Sarawak vegetarian curry

This ever popular vegetarian dish is one dish that can stand on its own even among the non-vegetarian dishes on our Malaysian dining table. Without a well-cooked vegetarian curry, many vegetarian cafes and stalls simply cannot survive for it is a dish that must be served everyday hence must taste good and well presented. Almost all vegetarian food operators have this dish cooked everyday through out the year.   

Its presence alone can be felt by the aroma that exudes from its coconut milk and spices. It alone can beat all other dishes including the non-vegetarian food. During a party, for example, young people would just scoop a large portion of this curry and finish it with Bario rice within minutes and forego other meat dishes displayed on the table. As you can see, it is a good introductory dish to non-vegetarians.

Why is it called Sarawak vegetarian curry? 

  Sarawak vegetarian curry
Sarawak vegetarian curry

 The reason being that it is slightly different from the Indonesian vegetarian curry called Sayur lodeh Indonesia which is more like masak lemak cooked by the West Malaysians. While the similarity is there, like both are soupy, not dry curry like masak rendang, there are differences in the vegetables added and also spices used. Sayur lodeh ingredients include melinjo nuts, local bay leaves and tempe which are not found in our curry. The appearance of the two also looks slightly different. Sarawak curry must have a layer of chilli oil floating on top of the soup otherwise it is a curry of failure. That red color can be obtained by stir-frying chilli paste and tomato puree together and to be added to the soup just before serving and no boiling, only simmering, after adding.


Basic ingredients of Sarawak vegetarian curry
Basic ingredients of Sarawak vegetarian curry                                                                                                                                                       

Here comes the ingredients :

200 g of each of the followings :

  • Long beans (cut and stir-fired without adding water)
  • Potatoes ( steamed for 20 minutes, skinned and cut into 2 cm cubes)
  • Cabbage (cut into big triangles)
  • Brinjals (optional, cut into big strips and soak in salted water before cooking)
  •  Fresh bean curd skin/ fresh tofu skin ( soak in water for a few minutes)

Spices and herbs

  • 3 stalks of serai / lemon grass (bulbs crushed using a chopper)
  • ¼ cup of chopped saw tooth coriander/culantro
  • A packet of curry paste (about 25 g) – add water to form curry paste and fry till fragrant.
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbs chilli paste mixed with 2 tbs tomato puree(fry with oil till turn red)
  • 1/2 tsp kunyit powder
  • 1 tsp jintan putih /cumin seeds ( finely ground)
  • 20 g of ground cashew nuts (- to thicken the soup and add extra aroma.One can add more to make the curry more creamy)

Other ingredients :

  • A can of evaporated milk
  • 2 tbs of light soy sauce
  • 1 /2 tsp salt


Paku fern curry
Paku fern curry


Boil 500 ml of water to cook the cabbage till they look transparent and later add brinjal, coriander, lemon grass and potato cubes. Once the vegetables are cooked, just add in the milk or a cup of thick coconut milk. At this point, all the ingredients and seasoning are to be added to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes and the final step is add in the red oil on top of the curry soup.

Enjoy our vegetarian curry and do not forget we can have different vegetables added to the curry.


Young cempedak pulp and seeds curry
Young cempedak fruit curry


Different versions of vegetarian curry, Sarawak style

Among them include the followings :

Coconut shoot/palm shoot/bamboo shoot curry, durian flower curry, terung dayak curry, sukun / bread fruit curry, telur tebu curry, baby corns and cauliflower curry, yam or sweet potato curry, young cempedak or nangka pulp or kamansi seeds curry, kepayang curry, paku fern curry, pineapple curry and pumpkin curry.

Eat this curry alone with Bario rice. It is so heavenly matching with the highland rice that people tend to ignore other dishes and have vegetarian curry is enough, no need other dishes, seriously.   


Coconut shoot curry
Coconut shoot curry


Want an easy way to cook this curry? Just buy a packet of vegetarian curry paste and add to the curry after all the vegetables are cooked till soft. Add coconut milk or milk to the soup, followed by the curry paste and simmer for another 5 minutes. Take note that the layer of  red oil will disappear due to strong boiling.


Durian flower curry without coconut or cow milk
Durian flower curry without coconut or cow milk


Enjoy the curry. Take time to taste the food slowly. Always there for gatherings and functions, vegetarian curry is indeed a dish that all vegetarians must learn to cook properly.




Copyright claim – Do not crop any pictures from Do not share our  pictures without any watermarked signature on them. Excerpts from our articles to be credited to