What is Ketoprak?
Ketoprak is a traditional salad from the Jakarta area with main ingredients lontong/ ketupat, beansprouts, rice vermicelli, and tofu. Its dressing is made with garlicky and spicy peanut sauce.
It is an underrated Indonesian street food that offers a unique taste and flavour. One may try to compare it to its sister, Gado-Gado, but it’s a different dish in all sense.
To simply put, Ketoprak is a salad and a meal made in one dish.
Just like any other street foods, you can enjoy Ketoprak anytime of the day. And it is one of the most popular food items offered by those sellers in the Jakarta area.
Hence, the name is Ketoprak Jakarta. I doubt you can find this special salad outside Jakarta. Because each area has its own traditional and popular food.
In Indonesia, there are food sellers who go around the housing estates offering their food. And I used to buy this unique salad every weekend. For my brunch.
Therefore, I always missed it since I moved to the UK because I didn’t know how to make my favourite ketoprak.
Contrary to what some people think, you don’t need many ingredients to make Ketoprak. You only need tofu, rice vermicelli, bean sprouts, and lontong or ketupat. And as for the peanut sauce dressing, you only need peanuts, chillies, garlic, palm sugar (or brown sugar), lime juice and sweet soy sauce.
Of all these ingredients, lontong or ketupat were something I couldn’t make easily.
Traditionally, you use banana leaves to make lontong and to make ketupat you need coconut/palm leaves that are woven into diamond shape. And banana leaves are so expensive here in the UK. Whilst the palm leaves are just impossible to get as it doesn’t exist here.
That’s why when I just relocated to the UK, I couldn’t make Ketoprak. Not only did I not know the recipe, but I didn’t know how to make lontong or ketupat either. And you need lontong or ketupat to have a proper Ketoprak.
So it was when my mom visited me several months later that I learned a way to make lontong. A sort of copycat lontong using a plastic food bag.
And of course, she also taught me her ketoprak Jakarta recipe.
Since then, whenever I feel like having ketoprak I can always make it pretty much right away. Because it’s sooooo easy to make it.
The difference between lontong and ketupat lies in how you wrap before you cook the rice.
Lontong uses banana leaves that are rolled into a cylinder and you put the rice in that cylinder tube. Whilst ketupat uses palm leaves that are woven into a sort of diamond shape pouch.
Both lontong and ketupat are cooked by boiling them in water for long hours. It normally takes 2-3 hours to boil them. It depends on how big your lontong/ ketupat is and how many lontong/ketupat you put in the pot.
Unlike the western salad, many Indonesian salads and dishes use lontong or ketupat, the hard-boiling rice that some people in the west call it rice cake.
How to make Ketoprak
Apart from boiling the lontong and frying the tofu, you don’t really have to cook to make ketoprak. To make lontong, you can check my post here.
When you have your lontong ready, you can dice your tofu and fry them. And set aside.
Then you soak your rice vermicelli in hot boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain it and set aside. And do the same for bean sprouts. Soak them in hot boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, drain the water and set aside.
To make the peanut sauce, you can use roasted and salted peanuts – ready-made from the shop. And of course, if you want, you can use raw peanuts and fry them yourself. The taste of the sauce may differ slightly. Because the deep-fried peanuts have a distinguished smell of fried-stuff. It’s a kind of rich aroma which makes your food more flavoursome. But I’m okay with the roasted peanut aroma. For me, they both equally make the tasty peanut sauce.
Anyway, you put 200 grams of peanuts together with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 3-4 bird’s eye chillies, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of palm sugar (or brown sugar), and ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of water in a blender or a food processor. Blend and process it until all becomes a smooth thick sauce. Add in 1-2 tablespoons of lime juice. You may want to use less or more water until you get a smooth runny sauce which is as thick as double cream (heavy cream).
Try and taste the sauce. It should taste rich, spicy, garlicky, sweet, and salty all at the same time. And feel free to make some adjustments according to your taste. Especially when it comes to chillies.
The last thing you want to prepare is prawn crackers. But this one is optional. Traditionally, Jakartan people use onion crackers – the crackers that are made of rice and have onion flavour. But you can use white prawn crackers. You can even use the ready-made ones from the shop!
So now you have everything ready to assemble.
Cut the lontong in small squares/ pieces and arrange them on a plate. Put some rice vermicelli over the lontong. And add bean sprouts and tofu on top of it.
Pour the peanut sauce generously over the vegetables and lontong. Then drizzle some sweet soy sauce and garnish with the crackers. Enjoy.
Top tips to make irresistibly delicious Ketoprak
- There are many types of vermicelli. Make sure you choose the one that is made with rice. The thin noodles should look cloudy white, not clear white or any other colour.
- Soak the vermicelli for at least three minutes but not more than five minutes. Because it may have a hard texture or go too soft. You can try and have a bite before you decide to drain it.
- Choose the extra-firm tofu. If you want to make your own tofu, you can check how I make my tofu here. You can even make the Indonesian yellow tofu if you follow my tutorial.
- You also want to make sure you choose Indonesian sweet soy sauce as other sauces can taste different. I tried in the past, and I regretted it. Did you know that sweet soy sauce is originally from Indonesia? So I guess it’s only fair if we stick to the original :-).
- The original Ketoprak Jakarta doesn’t use peanut butter. But I use about 2 tablespoons to add the creaminess in the sauce. You can skip it altogether.
Thank you for reading the post. I hope you enjoy it and will try the recipe. If you do try the recipe, please leave in the comments about how you like it? Or perhaps you do some tweaks that make your Ketoprak more interesting?
Do share the post and pin it on your Pinterest. And don’t forget to check my other Street Food (Jajan Pasar) recipes that you may equally like.
- Lontong Sayur Betawi.
- Gado-Gado Jakarta.
- Sate Ayam – Indonesian chicken satay.
- Lamb Satay – the copycat of Indonesian Sate Kambing.
- Tongseng – braised lamb in spicy coconut milk with sweet soy sauce.
- Nasi Uduk Jakarta – rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk.
- Martabak Manis – Indonesian sweet thick pancakes.