Let’s Roll Some ‘Lemper’

 

Lemper is an Indonesian dish made of sticky rice and chicken. The chicken is rolled inside the rice, in a fashion similar to egg roll.  This is in turn rolled and wrapped inside a banana leaf or a plastic sheet to make a packet ready for serving.

Lemper also can be called “Indonesian sushi roll”.  A savory and delicious snack and sometimes good for breakfast too.

Some people cook Lemper by steaming or grilling after the Lemper are wrapped with banana leaves so that the fragrance of the leaves could be absorbed into the sticky rice. Lemper is one of the most popular ‘Jajanan Pasar’ in Indonesia (notes: ‘Jajanan’ means snacks and ‘Pasar’ means traditional market so it’s basically an Indonesian traditional snack). 

Steamed Lemper

  Grilled Lemper

Why Lemper?

I had been thinking of making Lemper for sometimes and have collected some recipes from different sources. I still regret it that I never learned how to make Lemper from my Mom as she made the best Lemper ever.

After studying the recipes, I decided to try the one which I thought closest to my Mom’s Lemper. And this is the recipe I chose to follow:

Ingredients:

  • 250 gram sticky rice, rinsed and drained
  • 400 ml water
  • 50 gram cream coconut powder
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 225 gram minced chicken
  • 2 pandan leaves
  • 3 Kafir lime leaves
  • 1 teaspoon squized lime juice

Ingredients for the spice paste:

  • 1 oinion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoon shaved palm sugar or brown sugar
  • salt

* in the original recipe it uses 1 teaspoon of cumin in the ingredients for spice paste, but I skip the cumin coz my family don’t like it

The first time I tried making Lemper was on last February 3rd, during the holiday for Lunar New Year. 

I managed to cook the sticky rice:

and the chicken filling ….. (note: I did not really mince the chicken , basically only it into small pieces)  

When came the time to roll the Lemper……….that was a bit of  disaster. 

I have never learned before how to roll the sticky rice. I tried to figure it out myself but could not roll the sticky rice because my fingers got all sticky….even with the help of oil and the Lemper was breaking up.

After struggled trying to roll the sticky rice and the chicken filling, I knew that it must be something wrong with the technique. The taste was OK but the look was far from the Lemper I’ve known. Oh gosh, what should I do?

I remember I have ever seen another technique of making lemper in a cooking magazine. Instead of rolling the sticky rice, they used baking pan to form the lemper as shown in the following picture:

So I decided to make the most out of the mess I’ve made by putting the sticky rice and the chicken filling in a baking pan as follows:

  • First I brush the baking pan with oil
  • Put one layer (around 2 – 3 cm thick) of the sticky rice  in the pan
  • Add a layer of the chicken meat on top of the sticky rice layer 
  •  Cover the chicken meat layer with another layer of sticky rice.

Since part of my sticky rice has been mixed with the chicken filling, I could not avoid having a little bit of the chicken pieces on the top of the sticky rice…which should not be!.

Definitely, the look of my Lemper was not good at all, but fortunately the taste was OK and that’s all the matter for first time trial. 

 

When cut, my first time Lemper looked like this: 

I promised myself that next time I will try making better Lemper not just in terms of the taste but also the appearance.

The second time I made Lemper Ayam was last week end. This time it was much better than the first, both in terms of the taste and the look. 

I did not know the step by step of rolling the Lemper, so I just rely on my memory of how my Mom’s made Lemper many years ago. When trying the second time, I found out that to roll the sticky rice, I need the help of banana leaf or plastic wrap or plastic gloves to prevent the sticky rice get stuck on all over my fingers :-)  

And this was how I made Lemper the second time:  

  • Place the sticky rice in a pan and add the water 
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes 
  • Add half of the cream coconut and a pinch of salt and continue to cook over a low heat until the rice is tender
  • Spread the hot rice in a plate and allow to cool

  • Using a pestle and a mortar, pound all the spice ingredients into a smooth paste 
  • Add in the pieces of pandan leaves

  • Gently fry the spice paste in the oil until fragrant  

  • Add the minced chicken and Kafir line leaves, then stir in the remaining half of the coconut cream powder and a dash of water
  • Continue to stir fry until the chicken is cooked through and the mixture is dry  
  • Season with salt and the squized lime juice
  • Remove from heat, discard the pandan and kafir line laves and let the chicken mixture to cool 

  • Brush a sheet of plastic wrap or aluminum foil with oil
  • Spoon heap of sticky rice onto the plastic wrap or aluminum foild and shape into rectangles

  • Spread some chicken filling along the center of each rice rectangle from end to end 

 

  •  Fold both sides of the rectangle rice towards each other lengthwise
  • Roll with our fingers (covered by plastic wrap or gloves) and shape it like this:  

  •  continue to fold one by one until you get a batch of Lemper  

 This is how the Lemper rolls should look when they are wrapped in banana leaves.

The banana leaves make a nice aroma.  After that, you may steam or grill the Lemper. Many people said when Lemper rolls are wrapped with banana leaves and then steamed, it makes the Lemper can be kept longer (not easily get spoiled).  

Eating Lemper is very easy but making it is a different story. It takes a long time and our determination to cook it. But once you can cook good Lemper, it’s worth the effort.  

My second daughter loves Lemper so much but she would only eat Lemper when it’s cooked by my Mom. She could even finish seven pieces of my Mom’s Lemper at one time. She would not eat Lemper unless it tastes exactly like the Lemper made by her grandma. That’s why when I tried cooking Lemper the first time, I tried hard to be as good as my Mom’s.  Fortunately, the second trial was considered a success as she ate seven pieces of my Lemper too :-)

References:

  • Wikipedia
  • MyKitchenProduce Blog
  • KitchenCake Blog
  • IndoChef Blog
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11 responses to “Let’s Roll Some ‘Lemper’

  1. Mama, we also have a similar dish in VN, but the inside thing is not chicken. It’s banana instead, and it is served with cooked coconut milk (with sesame or peanut)… Well, yummy!!!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! You have done an amazing job and I will try your recipe and techniques when I get a chance. I grew up enjoying lemper and wish I had been taught by my Oma as it is my favourite snack. Thanks again for sharing, it will be a great help. Ella

  3. A trick I use to make lemper in a baking dish is to quick charcoal grill a couple of banana leave squares on one side only then add strips of these to the ketan when cooking it for the njm-njm (fragrance laced taste)
    I cut the finished lemper in 2 x 3 ” pieces, wrap them in wax paper , vacuum pack them in batches of ten or so then freeze it. Holds for months.
    To enjoy this, I DO NOT thaw the pieces. With wax paper still on, I nuke it for one minute , then remove the wax papar and after turning over on the plate, nuke it for another mimute.
    Besides your ingredients, I add two or three lemon grass pieces and lots more palm sugar to the chicken.
    Try using coconut oil to coat the baking dish and to coat the knives for cutting.
    I’m a 72 year old male who loves Indo cooking for family and friends.

    • Hi, thank you so much for sharing with me the tricks on making Lemper. Wow you have such a good skill of cooking – I am amazed. Would love to learn from you.

  4. Thanks so kind for your appreciated response.
    I do not know if you often cook Indo(nesian) food, one thing I learned from peeking over our baboe-cook’s shoulders is that no matter what Indo dish is being cooked, all spices should stand out with the taste of the dish.
    That’s what makes it GOERI . If you do not know that word, it means that all the included spices should be able to be tasted individually from that dish, however, in synergism it’s awesome.
    The EXCEPTION is with Katumbar and Djinten (Coriander and Cumin)
    These two ‘culprits’ have a habit with molesting tasty foods if used without care.
    My American wife, kids, in-laws and many friends learned to appreciate many Indo foods I prepare for them, hot spiced and all. They admit this U.S.A. to be the greatest country but most domestic foods are ‘spiced’ with the primary domestic; cheese, tomato katsup and yellow mustard.
    My foods presentations are not just Indo foods only. For family or freinds’ parties and celebrations, many enjoy my Dutch style roladen, German style roasted pork tenderloin, English beef Wellington, French lobster-crabmeat-shrimp bisque over puff-pastries, Italian very, very slow cooked back ribs spaghetti sauce style, Cantonese butterflied colossal shrimp, Javanese Gado-gado, Sumatran Satays, special family recipe of Roast pork-Shrimp-Sator (petai) fried rice etc. etc.
    My spouse usually takes charge with creating unusual desserts and appetizers for our parties. We both deeply enjoy kitchen time when given chance to please guests and family palates.

    • Thanks for your quick response – yeah, I often cook Indonesian food as I am an Indonesian born Chinese. My mom was a very good cook but unfortunately when I got interested in cooking, she was already long gone so I only inherited one recipe from her – an authentic ‘Ayam Panggang Bumbu Rujak’.

      Are you Dutch (you mentioned that your wife is American). Many of my Dutch friends like and know about Indonesian food. Do you have blog or website which I can visit? thanks

      • Yes I am Dutch, a Dutch decendant that is, born in Batavia (Djakarta) in 1939.
        I’m really a mixture of etnic stew : Dutch, French, German, English, Indonesian and Chinese, all from within just four generations above me.
        My family left in 1954 to the Netherlands from where I immigrated to the US in 1962 to Boston then in 1965 to Indiana, enjoyed full retirement in 1993 as Mech. Engr.
        No, I do not have a blog nor website. I welcome however for any of your friends or yourslef to e-mail me for those who like to try some Indonesian recipes . Fortunately the many spices and ingredients needed are available in just about any major city.
        Please send me some words about yourself. Where do you reside ?.

  5. My husband is Chinese Indonesian and an Indonesian friend shared Lamper she had made and our family enjoyed it so much, So I had her come over and we made a batch together so I could learn how. I just finished making my first batch by myself and it turned out great. Her recipe calls for Coconut Milk or Cream, Bay leaves,Galanga, Lemon Grass, Coriander, Tumeric, Onions, Garlic, Sugar & Salt. The chicken is cooked by placing it in boiling water, when water returns to boil, cover, turn off heat and let sit in water for 20 minutes, cool and shred finely. She wraps the Lumper in Banana Leaves then in plastic wrap. Warm in microwave or steam. Years ago, my mother-in law shared her Bak Tjang (Bak Chung) recipe which is a spiced ground pork meat ball inside partially cooked sticky rice that is then wrapped with Bamboo Leaves in a triangle cone shape and tied with nylon twine that are then boiled for 2-3 hours. My family really likes hers so when she visited, we made them together a couple of times till I got the hang of the wrapping & tying technique. She also taught me that when handling sticky rice, just dip fingers, measuring spoons, etc in water and it doesn’t stick to your hands or utensils. Works like a charm! Hope this helps.

  6. if you have a problem forming lempers – try using a sushi mat covered with a sheet of saran wrap..

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