Tongseng: Braised Meat in Spicy Coconut Milk

Meat, cabbage and tomatoes braised in spicy coconut milk and drizzled with sweet soy sauce, that is what Tongseng is about. 

a bowl of lamb tongseng - javanese braised lamb in spice coconut milk


Tongseng is an aromatic and comfortingly delicious dish to enjoy with hot, plain white rice. This simple yet tasty dish is originally from Central Java, Indonesia.

The dish was allegedly created by the goat satay sellers to make the most of the goat’s meat leftovers. After all the meat was taken for the goat satay (Sate Kambing), the rest of the meat would be used to make Gulai Kambing  (goat curry) and Tongseng Kambing. 

A bowl of Lamb Tongseng - the Indonesian braised lamb in spicy coconut milk with sweet soy sauce , and a bowl of white rice and salad
Photo credit: So Yummy Recipes.

Hence, most of the lamb satay sellers would also sell either Gulai Kambing or Tongseng Kambing. And some do all three of them.

The dish is now one of many popular street foods in Indonesia. Well, at least across Java. 

So, next time when you travel to the country, you may come across Tongseng sellers. 

Often, people enjoy this meat dish together with satay. 

Because as I mentioned above, most of the sellers are actually satay sellers. So, when you buy the satay, you would be just tempted to get Tongseng as well. It’s like a part of the package.

Meat Variety

Although it was initially made with goat’s meat, now people have adapted the recipe idea to cook with different meat such as beef or chicken. 

Therefore, you might have seen recipes for chicken Tongseng or beef Tongseng. 

Lamb tongseng.
Photo credit: So Yummy Recipes.

The recipe I’m sharing with you here is the Lamb Tongseng recipe. Simply because here in the UK, lamb is easier to get than the goat. 

But really, both types of meat are very similar to one another in taste and texture. So you’re more than welcome to use any red meat you like, such as beef, goat, lamb, or mutton.

Main Ingredients

Essentially, you need 7 types of ingredients to make this lamb stewed in coconut milk.

They are meat, coconut milk, spices and herbs, cabbage, tomatoes, spring onions, and sweet soy sauce. 

However, for the spices and herbs, you will need onion, garlic, ginger, candlenuts (Kemiri), turmeric powder, ground coriander, black pepper, sugar, salt, Salam leaf, ginger, lemongrass, galangal, and bird’s eye chilies.

Salam leaf and lemongrass

And optionally, you will want to sprinkle crispy fried onions just before serving the dish. So it will taste and smell even better. 

How to Cook Tongseng

There are two parts of the dish that you need to prepare: the meat and the sauce, just like the way Tongseng sellers do. 

First, you prepare the meat by boiling it with some herbs until the meat is tender. 

If you think the meat that you choose is a bit tough, you can boil it in a pressure cooker to save time. Just make sure you don’t overcook it so the meat won’t break or become too soft.

Once the meat is thoroughly cooked, drain its boiling water and set aside.

Secondly, you make the sauce by pounding some spices and herbs into a paste. 

spice paste on frying pan
lamb meat in spices on the pan
braise lamb in a pan
lamb cooked in spicy coconut milk

Then, fry the spice paste in a large cooking pan and add the rest of the spices. 

Fry until it releases a nice aroma before you add the meat. 

Once the meat is in, let it cook for about five minutes so it can absorb the spices then add the sweet soy sauce and a cup of water. Give it a stir and cook further at medium-high heat with the lid on. 

Thirdly, add the cabbage, tomatoes, spring onions, chilies, and coconut milk. Continue cooking until the sauce reaches the boiling point again. Let it simmer at low heat until the coconut milk looks thicker and shiny, with a little oil separating from the edges.

lamb and vegetables on a pan
adding chillies and sweet soy sauce to braised lamb
lamb and vegetables braised in spicy coconut milk
ready cooked lamb tongseng

The Way to Enjoy Tongseng

If you want to get the real feel of Indonesian street food, you may want to have this spicy braised meat with plain white rice and lamb Satay on the side. 

I often have it as it is with rice without any side dish. 

And if I fancy having a side dish, I would make chicken satay instead or a vegetable stir-fry.

More Indonesian Meat Dishes

Thank you for reading this recipe. I hope you’re now inspired to try it. If you do, please let me know what you think about it in the comments below. I would really appreciate it.

And please follow me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest. To sneak a peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen. 

Before you go, don’t forget to check my other Indonesian meat dish recipes for more inspo for your next dinner.

Thank you and all the best.

Lamb tongseng - Javanese braised lamb in spicy coconut milk with sweet soy sauce
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5 from 3 votes

Lamb Tongseng

Tongseng is braised lamb cooked in coconut milk with sweet soy sauce. This comforting dish is originally from Central Java, Indonesia. It tastes sweet-savoury with spicy coconut milk that will spoil your tastebud.
Author: Devy Dar
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indonesian
Servings: 2


  • Pestle and mortar
  • Food processor
  • Cooking pan with lid, or
  • Wok. with lid.


  • 21 ounces lamb cubed.
  • 2 salam leaves.
  • 1 inch ginger root.
  • 4 cups water.
  • 2 lemongrass cut in 1-inch lengths.
  • ½ inch galangal.
  • 2-3 red bird’s eye chillies optional.
  • 2 spring onions sliced.
  • 2 medium tomatoes cut in chunks.
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil.
  • 16.91 fluid ounces coconut milk
  • 1.76 ounces cabbage.
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sweet soy sauce.

Spices to pound:

  • 4 cloves garlic.
  • 1 red onion.
  • 3 Candlenuts Kemiri.
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
  • ½ inch ginger.
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper.
  • ½ teaspoon sugar.


  • Fried onions.
  • Crackers.


  • Using a pestle and mortar, or a food processor, grind the spices to pound into a paste. Set aside. 
  • Rub the meat with ½ teaspoon of salt and black pepper. Set aside.
  • Bring 3 cups of water to boil then put the meat in the boiling water along with ½ inch of ginger, 1 lemongrass and 1 salam leaf. Cook until the meat is tender. Then drain and discard the water. Set aside. 
  • In a wok or a cooking pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the pounded spice paste, lemongrass, salam leaf, galangal, ginger until it releases aroma. 
  • Then add in the meat pieces, sweet soy sauce and 1 cup of water. Give it a stir and let it cook at medium heat.
  • Once the gravy comes to a boil, let it simmer for a minute or two. Then put the cabbage, tomato, spring onion and chillies in. Cook further for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the coconut milk in, stir your Tongseng and leave it to cook and simmer at low heat for a few minutes before you turn the heat off. 


  • Some meat can be tough and take time to cook. So you can use a pressure cooker to shortcut the time if you wish. 
  • You can skip the bird’s eye chillies if you don’t have any. 
  • If you like your Tongseng to be spicy, you can put a teaspoon of chilli powder. 
  • You can also sprinkle lime juice over your Tongseng to give extra tangy flavour just like what you may get from the real Tongseng sellers in Indonesia. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 3503kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 80g | Fat: 343g | Saturated Fat: 262g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 60g | Cholesterol: 192mg | Sodium: 1868mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 12g


Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.

Author: Devy Dar

Title: Food Writer, Recipe Developer, and Digital Content Creator.


Devy Dar founded So Yummy Recipes and Drizzling Flavor to share her love of food after exploring various cultures and cuisines for more than two decades. Her mission is to help others easily recreate traditional and non-traditional food with readily available ingredients. Her works have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Al Jazeera, MSN, Yahoo, Bon Appetit, and more. 

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  1. Cindy Mom, the Lunch Lady says:

    I am not much of a lamb eater, but this looks and sounds too good not to try!

  2. Lisa Alioto says:

    This is a completely new dish to me – can’t wait to try it out this weekend!

    1. Hope you like this new food adventure 🙂

  3. This recipe looks delicious and not too difficult to make. I love lamb dishes and cannot wait to give this recipe a try!

    1. Thank you. I hope you like it.

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