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Indonesian sweet and spicy mushroom tongseng

A tongseng is a specific curry made in Central Java. It is traditionally made with goat, but it can also be made with other meats like lamb, chicken, or even vegetables, as in this version. It is a speciality dish made for celebrations and guests. The dish is a curry or soup that is served with rice.

This is a lovely vegetarian variation. The tongseng is simple; the main ingredients are kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce that is indigenous to Indonesia, coconut milk and tomatoes. The mushrooms add an earthy flavour to the sweet dish, and the Asian spices, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves bring it all together. I made this drier than usual to concentrate the flavours more and have the sauce coat the mushrooms heavily. I loved the unique flavour of this dish.

This is a wonderful modern cookbook that explores Indonesian cuisine. It is a wonderful introduction to this otherwise complex cuisine, filled with amazing photographs and recipes.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the Bambu paste:

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted

4-5 black peppercorns, lightly toasted

2 shallots

2-3 garlic cloves

1 candle nut or 2-3 almonds

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4-5 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons oil

2 1-inch pieces lemongrass

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

2-3 red chillies, halved

1 lb mushrooms, oyster or any wild variety. Cremini or button mushrooms will work in a crunch

2 teaspoons kecap manis

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

Add all the ingredients to a small blender and blitz till you have a thick, smooth paste. Do not make the paste too runny.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chillies and fry for 1 minute. Add the Bambu paste and cook on medium heat till the paste has thickened. The oils will pool from the paste on the sides, and the paste will have a robust red colour.

Add the mushrooms, kecap manis and salt and mix in well. Be careful, kecap manis is very salty on its own. The mushrooms will give out juices of its own and will cook in the curry. Cook for 10-12 minutes till the mushrooms are tender but have some bite. Do not make them mushy and soggy.

You can srve the curry wet as a gravy, or I like to dry it out so that the spices cling heavily to the mushrooms.

Serve with lacy pancakes or rice.

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