This Indonesian egg curry recipe with fragrant lemongrass and funky shrimp paste for telur petis comes from the Indonesian island of Java although variations can be found right across the archipelago. This rendition makes a gently-spiced boiled egg curry that’s eaten as breakfast and a snack, but the spiced eggs are also used to decorate a festive rice dish.
Our Indonesian egg curry recipe will make you a moreish dish of boiled eggs in a creamy coconut milk-based curry made from a freshly pounded spice paste with lemongrass stalks adding fragrance and flavour to the spicy gravy.
This dish is called telur petis on the Indonesian island of Java where it originates. ‘Telur’ means ‘egg’ and ‘petis’ is the shrimp paste that adds a subtle funkiness to this spicy egg curry. While the dish is eaten anytime in Indonesia, the eggs are also served with a festive rice dish.
If you loved the Padang style eggs recipe for gulai telur Pedang, a spicy coconut-based egg curry from Sumatra that we shared last week, then you’re going to love this Javanese egg curry recipe.
It’s our latest recipe in Weekend Eggs, our series on breakfast dishes from around the world, launched with Grantourismo and our year-long global grand tour aimed at promoting slow, local and experiential travel back in 2010.
A heads-up before we share this Indonesian egg curry recipe: Weekend Eggs is taking a break until 15 January 2022, although we’ll still be sharing plenty of breakfast ideas with you. Between now and then we’ll publish collections of our 21 Best Breakfast Recipes of 2021, our best Christmas Breakfast Recipes, and, in the New Year, our all-time 12 Most Popular Weekend Eggs Recipes in 12 Years of Grantourismo as part of the site’s birthday celebrations.
If you haven’t visited us in a while, Weekend Eggs recipes we’ve published in our revived breakfast eggs series include Chinese-American egg foo young with gravy, the original Cantonese-style egg foo young from southern China, a breakfast burrito classic Mexican huevos rancheros, a Mexican migas recipe with a twist for a ‘Migas tortilla’, fried eggs breakfast taco with chorizo, crunchy potatoes and spicy chorizo oil, scrambled eggs breakfast taco recipe with avocado and chorizo, Basque fried eggs with chorizo and potatoes recipe for ‘messy eggs’, and Mexico City-inspired chorizo eggs.
We’ve also published eggs recipes for a Thai fried egg salad called yam khai dao, pesto scrambled eggs, a Japanese rolled omelette, scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms, soft scrambled eggs with Chinese pork and chives, Indian egg bhurji, Chinese marbled tea eggs, corn fritter breakfast burgers, Russian devilled eggs, Turkish çılbır poached eggs and menemen scrambled eggs, Calabria’s take on ‘eggs in purgatory’ with ’nduja, Thai son-in-law eggs, Thai omelette kai jiaw, Cambodian steamed eggs, and Malaysia and Singapore’s half-boiled eggs with kaya jam and toast.
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Now let me tell you about this Indonesian egg curry recipe with fragrant lemongrass and funky shrimp paste for telur petis.
Egg Curry Recipe with Fragrant Lemongrass and Funky Shrimp Paste for Telur Petis from Java
My well-travelled uncle, Sandy, travelled through Southeast Asia in the 1970s and fell in love with Indonesia – I’ll never forget his slides of archaeological wonders of Borobudur and Prambanan, which stayed in my mind for years and inspired our own trip there.
Sandy introduced us to Indonesian food – along with Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese – at local neighbourhood restaurants in inner-city Sydney. While we enjoyed those meals, we weren’t impressed with Indonesian cuisine on our first trip to Bali.
We changed our mind about Indonesian food on our last trip to Java, where we got to sample an array of delicious Javanese dishes, especially in Yogyakarta. One of those was soto ayam, Indonesia’s chicken noodle soup for the soul.
When we returned to Cambodia and began researching and testing recipes for soto ayam, we quickly learned that there seems to be a soto ayam recipe for every village, town, city, and region on Indonesia’s 18,307 islands.
It appears to be the same case with Indonesian egg curry recipe for telur petis. While Java is widely considered the origin of telur petis, the dish is made in myriad ways right across the island, as well as other Indonesian islands.
The lightest shade you’ll see telur petis is the reddish-orange of our egg curry above, however, do a bit of research and you’ll see the dish in varying shades of brown and even a dark brown that is almost black. This is due to the type of shrimp paste used and the amount of shrimp paste, which I’ll elaborate on, below.
On our last day in Yogyakarta, I looked everywhere for a good Javanese cookbook or Indonesian cookbook so we could recreate the dishes when we got home. I found a copy of The Food of Indonesia: Delicious Recipes from Bali, Java and the Spice Islands by Heinz Von Holzen and Lother Arsana, two local chefs, and it’s from that book that I’ve adapted this recipe.
Heinz Von Holzen and Lother Arsana are chefs who have cooked in luxury five-star hotels, primarily on Bali – Arsana is Indonesian, while Von Holzen settled in Bali in 1990 and has been cooking Indonesian food for over 30 years.
As I’ve not eaten telur petis on Bali, I’m wondering if the men have toned down the shrimp paste because they’re used to cooking for tourists from right around the world, some of whom might not enjoy the funkiness of Indonesian shrimp paste.
Only one teaspoon of shrimp paste goes in their Indonesian egg curry recipe for telur petis – I add an additional teaspoon or two – which, interestingly, they call ‘Eggs in Fragrant Lemongrass Sauce’ in their cookbook, although the flavour of lemongrass is not dominant but complementary.
Maybe that was so as not to deter the foreign home cooks they think don’t like shrimp paste, from cooking this dish… just a few tips to making this Indonesian egg curry recipe for telur petis.
Tips to Making this Indonesian Egg Curry Recipe with Fragrant Lemongrass and Funky Shrimp Paste
I only have a few quick tips to making this Indonesian egg curry recipe for telur petis, because like the Padang style eggs recipe for gulai telur Pedang, we shared last week, it’s really very straightforward.
The first thing you have to know is that Indonesians use hard boiled eggs for this recipe, but we prefer jammy soft-boiled eggs and think they work well. Perhaps that makes it inauthentic.
We recommend cooking your boiled eggs as you like them and Terence has excellent tips in his guide to cooking boiled eggs perfectly.
We use a mortar and pestle to pound spice pastes here in Cambodia and we recommend you do the same to make the spice paste for this Indonesian egg curry recipe. It really doesn’t taste the same prepared in a blender, but do what you need to do if you’re time-poor.
One thing I need to mention, which I forgot to say in the gulai telur Pedang recipe notes (I’ll adjust those) is that Indonesians actually use a different mortar and pestle to that used in northern Southeast Asia, which is why recipes call for ‘grinding’ the ingredients and our telur petis recipe calls for ‘pounding’.
The Indonesian mortar is flat with a short rim and the pestle is held horizontally rather than vertically. We bought one back from Yogyakarta and we love it for grinding dry ingredients, however, we prefer to use the higher, deeper, northern Southeast Asian style mortar for ‘wet’ pastes.
Do check your nearest Asian supermarkets and specialised Asian grocery stores for the Indonesian shrimp paste, as it is a little different to other Southeast Asian shrimp pastes, and do note that this recipe calls for dried shrimp paste not the black wet gooey shrimp paste.
If you can’t find it, then use the more readily available Thai shrimp paste. You will want to use 2-3 teaspoons, but if you’re not used to shrimp paste, start with one teaspoon.
You can make your own crunchy fried shallots but we buy them from our local market as they do them so well. You can also buy crispy fried shallots online.
We like to give this Indonesian egg curry recipe a bit more of a kick of chilli and add a few birds-eye chillies to the dish, along with a sprinkle of chilli flakes. We also like to add some freshness from coriander leaves. None of that is authentic, it tastes so good.
Egg Curry Recipe with Fragrant Lemongrass and Shrimp Paste
- 8 eggs - boiled to your liking
- 1 knob fresh galangal - 2 cm length, peeled and sliced
- 1 knob fresh turmeric - peeled and sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 red finger-length chilies - deseeded
- 4 shallots - peeled
- 3 cloves garlic - peeled
- 1 tsp shrimp paste - trasi, dry-roasted
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp palm sugar - or brown sugar
- 400 ml thick coconut milk or coconut cream
- 2 birds-eye chillies - bruised
- 2 stalks lemongrass - thick bottom half only, outer layer discarded, inner part bruised
- 2 salam leaves - optional
- 1 tsp salt - or to taste
- 2 tbsp crispy fried shallots
- 1 tsp fresh coriander leaves
- Boil the eggs to your liking following our guide, then when cool, peel them.
- In mortar and pestle, pound the fresh galangal, turmeric, red finger-length chilies, shallots, garlic, and shrimp paste into a fine paste. Add a little coconut milk if needed.
- In a wok, over medium heat, heat the oil then stir-fry the spice paste for a few minutes until aromatic.
- Add the palm sugar (or brown sugar) to the paste, continuing to stir-fry to combine.
- Add the coconut milk, birds-eye chillies, lemongrass, and salam leaves if you can get them, then stir to combine well.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low to simmer until the curry sauce thickens, then add the boiled eggs.
- Season with salt, then taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary (adding more salt if needed or if too spicy or salty for your taste, add a little more sugar), then continue to simmer for two minutes.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the crunchy fried shallots and fresh coriander leaves, and serve with additional fried shallots and bird’s eye chillies or chilli flakes on the side.
Please do let us know if make this Indonesian egg curry recipe for telur petis in the comments below as we’d love to know how the dish turned out for you.