Since the launch of the famous Julie & Julia (both the book and the movie), Julia Child and her authentic recipe of a well known traditional French dish ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’ have become hot topic amongst foodies in many countries including Indonesia.
In my country, we have a traditional dish similar to bouef bourguignon called ‘Semur Daging’ or ‘Beef Stew Indonesian Style’.
‘Semur’ is a stew prepared with beef braised in sweet soy sauce and other ingredients such as shallots, garlic, nutmeg and cloves. Sweet soy sauce or Indonesian kecap manis is the most important ingredient in the ‘semur-making-process’ because it serves to strengthen the flavor while it still blends harmoniously with other ingredients.
Since I was a kid, ‘semur’ has always been a big hit for me. It is an ideal warm homey meal to share with loved ones for dinner.
What’s So Special about Semur?
My country has been known as a country which has a wealth of natural spices. Exotic flavors of the spices are then attracted traders and immigrants from various nations to come to the archipelago. Traders and migrants are each carrying culture, which gradually blend in with everyday society native to Indonesia at that time.
Assimilation is then creates cultural interaction and develops a range of special traditions of the archipelago, including in the culinary field. The particular flavor of Indonesian spices combined with a variety of food processing techniques result in the creation of unique dishes such as ‘Semur Daging’ or Beef Stew which existed since the year 1600.
To make ‘semur’, the beef is cooked slowly and mixed with ground spices. The word “semur” originally comes from Dutch word “smoor or smoren” which means slow cooking. The method to make semur is the same as making “gesmoord” (= “beef stew”), only the ingredients are different. So during colonial time, there were mixtures of foods culture between Dutch and Indonesian.
One of the old recipes of ‘semur’ is ‘Semur Betawi’ (Beef Stew Betawi Style). The Betawi (‘orang Betawi, or “people of Batavia”) are the descendants of the people living around Batavia (the colonial name for Jakarta) since around the 17th century.
If you are looking for a hearty, beefed up dish to serve dinner to your family, consider this recipe and beef up your dinner with beef stew Betawi Style….or Semur Betawi:
- 250 gr beef
- 5 shallots, thin slices
- 3 garlics, thin slices
- 2 cloves
- 2 salam leafs
- 1 tomato, cut in cubes
- 2 cm galangal
- 1 stalk lemongrass – the white part only
- 6 tablespoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce / kecap manis (*)
- Water as needed
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
(*) to know more about kecap manis please see my older post titled ‘Thick, Dark and Sweet’
- Cut the beef in small cuts or cubes
- Heat the butter in the pan, add the shallots and garlic. Cook until fragrant.
- Add the beef cubes, salam leafs, galangal, lemongrass, tomato and cloves.
- Add kecap manis (Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce) and stir well
- Add salt, pepper and nutmeg powder
- Stir all together and add water as much as needed.
- Cover the pan and simmer until the meat is tender.
- Add water again if it becomes too dry
- We can also add slices of fried potatoes at the end of the cooking
- Discard the salam leaves, galangal and lemon grass before serving