Tongseng: braised lamb in spicy coconut milk with sweet soy sauce from Java, Indonesia

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

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


It’s fragrant and comfortingly delicious to enjoy with hot plain white rice.

This simple yet tasty dish is originally from Central Java, Indonesia. It 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

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

And 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 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. 

And the recipe I’m sharing with you here is 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 chillies.

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 whole 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, chillies 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 just have it as it is with rice without any side. 

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 will 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.

Yield: 2

Lamb Tongseng

Lamb tongseng - Javanese braised lamb in spicy coconut milk with sweet soy sauce

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.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 300 gr/ 21 oz Lamb, cubed.
  • 2 Salam leaves.
  • 2.5 cm/ 1-inch ginger root.
  • 4 cups/ 960 ml/ 33.78 fl oz water.
  • 2 lemongrass, cut in 1-inch lengths.
  • 1 cm/ ½ inch galangal.
  • 2-3 red bird's eye chillies (optional).
  • 2 spring onions, sliced.
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut in chunks.
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil.
  • 500 ml/ 16.91 fl.oz coconut milk
  • 100 gr/ 1.76 oz. Cabbage.
  • 1 ½ tbsp sweet soy sauce.
  • Spices to pound:
  • 4 cloves garlic.
  • 1 red onion.
  • 3 Candlenuts (Kemiri).
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder.
  • 1 cm/ 0.5 inch ginger.
  • 1 tsp ground coriander.
  • 1 ½ tsp salt.
  • ½ tsp black pepper.
  • ½ tsp sugar.
  • Optional :
  • Fried onions.
  • Crackers.


  1. Using a pestle and mortar, or a food processor, grind the spices to pound into a paste. Set aside. 
  2. Rub the meat with ½ teaspoon of salt and black pepper respectively. Boil the meat in 3 cups of water together 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Once the water boils and simmer for a minute or two, put the cabbage, tomato, spring onion and chillies in. Cook further for another 2-3 minutes.
  6. 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. 

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 3503Total Fat 343gSaturated Fat 262gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 60gCholesterol 192mgSodium 1868mgCarbohydrates 72gFiber 6gSugar 12gProtein 80g

The nutrition calculation you find here is just a guide provided by online nutrition calculator. You should not use to substitute advice from nutritionists or health practitioners.

Did you try the recipe?

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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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