Ikan Bumbu Rujak (Spice-Braised Tuna)

  • Serves

    serves 4


This classic Indonesian dish has an appealing, sweet-spicy taste. Use yellowfin tuna if you can find it.


  • 2 stalks fresh, thick lemongrass, trimmed
  • 1 tbsp. tamarind pulp
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-5 long red chiles, such as holland or cayenne, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 (2") piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 (2") piece fresh galangal, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
  • 5 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 3 cassia sticks
  • 2 whole nutmegs, cracked open with a nutcracker
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1 12 lb. skinless, boneless tuna filets, cut into 2" chunks
  • 14 cup kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • Salt


Step 1

Remove and discard outer leaves of lemongrass and, using a blunt object like the smooth side of a meat mallet, bruise stalks until they are slightly shredded and flexible, then tie each in a knot; set aside. Put tamarind pulp and ¾ cup hot water into a small bowl; let soften for 15 minutes. Squeeze pulp through fingers, loosening it from seeds and fibers. Discard solids; set aside.

Step 2

Put garlic, chiles, shallots, ginger, galangal, and 1 tbsp. water into a food processor and purée, scraping down sides of bowl often, to form a fairly smooth paste, about 2 minutes. Transfer paste to a small bowl; set aside.

Step 3

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add ground paste and cook until oil begins to separate and paste no longer smells raw, about 6 minutes. Add cassia, nutmeg, cloves, and lemongrass and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add tuna and cook, stirring often, until outside of tuna is cooked and opaque, 3–5 minutes. Add reserved tamarind liquid, sweet soy sauce, and ¼ cup water and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until tuna is just cooked and still faintly pink in middle, 6–8 minutes. Season with salt to taste and transfer tuna and its sauce to a serving bowl. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to intensify. Serve with Festive Yellow Rice, if you like.

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