Semur is an Indonesian term for type of meat stew that is processed in thick brown gravy. Shallot, garlic, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), nutmeg are the main ingredients. Semur word is derived from a Dutch term of Smoor which is basically a food that is boiled with tomatoes and onions slowly. Some recipes will call for other ingredients such as candlenuts, salam (Indonesian bay) leaves, cloves, cumin, and coriander. It depends which area that the semur comes from. If you are interested with the history of semur, please do come back for my next post on the history of semur.

I have posted 2 recipes of semur on my blog before; semur ikan bawal (pompfret semur) which is my family’s recipe and semur lidah (oxtongue semur). Between these 3 semur recipes, there are some differences in spice. Semur Betawi is originally from Jakarta; it was named after the ethnic group of Jakarta, Betawi. Based on 1001 Resep Semur (a web that is developed and sponsored by Kecap Bango – an Indonesian large kecap manis manufacture), water buffalo or beef is the common ingredient to be used for Semur Betawi and it is served with lontong (Indonesian rice cake with cylindric shape).

This time, I don’t translate the word semur as braise in English. Did you know what the difference between braise and stew? Here is a good link to give you further explanation about the differences.

I got the recipe of semur betawi from dunia-ibu and had to make some adjustment base on my tastebud. For me, the recipe that I got was too sweet. I also used beef back ribs. These type of ribs are usually used for grilling. However, I cut them into pieces and turned into semur (Indonesian stew).

Semur Betawi
-Betawi-Style (Indonesian) Semur-

669 grams (1475 lbs) beef back ribs, cut into pieces
5 tablepoons kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 nutmeg, grated
1/2 mace
5 cloves
3-centimeters (1-inch) cinnamon stick
cooking oil
1 liter (1-qt) water

Spices Paste:
6 cloves garlic
9 shallot
3-centimeter (1-inch) long ginger
5 candlenuts
2 teaspoons toasted ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
salt as desired

1. With a mortar and pestle or food processor, pound/grind all ingredients for spice paste until smooth.

2. Heat up your heavy pot and add cooking oil. Stir fry the spice paste until you can smell their aroma.

3. Add pieces of beef back ribs. Keep stirring until the meat turns colour.

4. Add dices of tomatoes, kecap manis, grated nutmeg, cloves, mace, and cinnamon; stir. Add water and stir. Cook to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. If you see the meat hasn’t been tender yet, you can add more water and continue to simmer until tender.

I enjoyed this semur with rice and sambal andaliman (andaliman pepper sambal).

Cook’s Note:
* As I previously stated I prefer use whole nutmeg and grate once I’m going to add. It has a stronger flavour compare the ground nutmeg.


  1. To be honest, I used to complain whenever my mum made this dish when I was younger. I preferred something like mie ayam, siomai or bakso ;). But now, I really wouldn’t refuse something like this anymore, your semur looks great, Pepy!

    • Oooo that happened to me too! I used to be tired of gulai and any coconut milk dishes as my family used to cook them. Now once a while I crave them πŸ™‚

  2. Tried, tested and approved, it tastes absolutely yummy! From a padang perspective, my semur was more salty, and less thick gravy (no kemiri). I will hang on to this recipe:)

    about the mace, I have replaced it with daun salam, I never use mace in Indonesian cooking, so I don’t have any mace…

    thank you

    • Glad you like it! I understand what you meant. I came from Sumatra background as well and not used to with things that are too sweet. That is why I reduced the amount of kecap manis in this recipe.

  3. Thanks for the great recipe. Im making it right now and it smells and tastes wonderful! But it seems to be screaming for some acidity. Would lime juice or tamarind be authentic in a recipe like this?

    • Since this ethnic group isn’t that crazy about acidity, that is why no tamarind and lime added in this recipe :). This semur should be sweet and peppery. However, when I ate this, I enjoyed it with sambal which has some acidity there.

  4. Hi Pepy,salam kenal ya dari Australia

    Aku sebelumnya tidak pernah kasih comment untuk blog2 lain yang aku pernah visited
    But I cant helped πŸ˜› I love your website and what you doing here sharing real recipes that actually work ( its Proven = My kids thank you for the beautiful Sate Madura I’ve just cooked from your recipe today πŸ˜› yummy))) and promoting Indonesian food with real stories and all the facts behing it ,just amazing !!
    I Just wanted to congratulate you for your beautiful work on your website and good luck girl


    • Thanks so much for your appreciation! Salam kenal kembali dari Kanada! I just love to see other people happy to try the recipes that I have tried and share my personal stories behind the foods πŸ™‚


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