Coconut Milk
500ml Stock
Kaffir Lime Leaves

Add, top up with boiling water to just cover it, then simmer over low heat for 30mins:

Add and continue to simmer for 10 mins or until tender, top up with more hot water if needed:
Snake beans

Before serving, season to taste with:

Up to 100ml Coconut Milk

More comforting home recipes can be found in my Recipe Index.

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