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Kecap Manis – Indonesian stir fry sauce

As I was just whining the other day, when you have a wide culinary interest in the region of Asia (NO!  It is NOT the same as being indecisive!) sometimes it can be hard to keep all those different sauces and ingredients in stock.

Fortunately, it is often possible to make your own.  Well, at least sometimes.

Even then sometimes I don’t have some sauce or ingredient that’s part of the recipe.  In this case – I was out of both lemongrass and Tamari (actually I don’t keep tamari sauce around, so I pretty much NEVER have it).

Oh well.  I’m a barbarian – I’ll get close enough.


  • 3/4 c palm sugar, jaggery, or brown sugar
  • 3 T water
  • 1 c tamari (I used soy sauce)
  • 1 T minced galangal (from a jar – if using fresh, just slice it thinly)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T minced lemon grass, bulb only.  I use this stuff —> More Info
  • 2 star anise


  1. dissolve the sugar in the water over a medium heat.
  2. add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer
  3. simmer over a med low heat for about 10 mins – until it begins to thicken
  4. remove from heat and store in the fridge in a glass jar.

Kecap manis will keep virtually forever.  But you won’t have to worry about that – this is a great base for a stir fry noodle dish.  Obviously you need to add something spicy as well, but this is a good start.  It won’t be around for long!

Last time I made this I had to use brown sugar – I had just bought some jaggery but when I opened it up, it was MOLDY!  EWWW!  Tossed it!  So sad!


The Gourmet Garden lemongrass is OK, but the only other thing I’ve tried from them is, well, pretty inferior if not downright nasty.  I’m talking to you, Gourmet Gardens cilantro-in-a-tube!  Get thee back to the netherworlds!

Actually the ginger and garlic are probably OK as well, but kind of pricey when it’s so easy to get good garlic and ginger paste at any Asian, and many “regular ‘merican”, grocery.  Given my experience with the cilantro, I don’t think I’d be willing to give the basil a chance.  YMMV.

Learning Moment of the Day

A psychologist, an engineer, and a mathematician are in a bar having a convivial drink.  While the three are well into demonstrating an exponential curve as a function of alcohol intake, the psychologist proposes a psychological demonstration, in which the engineer and the mathematician agree to participate.  Pointing a particularly pulchritudinous member of the opposite sex on the other side of the room out to each of his subjects, the psychologist proposes, “I will ring a bell at 1 minute intervals.  At the sound of the bell, you may each advance 1/2 of the distance towards the object of your desire.  Are you ready to begin?”

The mathematician immediately throws hands in the air and cries, “No way!  It’s a mug’s game!  I’m not wasting my time with this – if I can only advance 1/2 of the distance at each interval, I will NEVER get there!”

The psychologist busily makes some notes and turns to the engineer, who, as it turns out, has already hopped off the bar stool and is clearly ready to go, saying, “That’s alright, I’ll get CLOSE ENOUGH!”


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