Tahu campur is one Indonesia’s rich variety of street food. They are a favorite of both locals and tourists alike. This recipe originates from my hometown of Surabaya, Indonesia. If you have ever been to East Java, you can often find the locals (both young and adult) lounging and chit-chatting leisurely at the side of the road waiting for “kaki lima” or “the 5 legged vendors” to whip up this scrumptious dish. The reason why they are called “the 5 legged vendors” is because street foods are sold on carts that has three legs/wheels-but don’t forget the two-legged seller! Take a sip of the spicy and rich beef broth and you will be satisfied by how this dish screams true Indonesian flavors. Just a head’s up: there are many components to this dish, so be prepared for spending your afternoon in the kitchen!
The literal meaning of ‘tahu campur’ is actually mixed bean curd. This name is a little misleading because the bean curd is only one part of the dish. In my humble opinion, the star of the dish is definitely the ‘sambal petis’ which is actually udang petis/shrimp paste that has been mixed with crushed chili padi. Some may confuse petis with terasi. Visually, petis is black in color with a paste-like consistency whereas terasi is reddish brown in color with a texture like dense powder. Correct me if I am wrong, but I read somewhere that terasi is fermented whereas petis is not. With that said, they are both derived from seafood such as ebi and anchovy.
P.S: The cook at my house taught me this recipe and she is a local, so I can vouch for its authenticity.
Makes 8 servings
500g gravy beef
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
2 cm lesser galangal
4 cm of ginger
15 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp terasi
1 red chili, de-seeded and chopped
1 tsp tamarind
4 cm turmeric
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2-3 liters of water
salt, as needed
6 cm Thai galangal
5 pieces of kaffir lime leaves
2 stalks of lemon grass
2 pieces of Indian bay-leaf
2 tbsp cooking oil
Fried Cassava cake
500g cassava, peeled and flesh grated
3 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/s tsp salt
3 stalks chives, sliced
2 red chili padi
cooking oil, as needed
2 tbsp petis
at least 5 chili padi (if you want EXTRA spicy, you can add 10)
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fried garlic slices
1 tsp cooking oil
Krupuk bawang / garlic crackers
3 large fried bean curd
100g bean sprouts
150g green salad
450-500g yellow noodle
Fried garlic and shallots as garnish
To make the beef broth:
- Blend the following ingredients listed under “broth”: lesser galangal, black peppercorns, ginger, shallots, terasi, garlic, red chili, tamarind, turmeric, candlenuts, coriander seeds, salt. (Add 1/2 tsp of salt at each time, and adjust to individual taste)
- Crush: the Thai galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass and Indian bay leaves with the side of your knife.
- Boil the beef gray as a whole into 3L of boiling hot water until they are half cooked .
- Once they are cooked, take them out of the water and cut them into slices. Keep the water.
- In a 5 quart dutch oven, heat up some oil and saute the blended ingredients along with the crushed ingredients.
- When the sauce is fragrant, add in the beef cubes until the sauce is absorbed into the beef and the sauce becomes thicker.
- Put in the sauce and the beef back into the water. On low heat let it simmer till the beef is tender.
- Add palm sugar and sweet soy sauce to add color and flavor.
To make the fried cassava cakes:
- After you have grated the cassava, add 1 egg
- Blend the following: garlic, shallots, coriander seeds, kaffir lime leaves and chili powder.
- Mix the grated cassava with the blended ingredients along with sliced chives.
- Shape the cassava to the size of a tablespoon and fry them in hot oil fryer until they are golden brown.
To make the sambal petis:
- In heated oil, stir fry the chili padi first.
- In a mortar and pestle: Mix and crush all ingredients.
- Grind them to a fine paste. Add about 1 tbsp of the beef broth.
- Refrigerate when not needed.
To assemble ( 1 serving):
Note: It does not have to be neat and you can take add as much components as you like !
- Place 1 tsp of sambal petis as the first layer.
- Then place a good mixtrue of bean srpouts, yellow noodle and green salad on top of the sambal petis.
- Next, add the sliced beancurd and sliced fried cassava cakes.
- Pour in some of the broth on top of all of the components, allong with the beef gravy cubes.
- To end it off, add garlic crackers, fried garlic and shallots to garnish.