138 Smoor Jawa – classic Javanese beef stew

138-smoor-djawaA smoor Jawa is a Javanese stew made with beef. After 2,5 hours of simmering it needs to be fried too. Sounds like a lot of work, but it is not too bad at all. Most of the time it is simmering anyway ;-). Great to try this super classic dish from the Indonesian island Java today. I know my family will love it.

This quantity is enough for 3-4 people and takes about three hours to make.

Smoor Jawa from Beb Vuyk’s Groot Indonesisch kookboek, page 145.


1/2 kg of beef
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 liter of water
2 tablespoons of chopped onion
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sambal terasi
1 teaspoon of galangal
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 salam leaf

Cut the meat into large slices and sprinkle it with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place it in the boiling water along with the onions, chili, the galangal, the salam leaf and let it simmer until the meat is almost done. Remove the meat from the broth. Heat up the butter and fry the slices of meat in it. Add the broth, soy sauce and the lemon juice. This dish can also be made with lamb or veal.


The ingredients are easy. I buy high quality beef; it will be tender for sure. Sambal trassi I can buy at the supermarket or specialist Asian shops. But you can make it yourself easily too. Check out Beb’s classic sambal trassi recipe here.


I sprinkle nutmeg, salt and pepper over the meat. Beb never actually tells in any of her recipes how much nutmeg, pepper or salt goes in. I think we should ‘know’ how much is needed. 😉 I use a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of pepper and three teaspoons of nutmeg for my smoor Jawa.


Now the meat can go directly into the pan. You do not need to fry it first. Just add it to the boiling water together with the spices (onions, sambal, the laos and the salam). I buy salam leaves at my Asian store. If it is not possible to get salam, use regular bay leaf.


Because the meat needs to simmer for about 2,5 hours, I leave the lit on the pan like this. Otherwise the broth will evaporate too fast.

After 2,5 hours my beef is almost done. It needs another half hour I think. The perfect moment to fry it in a bit of butter.

It is important that your beef is not cut too small. When I fry them in the butter they stay in nice big chunks, but they are tender when you eat them.. lovely. Now I add the broth back into the pan.


And I add the lemon and soy sauce too. I use sweet soy sauce (kecap manis).

138-smoor-djawaTime to serve. I eat my smoor jawa with white rice, a salad of cucumber, sambal and some lime on top. It’s delicious. We finish it completely . The meat is tasty, tender and lightly spicy. OMG sooo enak!

Beb Vuyk, best known for her Groot Indonesisch Kookboek (Great Indonesian Cook Book), was much more than a great cook. She belongs to the most important Dutch-Indonesian (Indo) writers and journalists of her time. Check this out.

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