Sweet and Spicy Mushroom Tongseng

In the countryside of Central Java, not far from the dramatic marvel of the ninth-century temple of Borobudur, is the most surprising restaurant. Jejamuran has separate channels for entrance and exit with an airport-style check-in service. Inside, great halls of people are served nothing but mushrooms. Dishes from across Indonesia, from rendang to sate, are rendered beautifully in fungi. Our highlight was the richly spiced tongseng curry, which is more usually made with goat meat.

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia by Eleanor Ford (£25, Murdoch Books). Photography by Kristen Perers.


Serves 4

2 lime leaves
1 lemongrass stick, trimmed and bruised
2 cm (¾ inch) galangal, skin scrubbed, bruised
1 tablespoon oil
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) oyster mushrooms
3 tablespoons thick coconut milk
1½ teaspoons dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved
2 teaspoons kecap manis
1½ large red chillies, seeded and sliced
1 ripe tomato, cut in wedges

Bumbu spice paste
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
4 peppercorns
1 small red Asian shallot, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 candlenut or 2 blanched almonds
1 cm (½ inch) ginger, peeled
1 cm (½ inch) turmeric, peeled, or
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric





Start by making the bumbu spice paste. For this small quantity I find this easiest to do with a pestle and mortar. Start with the coriander seeds and peppercorns, then add all the other ingredients and grind to a paste.

Put the bumbu in a large frying pan with the lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal. Drizzle in the oil and stir-fry until fragrant. Loosen the paste with a ladleful of water.

Add the mushrooms and turn to coat in the spices. Add the coconut milk, palm sugar and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 5 10 minutes. The mushrooms will release liquid as they fry. Towards the end of cooking, stir through the kecap manis, sliced chillies and tomato. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with Spice rice (page 163), Pork braised in kecap manis (page 61), Jakarta beansprouts (page 147) and a chilli sambal.


Purchase Eleanor Ford's book on Amazon to browse through all her incredible recipes from her travels throughout Indonesia.

Eleanor Ford
As a keen traveller, travelling overland when possible, Eleanor Ford has visited 77 countries and sought out the best food in each of them. She has lived in the UK, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Her writing focuses on making world cuisines accessible and capturing exotic flavours in home recipes. She has contributed to publications including BBC Good Food, House & Garden, Delicious, Olive, Food and Travel, Time Out, The Independent, Traveller and Wanderlust. 


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