History of Gulai Kawah

Gulai is a type of food containing rich, spicy and succulent curry-like sauce commonly found in Indonesia and Malaysia. Gulai is originated in Sumatra, Indonesia and is thought to be the local adaptation of Indian curry, developed and derived from Indian influence on Indonesian cuisine. The dish is popular and widely served in the Indonesian archipelago, especially in Sumatra, Java and also Malay Peninsula and Borneo. The thick and yellowish gulai broth is one of the most common broths in Minangkabau cuisine, to give a rich and spicy taste to meats, fish, or vegetables. The gulai broth found in Minangkabau, Aceh, and Malay cuisine usually has a thicker consistency, while the gulai in Java is lighter, served in soup-like dishes.

Gulai kawah as the name suggested is gulai or the curry-like broth that is cooked in a giant wok, pot or cauldron (kawah) and that is the reason why gulai kawah is truly special.

There are a lot of variations of gulai kawah. The most common variations of gulai kawah are poultry, meat, offal, fish and vegetable. However, the most common and popular types of gulai kawah are poultry and meat as the main ingredients, cooked with vegetables and offal of the same kind.

One more thing that separates gulai kawah than normal gulai or curry is the fact that it is usually served during special occasions such as weddings and other ceremonies however this is particularly a special custom in East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia (Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu). Gulai kawah can be found also in other states, usually in Malay traditional restaurants that serve gulai kawah as part of the lunch menu.

Gulai kawah used to be cooked on the firewood in order to maintain the fragrant, as well as to elongate its shelf life. Cooking using firewood also allows the ingredients to be cooked slowly thus the moisture will be trapped inside the meat.

Gulai kawah is a taste of nostalgic Malay village dish. It is very synonymous with our Malay community, once upon a time. This is a nostalgia that should be preserved for the sake of cultural and culinary heritage. It is something that should be passed on with passion to the following future generations.

Ingredients :
  • 300-500 grams of meat - cleaned and cut accordingly
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  • 4 cups of coconut milk
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  • 2 centimeters of ginger - julienne
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  • 4 cloves of shallots - julienne
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  • 2 cloves of garlic - julienne
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  • cinnamon, star anise, clove
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  • 1/2 cup of dried chili (can be adjusted according to preferences)
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  • 4 spoon of gulai powder - mix with a bit of boiled water to form a paste
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  • 1-2 pieces of garcinia
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  • 2 potatoes - cut into four slices (optional)
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  • 3 centimeters of galanghal - crushed
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  • Add salt accordingly to taste
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  • Bit of sugar
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Steps :
  1. Sautee the cinnamon, star anise and and cloves. Put in ginger.
  2. Put in the shallots and garlic. Sautee until fragrant.
  3. Put in the dried chillis and wait until the oil separates.
  4. Add in the gulai spice paste and cook until the oil separates.
  5. Pour in the pieces of beef, garcinia pieces and a bit of sugar. Cook until tender.
  6. Pour in the coconut milk and salt. Also add in the potatoes. Cook until the oil rises and the meat as well as the potatoes become tender. (the longer the gulai simmers on the fire, the more it produces oil and the more it will tenderize the meat)
  7. Last but not least, add in the crushed galangal root and let it simmer for 15 minutes before putting out the fire.
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