Indonesian ingredient descriptions & substitutions

Ingredient Descriptions & Substitutions:


Aunt-Patty-Tamarind-Paste-Organic-Gluten-FreeTamarind Paste –tamarind pod

Tamarind is a delicious sticky dark-brown pod-fruit that grows in tropical climates across Asia and also in Mexico. It is sweet and sour in taste and is commonly used in everything from curries and chutneys to desserts. It is high in B vitamins, calcium, sugar and tartaric acid.

Substitution – Equal parts lime juice and brown sugar. I would only recommend this as a last resort, and if little tamarind is needed.

soy bean pasteYellow Soybean Paste-yellow miso

Yellow soybean paste is a fermented paste made from yellow soybeans, salt, and water; sometimes containing wheat flour. You can also use yellow miso which you can find at most whole foods.  I use this in place of shrimp paste.

kecap ManisKecap Manis-Sweet Soy Sauce

Sweet soy sauce, which has a thick, syrupy consistency and a unique, sweet flavor due to the generous addition of palm sugar.

Substitution: In a pinch you can replace it with molasses mixed with a little vegetable stock. Although molasses can be a bit bitter, where palm sugar is very mild and sweet.



In its raw form, galangal has a stronger taste than common ginger. It is available as a whole rhizome, cut or powdered. The whole fresh rhizome is very hard, and slicing it requires a sharp knife.

Substitution – In a pinch you can substitute Ginger or ginger paste for Galangal.


curry leavesCurry Leaves or Sweet Neem Leaves-

Not to be confused with the curry spice, these leaves grow on curry trees native to India and Sri Lanka. Although most commonly used in curries, leaves from the curry tree can be used in many dishes to add flavor. Fresh leaves do not have a very long shelf life, dried leaves can be used instead.

Rice Wine Mirin-

Mirin is a Japanese sweet rice wine that is primarily used for cooking. It is similar to sake, but has a lower alcohol count and a higher natural sugar count. The sweetness is not a refined sugar, it is formed naturally during the fermentation process.

Substitution – Dry sherry, or white wine with a little sweetener added. Perhaps 1/4 tsp sweetener to 1/4 cup white wine.



Rice CakeKorean Rice Cake –

I have to say, I *LOVE* Korean rice cake! It is super chewy rice cake medallionsand delicious. Rice cake is made from Glutinous rice flour, or sweet rice flour and shaped into long cylinders. You can also find it cut into medallions. It has almost no flavor on it’s own, so it complements anything. It is commonly made into rice cake soup, desserts with red bean paste or stir-fried in super spicy sauce.

Someone once told me that the texture is very similar to squid or octopus, without the sweetness. I have never eaten cephalopods, so I can’t vouch for that.. but if you are craving it, it’s worth a shot.



Tamari is soy sauce made with little or no wheat, most is strictly gluten-free. It is the closest to what China originally introduced to Japan as soy sauce, and is a byproduct of miso.

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