What Is Semur?

Eugene P.
Eugene P.
Rice noodles may be served with some variations of semur.
Rice noodles may be served with some variations of semur.

Semur is a thick stew served in Indonesia. Even though there are many versions of semur throughout the area, most of the spices and vegetables that help to form the sauce are the same. The main component in the stew is usually meat in the form of cubed beef or shredded chicken, although versions using beef tongue, tofu or fish also exist. The cooking process takes place in stages, with the final step being a long simmer to reduce the liquids and incorporate the vegetable starches into the sauce. The finished dish can be served by itself in a bowl, over rice or mixed with noodles.

Some ingredients are common across the different varieties of semur. Garlic, ginger and onions are almost always used in the dish, as are sweet soy sauce, nutmeg and potatoes. Tomatoes, stock, shallots, cloves and coconut milk also are somewhat common when chicken is used as the meat.

The first part of the cooking process for semur is to fry the garlic, ginger and onion in a pan with oil. Some recipes also have the potato browned in the pan, so it has texture in the final stew. The meat is added to the pan and seared until it is brown and a crust has started to form on the outside. All the remaining ingredients are then placed in the pot and allowed to cook for a moment before the stock or water is added.

The semur is taken to a boil and allowed to simmer for an hour or more to develop the flavors and to reduce the amount of liquid. Halfway through the boiling process, any starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, are added to further thicken the sauce. Once all the ingredients have finished cooking and the sauce has reduced to the desired thickness, the stew is done and can be served.

There are a number of variations on semur throughout Indonesia. Ayam is the name of the type of stew that uses chicken as its meat. Tahu uses eggs and tofu but includes less liquid so the final dish is mostly dry and served over rice noodles. Lidah is a variety that uses beef tongue instead of other cuts of meat and complements the flavor with lime. Other variations of semur can include ingredients such as coconut milk, eggplant, tempeh, hard-boiled eggs, cinnamon, cloves and star anise.

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    • Rice noodles may be served with some variations of semur.
      By: Red Rice Media
      Rice noodles may be served with some variations of semur.