Three Indonesian recipes from Lara Lee's Coconut and Sambal cookbook

These three recipes — chicken nasi goreng, spiced corn fritters and lamb martabak — are all from from Lara Lee's debut cookbook, which she describes as a love letter to her Indonesian heritage.

By Lara Lee
Published 12 Oct 2020, 08:00 BST
The key to creating a tasty Indonesian meal is balance — of textures, produce and flavours. ...

The key to creating a tasty Indonesian meal is balance — of textures, produce and flavours. A traditional Indonesian meal will feature vegetable, meat and fish dishes prepared in different ways, such as steaming, frying or sautéing. The dish that best sums it up, Lara Lee says, is nasi goreng.

Photograph by Coconut & Sambal

Chicken nasi goreng 

The galangal and white pepper here add a good amount of heat, balanced out by the sweetness of the kecap manis and the saltiness of the soy sauce and fish sauce. The added crunch — from green beans, fried shallots and kerupuk or prawn crackers — ensures this dish hits all the right spots.  

Serves: 2 as a large main, or 4 as a side 
Takes: 45 minutes 


2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small, bite-sized cubes 
white pepper, to taste
3 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
8cm piece of galangal or ginger (about 40g), peeled and woody stem removed, finely chopped
1 small banana shallot or 2 Thai shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
handful of green beans, chopped into small chunks
2 spring onions, chopped into large chunks 
¼ tsp ground turmeric
95g jasmine or basmati rice, cooked and cooled (240g cooked weight) 
2 tbsp kecap manis 
1½ tsp fish sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce

To serve

2 eggs (duck or hen)
1 tbsp fried shallots 
½ long red chilli, thinly sliced
kerupuk or prawn crackers, to serve 


1. Season the chicken with salt and white pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan or wok set over a high heat and fry the chicken until cooked through, about 3 mins. Remove from the pan and set aside. 

2. Add another 1 tbsp of the oil to the pan, then tip in the garlic, galangal (or ginger) and shallots and cook over a medium-high heat until fragrant. Add the green beans, spring onions and turmeric and cook for 1 min. 

3. Add the rice to the pan, breaking up any clumps with a spoon. Ensure everything is well combined and the rice is warmed through. Add the cooked chicken and season with the kecap manis, fish sauce, soy sauce and a large pinch of white pepper, plus extra salt if needed. 

4. To fry the eggs, set a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the final 1 tbsp oil. Once it’s shimmering, crack the eggs directly into the oil. Cook for 2-3 mins until the whites are partially cooked. Tilt the pan and spoon the hot oil over the egg whites until fully cooked. Season with salt.

5. Divide the rice mix between two plates, garnish with the fried shallots and chilli and top with the fried eggs. Serve with the crackers.

Spiced corn fritters. 

Photograph by Coconut & Sambal

Spiced corn fritters

Juicy corn combined with fragrant spices and aromatics creates these delicious fritters.

Makes: 15 large fritters  
Takes: 40 mins 


4 corns on the cob or 350g sweetcorn kernels (canned or frozen)
1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for deep-frying
6cm piece of ginger (about 30g), peeled and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 long red chillies, thinly sliced
2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large spring onions, thinly sliced
5 fresh kaffir lime leaves (optional), stems removed, very thinly sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 eggs, beaten
6 tbsp cornflour
tomato sambal or sriracha chilli sauce, to serve (optional)


1. If using fresh corn, remove the outer husk and threads, then carefully slice down the outside of the cob, as close to the core as possible, to remove the kernels. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and shallots and fry, stirring, for 10 mins. Tip the mixture into a food processor with the spring onions and kaffir lime leaves, if using, and blend to a medium-fine paste. Scrape the paste into a bowl and mix with the corn kernels. Add the coriander, cumin, eggs, 3 pinches of sea salt and a large pinch of black pepper. Stir well to combine, then add the cornflour.

3. Fill a deep saucepan one-third full with oil. Heat the oil to 180C (if you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, check the oil is at the right temperature by dropping in a cube of bread; it should turn golden in 15 seconds). Carefully drop a dessertspoonful of the batter into the hot oil; it should settle into a roughly circular shape. Repeat, without overcrowding the pan, to make 6-8 fritters

4. Fry until golden all over, about 4 mins (test one to ensure it’s cooked through). Transfer the cooked fritters to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain. Repeat until all the mixture is used up, topping up the oil if needed. Serve with sambal or chilli sauce for dipping.

Lamb martabak.

Photograph by Coconut & Sambal

Lamb martabak 

Indonesia’s answer to a Cornish pasty, this martabak is one of my favourite snacks. The traditional version is made with a thin, translucent sheet of oiled homemade dough that’s pan-fried in a cast-iron pan — but for easy entertaining, use spring roll wrappers.

Makes: 30 pieces 
Takes: 30 mins 


30 x 15cm square spring roll wrappers
1 banana or 1 beaten egg, for sealing
coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying
sunflower oil, for deep-frying

For the filling

450g lamb mince
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and finely chopped
8cm piece of ginger (about 40g), peeled and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
½ bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper


1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix well. Heat 1-2 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add the filling mix and cook, stirring, until the lamb is cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. 

2. Line a tray with baking parchment. Place one spring roll wrapper on a chopping board, storing the unused wrappers under a clean tea towel so they don’t dry out. Spread 1-2 tbsp of the filling over one half of the wrapper, leaving a 1cm border. Cut a thick slice of the banana with the skin on and rub the banana flesh over the edges of the wrapper to help seal them (alternatively, brush with beaten egg). Fold the other half of the spring roll wrapper over the filling and press the edges together, then set on the tray. Repeat until all the filling has been used.

3. Fill a deep saucepan one-third full with sunflower oil and heat to 160C (if you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, check the oil is at the right temperature by dropping in a cube of bread; it should turn golden in 25-30 seconds.) Fry the martabak in batches for 2-3 mins until golden, then transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

4. Cut the martabak in half so the filling can be seen, then serve.

Recipes taken from Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee (£26, Bloomsbury). 

Published in Issue 9 (summer 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food

Follow us on social media


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved