Recipe: Gulai kambing - Spiced lamb stew

This recipe originates from the eastern part of the island of Java. The braised meat is cloaked in a sticky, lively curry that's equal parts spicy and sweet.

Serves: 6 - 8
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 25 minutes


  • 900 ml (30 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 kg (2.2 lb) lamb leg or shoulder, cut into small cubes
  • 5 cm piece of lemon grass, washed
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves or 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tbsp brown sugar
  • 300 ml (10 oz) hot water

Spice paste

  • 4 shallots or 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2½ cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 6 blanched almonds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp ground galangal
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 kaffir lime or bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Put all the ingredients for the paste in a blender or food processor with 4 tbsp of coconut milk, and blend until smooth.
  2. Transfer this paste into a large saucepan, heat and bring to the boil, then stir continuously for 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the meat cubes, and stir these until all the cubes are well coated with the paste and the meat has changed colour.
  4. Add the lemon grass, kaffir lime or bay leaves, sugar and hot water, stir and cover the saucepan.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the saucepan lid and add the remains of the coconut milk.
  7. Bring the contents back to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often.
  8. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. 
  9. Take out the lemon grass and the kaffir lime or bay leaves before serving the stew hot with plain boiled rice.

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