Sayur Bening Bayam (Indonesian Spinach, Carrot, and Tomato Soup)

20 May


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Over this past weekend, I was scheduled to appear at the latest Perfect Health Retreat in Wilmington, North Carolina as a guest chef. I had a whole day’s worth of recipes planned for the 20+ attendees and staff members, most of them based on traditional Indonesian or Malaysian dishes. I was very excited, and had even devoted the previous weekend to practicing and tweaking the recipes to get everything perfect. And then life struck. My son Oliver started feeling very sick last weekend, likely a gift from one of his pre-school classmates, and by Tuesday I was feeling the full brunt of some relentless flu symptoms.

So I spent last week and this past weekend drifting in and out of a feverish state, catching up on several seasons’ worth of Archer and Portlandia episodes, and trying to find new ways of incorporating bone broth into my diet (hint: developing recipes while under the influence of flu medicine is never a good idea). I’m happy to report that Oliver and I are both on the mend, but unfortunately I missed out on my opportunity to cook at the retreat. So that these recipes don’t disappear from memory, I wanted to share two of them with you this week.

The first recipe is Sayur Bening Bayam, a clear Indonesian soup made with a variety of vegetables, but always includes spinach (and often corn – see my note below the recipe). I chose this soup as one of my dishes because it’s dead simple to make and serves as an appetizer in the most literal sense – its simple tastes both satisfy and whet the appetite for a main course.

Sayur Bening Bayam (Indonesian Spinach, Carrot, and Tomato Soup)

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 shallots, chopped
1.5 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups beef broth
3 cups water, more if needed
2” galangal or ginger, peeled, sliced and crushed, wrapped in cheesecloth or put in a tea ball
1 lb carrots, coarsely chopped
1 lb tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 lb spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
salt and white pepper to taste

1. In a stockpot or saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat, then add the shallots. Sauté until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the broth, water, and galangal. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer until fragrant, about 6 minutes.

2. Add the carrots and cook until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the galangal. Add the tomatoes and return to a simmer, then add the spinach; remove from heat once the spinach is bright green. Add the fish sauce and season with salt and white pepper to taste, then serve.

** The more common variation of this dish includes sweet corn, and is called Sayur Bening Bayam Jagung; since we don’t eat corn very often in our house, we opted to leave it out. If you’d like to try it with corn, break 2 ears of corn into 4 parts each, then add them to soup when you add the carrots.

** Traditionally, this dish uses fingerroot, a root similar to ginger but hard to find outside of Asia. Fresh galangal or ginger are fair substitutes, and if you don’t have fresh roots to work with, 1/2 tsp ground ginger will work in a pinch.

** For some extra protein, you can turn this into an egg drop soup. To do so, beat 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk together, then add them as you add the spinach. They will be fully cooked at about the same time it takes to cook the spinach.


These pictures are from a test run I did of the soup, before I started chopping the spinach; chopping it up before cooking takes an extra minute of prep time but makes for a much more pleasant eating experience (swallowing a big glob of spinach isn’t fun).

19 Responses to “Sayur Bening Bayam (Indonesian Spinach, Carrot, and Tomato Soup)”

  1. wr12blog May 20, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Oh yeAh! Thank you.

  2. alifemoment May 20, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    This looks really yummy! :)

  3. Carolyn May 20, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Beautiful and teeming with goodness. You are the only food blogger who consistently posts delicious recipes. Many people just promote their books or post other advertisements. Any plans for a new book?

    • Russ Crandall May 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      Carolyn, thanks for noticing! :) It’s pretty difficult to continue posting recipes every week, but I like the challenge it brings. I will probably start working on a new book by the end of the year, and it’ll take me a year or two to write it. But between books I hope to write an eBook or two as well.

  4. Indonesia in my pocket May 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Sayur bening bayam was my mum’s main soups, she didn’t use tomatoes though.

    • Russ Crandall May 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      Yeah, tomatoes definitely aren’t traditional but I wanted to add a hearty vegetable to the soup to make up for the absence of corn.

  5. dotren May 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Reblogged this on dieting sucks blog and commented:
    I am at a loss of what to post about today, Monday blank stare on Tuesday lol.
    Then I see this lovely recipe and it looks really delicious :)

  6. Amanda May 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    This looks delicious. I hope the little one is feeling better.

    • Russ Crandall May 20, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      Amanda, he’s doing much better – was back to building legos and terrorizing the cat in no time :)

  7. Gluten Free Fabulous May 20, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    Looks delicious! Love all the fresh ingredients and the ginger!

  8. Christina May 20, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    This looks absolutely heavenly, my next soup! Is it really 1 lb of spinach , almost half a kilo??

  9. sazkib May 23, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    It’s also taste nice if you add some corns :-)

  10. goatsandgreens May 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    I am seriously bookmarking this one for when tomato season hits. It looks so light, flavorful, and appetizing!

    • Russ Crandall June 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Sweet, let me know what you think when you try it out!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sayur Bening Bayam (Indonesian Spinach, Carrot, and Tomato Soup) | Paleo Digest - May 20, 2014

    […] Domestic Man / Posted on: January 01, 1970The Domestic Man – Over this past weekend, I was scheduled to appear at the latest Perfect Health Retreat in […]

  2. Sambal Terung (Malaysian Roasted Eggplant with Chili Sauce) | The Domestic Man - May 22, 2014

    […] Sambal Terung is a roasted eggplant dish, covered in sambal (a spicy chili-based condiment). Like Tuesday’s recipe, this is a dish that comes together easily and would allow me to focus on the main dish of the […]

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