Indonesian Spicy Green Beans (Sambal Goreng Buncis/Sambalboontjes)

Indonesian cuisine is very popular in the Netherlands, which is not surprising due to its deliciousness and our shared history. One of the best known side dishes is stewed spicy green beans (or long beans), often referred to as sambalboontjes. Indonesian cuisine has been influenced by the Dutch. The Indonesian word “buncis” has actually been borrowed from the Dutch “boontjes”. I thought it would be more authentic using long beans so I used those for this post, but I actually like this better with regular green beans (aka French beans). There are many variations of this dish. The main ingredients are green beans, sambal oelek (where the sambal oelek can be replaced with fresh red chili pepper and salt, which is what it is made of), and coconut milk.  I really liked this version, which was inspired by many different recipes I found online. Other recipes also include tomatoes, lime leaf, turmeric, nutmeg, ginger, kecap, and even bell pepper.  I served it as a side dish to rendang and it was delicious. I will make this again for sure, but using regular green beans. Here’s what I did…



For 4 servings as a side

600 grams (1.3 lbs) green beans

4 cloves garlic (or 1 big one), sliced

1/2 tsp trassi (Indonesian fermented shrimp powder)

2 shallots, sliced

1 Tbsp sliced galangal

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 lemon grass, sliced (only the part with a purple ring)

1 tsp palm sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground coriander

1-4 fresh red chili peppers (1 for mild, 2 for medium, 3 for hot, 4 for extra hot), sliced

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

200 ml (5/6 cup) coconut milk

2 salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaf, substitute with regular bay leaf)


Combine the garlic, trassi, shallots, galangal, tamarind, lemon grass, palm sugar, salt, coriander, and chili peppers in the blender.

Process to obtain a fine paste. Add some vegetable oil if needed to get things going.

Cut the beans into pieces of about 5 cm (2″).

Heat the oil in frying pan and add the spice paste.

Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the spice paste is starting to get dry, 2-3 minutes.

Add the beans.

Stir-fry the beans until covered with the spice paste.

Add the coconut milk.

Bring to a boil. Add the salam leaves.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring now and then.

Cook until the beans are tender but still have some bite to them. The cooking time depends on the type and thickness of the beans, usually between 10 and 20 minutes. Remove the salam leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Serve as a side dish or as part of a rijsttafel (and Indonesian tasting menu that is served all at once and actually is a Dutch invention).


Pasta with peas and tomato is a quick and tasty vegetarian pasta dish that you can make from simple ingredients that you  can always have on hand (dried pasta, frozen peas, canned tomatoes, parmigiano cheese).


16 thoughts on “Indonesian Spicy Green Beans (Sambal Goreng Buncis/Sambalboontjes)

    1. Richard, you will both love love love this, I assure you. Indonesia and Thailand are close so there certainly are similarities. In fact my version may be more Thai than many other versions as I’ve been influenced by Miranti. For instance, an Indonesian version may be more likely to include ginger rather than galangal, and onion rather than shallot (although all of these are used in Indonesian recipes). But I haven’t been to either country so this is just a guess.


  1. Thanks Stefan! Am about to make lunch and this will act as a side dish very well indeed. Has a few ‘extras’ my usual recipe does not. Have not seen trassi in a powder form here: use a paste which is available at all supermarkets: well, we are close to Indonesia 🙂 !


    1. It is of course also similar to Thai shrimp paste. Here it is best known in powder form, and I am not sure how to ‘convert’ the amount. Just don’t use too much, as it is quite potent…


  2. Funny how we both got inspired by the Indonesian/Dutch food culture this week. Lovely recipe you created! I have never tried long beans, what are they like? More tender? more firm? sweeter?


    1. You know what they say about great minds 😉 The difference with regular haricots verts depends on the thickness and freshness of the haricots verts. The long beans are imported from far away and less fresh, and usually less tender and less ‘snappy’.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never seen such long green beans. Why would Dutch green beans be so long compared to the British kind. I think its because we Brits like our veg all regular and the same looking. You’ll never find a misshapen red pepper in a UK supermarket.


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