Margarita's International Recipes


Semur Daging Pontianak

Beef in Soy Sauce Pontianak Style

Beef in Soy Sauce Pontianak Style

Semurs are dishes of meats braised in a sauce with sweet soy sauces and spices, and this one comes from a home cook in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan. At first, it seemed sort of plain to me, but after adding some salt it became pretty addictive. I'd make it again.

The sauce needs to be made a day in advance for the flavors to blend in. The original recipe called for a joint of beef to be first boiled in lightly salted water, then sliced, marinated and heated up in the sauce. The cookbook author suggests that you can also use thinly sliced steak, and I went that route for economy's sake. I used tri-tip, because that's what was on sale this week at my usual supermarket, but any cut suitable for thinly slicing should work. Please note that dark soy sauce is non-negotiable for this dish, it's what gives it its distinctive, lightly sweet flavor. You can find dark soy sauce at most Asian markets.

Serve this with rice, boiled potatoes or really, anything that can absorb the tasty sauce.


Beef in Soy Sauce Pontianak Style


  • 6 candlenuts or 12 macademia nuts
  • 1 1" piece cinnamon bark
  • 1 star anise
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • a dash of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp water, divided
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce, divided
  • 4 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • 2 lbs thinly sliced steak
  • salt to taste


Place candlenuts, cinnamon bark, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds in a heavy saute pan and dry fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to an electric grinder or mortal and pestle and grind into a paste. Mix in the nutmeg. Set aside.

Mix 1/2 cup of water with the tamarind concentrate and set aside.

Melt the butter and peanut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 2 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the spice paste, the tamarind water, one cup of water, 1/4 cup dark soy sauce and the light soy sauce and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 4 minutes. Let cool and then refrigerate overnight.

In a large bowl mix 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 Tbsp lime juice and 2 Tbsp water. Add the sliced steak and let marinade for 10 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the sliced steak and cook until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve with rice or boiled potatoes.

Adapted from Mrs Saleh Ali's recipe in Sri Owen's Indonesian Regional Food & Cookery

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