Underwhelming iceberg lettuce salads, be gone! Asinan is a nourishing bouquet of napa cabbage, crunchy bean sprouts, bird’s eye chilies, cucumber, delicate julienne-cut carrots, and fresh lettuce. It is all mingling together with roasted salted peanuts and some high-voltage tamarind dressing. It’s downright silly how fast and simple this flavor-bomb of a salad is to whip up!
Asinan gets its name from "asin," meaning salty, and "sayur" means vegetables. It traditionally involves preserving veggies or fruits in saltwater (this is called asinan buah today). Modern versions feature veggies with peanuts, tamarind sauce, and sometimes either crispy cracker noodles or fried shallots. The tang of lime juice and tamarind concentrate, combined with the subtle sweetness of palm sugar, coconut sugar, or brown sugar, create a fine-tuned balance that still allows the flavors of the veggies to shine through.
Hailing from Jakarta, formerly known as Betawi, it's often called Asinan Betawi. This is the same reason why Indonesian coconut rice is known as Nasi Uduk Betawi. Like Urap Sayur salad from Bali, this salad makes a great accompaniment to some of the more heavily cooked Indonesian classics like sambal goreng tempeh.
Whether you are a skilled cook, or nearly cut your entire hand off every time you step foot in the kitchen, the step-by-step photographed easy-to-follow instructions are going to help you make your absolute favey new salad. It's probably one of the fastest Indonesian dishes to whip up, with no cooking needed and less than 8 minutes of prep time.
Grab your veggies, and let’s unleash the killer flavors of Asinan Sayur!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: Like all of my recipes, this recipe is 100% plant-based. No shrimp paste or animal products to be found here. It also happens to be completely gluten-free!
🥸 Fool-proof Method: I’ve cracked the code for making the perfect Asinen Jakarta faster and easier than ever. You will confidently be able to make a fantastic salad on your first try!
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Don’t just take my word for it. Just like all of my Indonesian and Malaysian recipes, this one has undergone extensive testing by a pretty giant crew of recipe testers all around the world.
🥬Notable ingredients and substitutions
Napa cabbage, or Sawi Manis as it's known in Indonesia, is much more tender than regular green cabbage. Low in calories and a great source of vitamins A and C, it is a key ingredient in making homemade kimchi, bami goreng, and banh trang tron. If you can't find napa cabbage, very very finely shaved regular green cabbage, savoy cabbage or even shaved Brussels sprouts can be suitable substitutes.
Bird's Eye Chilies
These fiery little chilies, are called Cabe Rawit in Indonesia. They are absolutely essential to dishes like pad wood sen and bihun goreng. Feel free to use more or less of them according to your taste. You can also substitute them with a milder chili variety like serrano peppers or even a dash of crushed red pepper flakes.
Often called Malacca sugar (the Malaysian name), Gula Aren, or Gala Jawa (the Indonesian names), palm sugar is the secret to the salad's subtle sweetness. Nothing works quite as well as palm sugar in desserts like Buber sum sum and klepon where it’s sorta the main attraction. If you can't find palm sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar can work as substitutes.
Indonesian food wouldn't be the same without Asam Jawa, or Tamarind concentrate. It provides unique tartness to balance the flavors. Tamarind concentrate is a concentrated form of tamarind pulp. I like to use it for making homemade tom yum paste, and I also use it in my spicy carrot pickle. If you can't find it, soak tamarind pulp in warm water, then strain it to extract the juice. A little tart cherry juice can serve as an alternative but will be a little more watery.
Tamari, similar to soy sauce, adds depth and umami to the dressing. It's a gluten-free option often used in vegan and gluten-sensitive cooking. If you don't have tamari, regular soy sauce can be a substitute, but it may not be gluten-free. Be sure to check labels if dietary restrictions apply.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
🥗 Toss a perfect Asian Sayur Salad together like a pro
Make this perfectly on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with important tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Prep the Veggies:
Thoroughly wash and prep the veggies. Shred cabbage, wash the sprouts, julienne-cut or shred the carrots, tear the lettuce, and dice the cucumber. Place the veggies all together in a large bowl.
Add Crunch and Spice:
Sprinkle crushed peanuts and minced bird’s eye chilies (adjust to taste). Gently massage veggies with salt.
Prepare the Dressing:
In a separate bowl, whisk together lime juice, tamarind concentrate, palm sugar (or substitutes), grated ginger, minced garlic, tamari, and water until the sugar dissolves.
Fire up a hot or iced glass of bandrek and pair your Asinan Sayur with some Indonesian classics or complementary dishes.
Serve it alongside Sayer Lodeh with Lontong. Asinan Jakarta makes for a nice way to lighten and add freshness to an otherwise heavily cooked meal. Serve the creamy coconut curry (sayur lodeh) over Nasi Kunyit, or Nasi Minyak to soak up the broth.
A lot of people (...me 🙋) are really into noodles with this, and some people even mix them into the salad. consider pairing the salad with Indonesian street food classics like Mie Goreng, Khao Suey, Ketoprak, Mee Rebus, or bami goreng.
🥗 Just because you are eating a salad doesn’t mean you hate dessert right?
For a sweet ending to your meal, smash traditional Indonesian desserts like Kuih Dadar, Bubur Cha Cha, Martabak Manis, or Biji Salak. Vietnamese sweets like Che Ba Mau and Banh Flan work out great here too.
- Prep and Freshness Matter: Start with fresh, crisp vegetables. Properly wash, dry, and slice them to maintain their texture and flavor. No one likes to bite into a bit of sand or dirt, so don’t be lazy about washing!
- Chill for Maximum Flavor: Before dressing, allow the salad to chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving. This that the salad is refreshing and crisp.
- Spice Control: Bird's eye chilies can be extremely spicy (which personally, I love!). Be cautious when handling them, and consider wearing gloves if you have sensitive skin. Adjust the amount of chili according to your spice tolerance to avoid overwhelming heat. If you are a gosh-darned spice freak like, me consider adding some pickled green chilies to the salad, or a tiny bit of shatta sauce to the dressing.
Asinan Sayur is an Indonesian salad with a rich cultural history, particularly popular in Jakarta and West Java. Different versions of it are found as far away as Borneo in Malaysia.
It can be spicy due to the addition of bird's eye chilies. Adjust the chili amount to your preferred spice level.
Yes, you can prepare the salad and dressing separately in advance, then combine them just before serving for the best freshness. When making the salad in advance, I also like to add the salt later on so it doesn't wilt the lettuce.
Absolutely, just make sure to use gluten-free tamari instead of regular soy sauce in the dressing, as I have instructed in the recipe. Also don’t garnish it with noodle crackers and you are all good!
To store Asinan Sayur, store the salad and the dressing separately in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
✌️My faves to serve with this salad:
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Asinan Sayur (Indonesian salad with peanuts and tamarind)
Optional Garnishes (the fun stuff):
- ¼ cup salted peanuts crushed
- ¼ cup fried shallots
- ⅓ cup noodle crackers vegan
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Wash all of the vegetables well. Shred the napa cabbage, wash and dry the bean sprouts, julienne-cut or shred the carrots, tear the lettuce, and dice the cucumber. Set them aside in a large mixing bowl.
- Add crushed roasted peanuts, and minced bird’s eye chilies (to taste) and massage the vegetables with salt.
- In a separate bowl, using the tines of a fork or a small whisk, mix together lime juice, tamarind concentrate, palm sugar (coconut sugar or brown sugar can be substituted), grated ginger, minced garlic tamari, and water. Mix these ingredients well until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Once your dressing is ready, pour it over the prepared vegetables in the mixing bowl. Toss everything gently to ensure that the dressing coats the veggies evenly.
- Garnish with crushed roasted salted peanuts, fried shallots, and fresh cilantro leaves.