Indonesian Vegetable Soup

Sajur Terung Atau Labu

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes



Appears in

Splendid Soups

Splendid Soups

By James Peterson

Published 2000

  • About

Although this spicy soup is traditionally made with squash or eggplant, I sometimes prepare the spicy base—called a bumbu—and add whatever vegetables I have around. Yellow squash and zucchini are especially good, but I also like mushrooms and green vegetables such as spinach or green beans. If you’re using a combination of vegetables, keep them separate so they can be added to the soup in stages according to their cooking times.

This soup contains some exotic ingredients. Laos powder may be easier to find, but fresh or frozen galangal has a much better flavor; look for it at a Thai market. Curry leaves and shrimp paste add an exotic Asian flavor but are not essential to the soup.

If you’re using whole seeds to make the spice mixture, the best way to grind them is in a small coffee grinder or in a mortar and pestle. The nuts should be ground in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor (don’t use the coffee grinder). Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to grind 10 nuts in a food processor, so you’ll have to make more than the recipe calls for and freeze it to use in something else.


  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 Thai or jalapeño chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • a ¼-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, freshly ground, or ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, freshly ground, or ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon laos powder or a ¼-inch slice of fresh or frozen galangal
  • 10 macadamia nuts or peeled almonds, ground to a paste
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
  • 2 curry leaves (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetables either alone or in combination: zucchini, sliced or diced; yellow squash, sliced or diced; mushrooms, sliced, quartered, or left whole; green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths; spinach, whole or shredded leaves
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 teaspoons ground dried shrimp
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • juice of 2 limes
  • salt and pepper


Heat the peanut oil in a 4-quart pot. Add the onions, garlic, and chilies. Cook over medium heat until the onions turn translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the ginger, ground spices, laos or galangal, and nut paste. Stir the mixture for 5 minutes over medium heat to release the flavor of the spices.

Add the broth, curry leaves, and vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are soft—about 10 minutes for zucchini and squash, 8 minutes for green beans, 5 minutes for mushrooms, and 2 minutes for spinach.

Work the shrimp paste with the water to thin it and stir it into the soup. Stir in the ground dried shrimp.

Add the coconut milk and lime juice. Simmer the soup for 1 minute and season with salt and pepper.