Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vegan Indonesian 'Lamb' Curry - Gule or Gulai

Indonesian 'Lamb' Curry - Gule or Gulai
The Indonesian food cravings still exist in my system.  I crave Indonesian ethnic dish such as this one Indonesian Lamb Curry or called Gule or Gulai.  I think I am craving the spices and not craving to eat the lamb/goat or meat.  The curry taste is pretty unique.  I can't really compare it with Indian curries since the spices are similar to Indian but we, Indonesians, add fresh herbs to it like galanga, kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, and lemon grass.  It doesn't taste like Thai curry either since spices like cloves, coriander, cardamom,  and cumin are used.  Is it a fusion between Indian and Thai curry?  Maybe, that's the only thing I can describe it.

Herbs used in Indonesian dishes(from left to right, clockwise):  galanga, shallots, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon grass.

I opted to use fresh herbs as much as possible.  Living in Southern California makes it easier to do that since I can find them easily in Asian markets.  In fact, if you read my previous posts, I grow my own lemon grass and kaffir lime.  These plants are thriving all year long in my backyard and I just pluck them whenever I need to cook Southeast Asian dishes.

In the past, I often cook Indonesian dishes by buying store-bought spice paste like Bamboe, Munik, or Indo Food.  It is supposed to be easy.  I can just stir fry the spices, add other ingredients, add coconut milk if needed, and voila, an Indonesian dish is done.  However, lately, I found out that these spice companies started adding MSG although sometimes it is not listed in the ingredients list.  In fact, they started to do that on Indonesian snacks and chips, too. Urrrgh!  I am not sure either if terasi or shrimp paste is included but not listed.  Therefore, I decided to make my own spices and learn to cook it from scratch which is more elaborate but believe me the taste is better homemade.

Tools needed:  mini chopper/spice grinder, a food processor or a mortar and pestle as shown in my previous post.

Vegan Indonesian 'Lamb' Curry - Gule or Gulai
Serve 6

2 pkgs. Gardein Beefless Tips  or 3-4 cups cubed super firm tofu or 3-4 cups cubed tempeh
Note:  The Gardein Beefless Tips are the best for this dish.  A friend of mine said 'I can fool a meat eater using these'.
1 cup coconut milk or light coconut milk
1 cup water or vegetable broth
1 Tsp. salt or more to taste
2 Tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
Oil, non-flavor such as canola or safflower oil

2-3 slices fresh ginger
2-3 slices fresh galanga or baby ginger
2 stalks lemon grass, sliced (use white part only)
3 bay leaves, dried
3 kaffir lime leaves, crushed with your hands to releace aroma

Spices to blend in a spice grinder or mortar:
1 Tbsp, coriander seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4  of a nutmeg or 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
5 whole cloves or 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
Note:  I suppose you can use all ground spices to start with.  However,  I prefer to temper my spices on a hot cast iron and then cool them before grinding. 

Spice paste:
6 candlenuts or kemiri(see picture below)
6 shallot cloves

Fried shallots for topping
Lalapan or fresh cut tomatoes, cucumber, lettuces, green beans, etc.
Note: Lalapan means eating rice, meaty dish, and fresh vegetables with sambal.
Sambal Tomat from my previous post

  1. If using firm tofu or tempeh, pan fry cubes in oil or sprayed with oil and baked them in 400F oven for 15 minutes to brown them.  Set aside.  This step is to firm up the tofu or tempeh as they will be simmered in curry sauce.
  2. Combine all spices and blend until smooth in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Into a mini chopper or a food processer or the mortar, add candlenuts, shallots, and spices above (no. 2) and blend into a spice paste.  Add a little water if necessary to make the paste.
  4. In a heavy bottom pot or a wok, add 2 tbsp. oil on a medium high heat.  Add spice paste and pan fry for 5  minutes until fragrant.  Be patient to stir fry the spice paste since this step release the aroma for the curry. 
  5. Add fresh herbs: ginger, galanga, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass.  Also add the cinnamon sticks.  Combine them with the stir fried spice paste for another 3 minutes.
  6. Add Gardein Beefless Tips or cubed tofu or tempeh.  Combine the spices and herbs with this ingredient for another 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add coconut milk, water, salt, and palm or brown sugar.  Add more salt or sugar to taste.
  8. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  9. Serve with rice and accompaniments.
Indonesian dishes often use dark palm sugar or gula jawa, tamarind paste, and candlenuts or kemiri.

This is how I served this dish to my husband today, from top left, clockwise: Sambal TomatMy Perfect Brown Rice, and fresh cut vegetables. 


Rooted Vegan said...

Do you like the way the faux meat tastes. I have such a hard time with it? The spices in this seem like they would help to make it more flavorful. We are having Vegan Indian Week at Curry curry everywhere!

spiceislandvegan said...

Not all faux meats are create equal. This one Gardein Beefless Tips are the best for this recipe. Most Indonesian dishes contain meat and they are not all suitable made just with tofu or tempeh which do not provide the same texture. True, the spices will help make it flavorful. This dish can be made with tempeh but texture will not be the same.

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