Tapioca shoots and herbs in sambal tempoyak

Inhale the divine scent of tapioca shoots and herbs in sambal tempoyak.

Even though this dish requires about an hour of cooking time, the act of cooking tapioca shoots and herbs in sambal tempoyak is not particularly difficult.

Being a special dish, it’s great for breaking fast, as part of a festive spread, or served at any gathering of family and friends featuring lots of local delicacies.


  • 600g (2 bunches) tapioca shoots (pucuk ubi kayu)
  • 180g (1 bunch) wild pepper leaves (daun kadok)
  • 60g (2 bunches) Vietnamese coriander (daun kesum)
  • 18g (1 bunch/5 large pcs) turmeric leaves (daun kunyit)
  • 380g stink beans (petai)
  • 300g pea eggplant (terung pipit)
  • 70g lemongrass, white parts only
  • 280g (3) large red onions, peeled
  • 50g (20) green & red birds eye chilies (cili padi)
  • 60g (2) tamarind peel (asam keping)
  • 800g tempoyak
  • 1kg coconut milk
  • 7g (1 tbsp) turmeric powder
  • 150g dried anchovies
  • 50g salt
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 L + 100ml water


  • Remove the stems from all four leaf types then give it a good rinse, shaking off all excess water.
  • Get a sharp knife and chiffonade your leaves about 3mm wide.
  • The best way to chiffonade daun kadok (wild pepper leaves) is to pile them over each other in a thick pile, then fold them in half along the spine. Chiffonade accordingly.
Dauk kadok.
  • Vietnamese coriander and tapioca shoots are smaller, so bunch them, then chiffonade.
Tapioca shoots being chiffonaded.
  • Turmeric leaves are long and slim. To chiffonade them, first:

  • Pile leaves on top of one another starting with the largest leaf at the bottom and the smallest on top.

  • Fold the leaf in half, against the spine.

  • Roll it tight like a cigar.

  • Chiffonade.
Beautifully chiffonaded turmeric leaves.
  • Bash lemongrass stalks with the flat of a knife or pestle.
  • Blend onions and cili padi until coarse.
Blend until coarse.
  • Rinse anchovies and toss to remove excess liquid.
Rinse anchovies.

Cooking tapioca shoots and herbs in sambal tempoyak

  • Set a large wok on your stove. Do not turn on the fire yet.
  • First, pour in blended onions and cili padi.
Blended ingredients first.
  • Next, add in all the chiffonaded leaves.
It’s raining leaves.
  • In goes the terung pipit.
Little pea eggplants.
  • And then the petai.
Petai goes in next.
  • Place lemongrass stalks on top of the pile of greens.
Lemongrass stalks.
  • Next, move on to the anchovies.
Anchovies on the side.
  • And then the tempoyak.
Tempoyak goodness.
  • Pour 1 litre of water into the wok.
In goes the water.
  • And a table-spoonful of turmeric powder.
Turmeric powder.
  • Finally, pour in the coconut milk.
Coconut milk goes in last.
  • Turn the fire on to low heat and give everything a good stir, making sure the tempoyak completely melts and disintegrates into the dish. You don’t want any clumps.
Give everything a good stir to mix thoroughly.
  • Add tamarind peel, salt and sugar and give everything another stir.
Add tamarind peel.
  • Cook for 1 hour until the leaves are completely wilted and turn a dark olive green. The sauce will also continue to thicken as the dish cooks. There is no need to keep stirring constantly – just give a few stirs every 10 minutes or so to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the work and burns.
There’s still a long way more to go…
Halfway there…
  • Serve with freshly cooked rice while still hot.

Extra tips

  • Tempoyak continues to ferment the longer it is kept. If you’re using freshly made tempoyak, you may need to add an extra one or two pieces of tamarind peel as it tends to be sweeter compared to older tempoyak. If you’re unsure, give the sauce in your dish a taste after it has cooked for about 15 minutes. Tapioca shoots and herbs in sambal tempoyak is a sour-sweet dish. Adjust accordingly if necessary.
  • If you have fresh turmeric, use that instead. You’ll need about a 1” square cube of peeled turmeric. Blend it with onions and cili padi. You do not need to use turmeric powder in this case.
  • If you’re wondering why we included “bunches” as a form of measurement, that’s because wet markets tend to sell these ingredients in fairly standard bunches. Always weigh just to be sure though.
  • This recipe feeds a lot, so feel free to scale it down as needed. Just remember to keep the ratio of the leaves the same to ensure a balance of flavour. Too much of one or the other can result in a dish that is bitter or too sour.

This article first appeared in butterkicap.com

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