Curry Vegetables | Sayur Lemak


15 Minutes


15 Minutes




"Sayur lemak" is a Malay word. "Sayur" means vegetable, and "lemak" refers to the flavour of the dish, which is rich and creamy using coconut cream or coconut milk. This is an authentic "Nyonya" or "Nonya" dish and the word "Nyonya" refers to women with a mixed parentage of Chinese and Malay from the early 15th century in Malaysia. The word "Peranakan Cina" (Cina for Chinese) refers to “Straits-born Chinese” in English to a Sino-Malay parentage. The word “Peranakan” comes from a Malay word “anak” meaning a child. Hence, peranakan refers to descendant of the child. This food culture and heritage is unique in Malaysia, predominantly practised in Penang and Malacca back then, but unfortunately it is dying off in our modern time. This recipe is to preserves part of my cultural heritage from my paternal side

Curry Vegetables | Sayur Lemak


  1. Make the curry spice paste

  2. Prepare and cut the vegetables according to bite sizes

  3. Fry the curry spice paste until it's aromatic and fragrant

  4. Add coconut milk to make the curry gravy

  5. Add the vegetables in stages to prevent vegetables from over cooking, which requires a different cooking time

How to make

Wash and cut all the vegetables into small bite pieces and set aside.

Roughly chop all the spice ingredients – ginger, chilies, french shallots or onion, lemongrass, turmeric (if you have the fresh one) galangal (optional).

Blend the spice ingredients with 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon toasted belachan and a bit of cooking oil until smooth.
Remove and set aside.

Heat a cup of cooking oil in a warm saucepan or pot or wok on medium heat.

Once oil is warm enough, toss in the blended spice paste. Fry for 2-3 minutes until aromatic and fragrant. Add some liquid if necessary.

Once the paste is starting to simmer and dancing in the pan, add the vegetables that require more cooking time first – carrots, sweet potatoes, eggplants. Add 400 ml coconut milk. Bring to boil and then lower the heat to gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Next add the remaining vegetables – green beans, white cabbages and fried puff tofu. Cover with a lid and gentle simmer for another 5 minutes or less if the vegetables require less cook time. Don’t overcook the green beans so they are still nice and crunchy.

Remove the lid and check. If cooked, turn the heat off and season with salt and sugar according to taste.

Remove and plate. Garnish with a bit of fried shallots and serve with steamed rice.



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  • VEGETABLES (you can use any of your favourite vegetables but be careful of its cook time as some vegetables may need longer cook time than others)

  • 2 carrots

  • 1 small aubergine (eggplant)

  • 2 small sweet potatoes

  • 15-20 green beans

  • a quarter of white cabbage

  • 10 fried puff tofu

  • SPICE PASTE (Rempah)

  • 3 french shallots (or 1 large red onion)

  • 1 lemongrass

  • 5 garlic cloves

  • 2 long red chilies

  • 8 dried chilies

  • ginger about a thumb size (or 2 inches)

  • galangal about a thumb size (or 2 inches) (optional)

  • 3 candlenuts (optional)

  • fresh turmeric about 3 inches (or 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)

  • 1 teaspoon toasted belachan (shrimp paste) (leave this if you are a vegetarian)


  • 400 ml coconut milk

  • 1-2 cups of liquid (water or stock)

  • salt and sugar to taste