White Curry Soup with Pressed Rice Cakes

May 19, 2017
1 Ratings
Photo by Emily Dryden
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

This delicious soup is called sayur lodeh and is popular in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. My version is Indonesian-inspired because that’s what I grew up eating. Other versions may include turmeric or cumin. I love having chayote (known as mirliton in the American Southern) in this soup but if you have difficulty finding it, substitute with zucchini and try to ignore the fact that it’s not in season.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes —Pat Tanumihardja

What You'll Need
  • White Curry Soup
  • 2 fresh long red chilies like Fresno or cayenne, or 2 tablespoons chili paste like sambal oelek
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 ounces shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 ounces chayote or zucchini, peeled and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
  • 1 small turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch matchsticks
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 4 ounces firm tofu or tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1-inch piece fresh galangal, cut into coins
  • 6 ounces lacinato kale or other hearty green vegetable, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Fried shallots for garnish
  • Pressed Rice Cakes
  • 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • banana leaves, defrosted if frozen (optional)
  1. White Curry Soup
  2. To make the Spice Paste, place the chilies, garlic, shallots, ginger, and ground coriander to a mini food processor and blitz to a rough paste the texture of oatmeal.
  3. Swirl the oil into a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium heat until shimmering hot. Fry the Spice Paste until it darkens and is aromatic, 2 to 4 minutes.
  4. Pour in the coconut milk followed by the water and stir to mix. Add the chayote, turnips, carrots, green beans, and tofu and bring to a boil. Add more water to cover the vegetables if necessary. Drop in the galangal and lemongrass. Reduce the heat until the soup bubbles gently, cover and simmer until the chayote and turnips are almost cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. Uncover, and stir in the kale, salt, pepper, and sugar. Simmer until the kale is just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Let the soup sit for 1 to 2 hours for the flavors to meld if possible.
  6. To serve, divide the rice cakes among 4 to 6 large, shallow bowls and pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup (125 to 200 ml) curry soup into each bowl. Sprinkle with fried shallots and serve.
  7. Note: Many other vegetables such as eggplant, cabbage, pumpkin, turnip greens, etc. can be added to this soup. Be sure to add the sturdier, longer-cooking vegetables first and the more delicate vegetables later.
  1. Pressed Rice Cakes
  2. Rinse your rice 2 to 3 times until the water runs clear. Cook in your rice cooker if you have one (using a standard measuring cup not your rice cooker cup) or on the stove top with 2 cups of water.
  3. To prepare the banana leaves, gently unfold them and run one leaf under hot running water to soften. Trim off the tough outer edge with scissors. Cut a length of banana leaf—it has to be big enough to line a loaf pan and have enough overhang, about 5 to 6 in to fold and cover the top.
  4. Line the loaf pan with the banana leaf, shiny-side down (the side with the ridges). If it tears, just patch it with another leaf.
  5. While the rice is still hot, pack it into the pan, pressing down to compress the rice. Fold over the two ends of the leaf so they overlap in the middle. Tuck in the edges. If the leaf isn’t long enough, cover the gap with another leaf.
  6. Leave for at least 2 hours until it is completely cool. You can also refrigerate it to speed up the process. If you leave it in the pan overnight, the rice will be imbued with the banana leaf’s delicate, tea-like flavor and fragrance.
  7. Unmold carefully and peel off the banana leaves. Slice crosswise like a bread loaf and cut into smaller rectangles or squares.
  8. Note: If you are serving big eaters, you can easily double the amounts in this recipe.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Pat Tanumihardja
    Pat Tanumihardja
  • Catbhn21
Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, I'm a food and travel writer, author of "Farm to Table Asian Secrets" (Tuttle Publishing, 2017) and "The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook" (Sasquatch Books, 2009) . My Asian Instant Pot cookbook will launch in May 2020. Find simple Asian-inspired recipes on

2 Reviews

Catbhn21 January 18, 2018
Loved it! However, the ingredient list doesn't include lemongrass but it shows up with the galangal in the instructions. I tossed in a 3 inch stalk and used it like a bay leaf which was probably wrong.
Pat T. January 18, 2018
I'm so happy you enjoyed it! You did good with the lemongrass. I like to trim it to just the white/light green bulb, smash it to release the essential oils and just drop it into the pot. I'll ask the editor to make the changes.