SayMore on Semur

This post is the second post I wrote about Semur. The first one was dated 17 June 2011 under the title of ‘Beef Up Dinner with Beef Semur’.

The ‘Semur’ I am talking about here is the dish. I have to be clear because when you Google the word Semur you will find another Semur ….. Semur-en-Auxios, a name of a tourist destination in France as you can see in the following picture.


Why Say More on Semur?

In terms of history, Semur is one of the most exquisite Indonesian culinary traditions because it was born from the combination of many cultural influences before it became authentic Indonesian cuisine.

Not many people are aware that Semur is a culinary acculturation between Indonesia and various other nations. The Semur we are familiar with now was developed from cooking techniques applied in the so-called Indische kitchens, by Eurasians who used sweet soya sauce as its main flavor.

The ingredients, flavors and cooking methods of Semur have adapted the characteristics and tastes of the locals in various areas of Indonesia, thus becoming merged with their cultures, yet still retaining the basic seasonings and techniques of cooking Semur.These varieties have placed Semur as a priceless national wealth and cultural heritage.

The uniqueness of Semur is more than its mere historical value. There are many different varieties of semur depend on different region of Indonesia.

Unfortunately, most of  the people in my country are not yet familiar with the varieties of Semur from many parts of the country. Their understanding of the flavors, origins and serving traditions of Semur is still limited to the Semurs from their own regions.

Let’s Cook Semur

Before I share my version of Beef Semur, here are some valuable tips for cooking Semur which I learned from

  • Lean beef does not make good semur. We have to use the part that has some fat and muscles on it (flank or shank or brisket) that needs more cooking time but it really makes a whole lot different.
  • With potatoes or no potatoes? Some semur have potatoes in it, some do not. It really depends on your preferences. Potato can help to thicken the gravy.
  • Use a Dutch oven or a thick bottom cooking pot. If you want to cut down the cooking time, use pressure pan instead. You could cook it in 1/4 of the time that you’d need in a normal cooking pan.
  • Which spices to add? Most Semur Betawi uses white pepper, coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon, candle nuts, chilies, ginger, shallots and garlic.
  •  Some other recipes also add galangal, nutmeg and cumin, but I think the aforementioned ones are the most important ones.
  • Candle nut is crucial to form the base of the gravy as it thickens down the sauce nicely.
  • If you could not find it, add the potato to thicken the sauce.
  • Use good quality real Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), don’t ever attempt to use other kecap.

So far, I have not tried to cook Beef Semur myself but a few weeks ago I got the opportunity to try it and here’s my version of Beef Semur:


  • 500 gram beef,  cut into cubes
  • 100gr of potatoes, cut into thin wedges; fry the potatoes until cooked but no crispy
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 dried cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick. 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • 5 Tbsp of sweet soy sauce (Indonesian kecap manis) – I use Kecap Bango, the famous brand of Kecap Manis in Indonesia
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 100 ml water
  • Sliced red chilies to garnish (optional) – in this recipe I used chilies as garnish
  • Fried Shallot to garnish (optional) – I did not use fried shallots because I ran out of stock 🙂

Ingredients for Spice Paste :

  •   6 shallots
  •  4 cloves of garlic
  •  2 cm of ginger,bruised
  •  4 candle nuts, roasted
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Grind all the ingredients in a mortar using pestle into smooth paste


  • Heat the oil in a big pot, sauteed the spice paste
  • Add meat, cook until the color has changed
  • Add tomato, Sweet soy sauce, Cinnamon  stick, cloves.
  • Stir until mixed together, then pour in the water.
  • Simmer until all the water absorbed and meat is tender.
  • Garnish with fried shallot or sliced chilies
  • Serve warm with Rice.

And this is the look of my ‘Beef Semur’




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