The Secret Is In The (Sweet) Sauce

Hailing from Indonesia, kecap manis a thick and dark molasses-like sauce with palm sugar and soy sauce as its base and with the addition of aromatic spices for flavour.  The word manis means “sweet” in Indonesian/Malay. The sauce is often referred to as “sweet soy sauce as well as ketjap manis.


What is kecap manis?

Kecap Manis is part bittersweet caramel and part savoury soy sauce and is a central ingredient in many famous Indonesian dishes. It is also used as a dipping sauce or condiment. In fact, many Indonesians are known to drizzle the iconic abc kecap manis over a serving of plain rice!

The method for making it is much like a balsamic vinegar reduction wherein the ingredients are slowly simmered until the sauce naturally thickens into a caramel like consistency.  Palm and coconut sugar are then added to give the sauce its texture and flavour.

Most kecap manis is vegan friendly. Traditionally, kecap manis is not gluten free- one of its ingredients is wheat! Nowadays, gluten free and vegan kecap manis are available.

Feel like you have hit a rut in the kitchen recently? We feel you! Here are some simple, homely kecap manis recipes which has a twist to familiar dishes that we know well.


Indonesian Nasi Goreng

Nasi goreng, which simply means “fried rice” in Bahasa, is arguably the national dish of Indonesia. It is found everywhere, from high-end cafes to simple roadside warung. The key to this dish is the aromatic rempah made from eschallots, garlic, chilli and shrimp paste.

Nasi goreng is one of the best dishes to make if you are planning to clear up your fridge and pantry! It can be as simple as rice fried with the rempah and topped with a fried egg, or you can toss in other ingredients like chicken, prawns or green beans. Indonesian nasi goreng is usually served with a side of prawn crackers, tomatoes and cucumber.


  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp belacan
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 large red chilli, seeds removed
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 10 medium prawns, peeled and butterflied
  • 12 green beans, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 4 cups cooked Jasmine rice, chilled overnight in the fridge
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis


  • prawn crackers
  • sliced cucumber
  • sliced tomato


  1. Combine the garlic, eschallots, belacan and chilli in a small food processor and process to a coarse paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the eggs one at a time until puffy, and browned and crisp around the edges. Set the eggs aside. Remove the oil from the wok, leaving about 2-3 tablespoons for further frying. Return the wok to medium heat.
  3. Add the rempah to the oil and fry, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, or until the oil separates from the paste and is fragrant.
  4. Increase the heat under the wok and add the chicken breast, prawns and beans and toss for a minute or two until the chicken and prawns are barely cooked through.
  5. Add the rice and toss well. Drizzle over the kecap manis and mix until the rice is coated and lightly toasted.
  6. Remove the fried rice to a plate and serve with the prawn crackers, sliced cucumber and tomato. Top with a fried egg and drizzle more kecap manis.

    Babi Kecap

    Aromatic, homely and fragrant, babi kecap is an Indonesian Chinese version of hong shao rou (red cooked pork).While hong shao rou is usually made with sugar, light and dark soy sauces, Chinese cooking wine and spices like star anise and cinnamon. Babi kecap is a simple dish of braised pork belly flavoured simply with its star ingredients, then served over white rice and topped up with fried shallots on top.




    • 1.5kg pork belly
    • 2 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in water for 10 minutes, then minced
    • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
    • 8 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 inch peeled ginger, julienned
    • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 2 cups shitake mushrooms, cut into quarters
    • 3 tbsp fish sauce
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce
    • 6 tbsp kecap manis
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tsp white pepper
    • Oil 




    1. Heat oil in wok before adding garlic and shallot.
    2. Stir until fragrant before adding dried shrimp and ginger.
    3. Add pork belly and cook until evenly brown.
    4. Add mushroom, broth, fish sauce, soy sauce, kecap manis and white pepper.
    5. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
    6. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour until meat is tender and liquid has thickened and reduced.
    7. Sprinkle chopped green onion.
    8. Serve immediately with a side of steamed rice, sliced cucumber and acar (Indonesian pickle, optional).


    Kecap Manis Roast Chicken

    There’s nothing that is more of an instant crowd pleaser than roast chicken, especially one that is such a flavour bomb. The kecap manis marinate caramelises so beautifully on roast chicken skin. This Indonesian kecap manis roast chicken will certainly be a hit at the dinner table during this Sunday’s roast!



    • 1.5kg whole chicken
    • ½ cup kecap manis
    • ⅓ cup coconut milk
    • 6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
    • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
    • 1 green chilli, finely sliced
    • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
    • 1 tbsp lemongrass, finely minced
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 60g palm sugar
    • ½ tsp black pepper
    • ¼ tsp chilli powder 



    1. Butterfly or halve the chicken and make a cut in the thickest part of each leg and breast.
    2. Mix all marinade ingredients together. Pour over chicken and marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or better overnight.
    3. Remove chicken from the fridge and let it sit in room temperature for 30-45 mins before roasting.
    4. Pre-heat oven to 190°C and roast for 40 mins, basting occasionally.
    5. Rest chicken for 10 mins before with steamed rice, lime wedges, salad and sambal. Drizzle kecap manus on the chicken before eating.


    We hope you are inspired by this month’s recipes. If you have tried any of our recipes, please let us know how it went by sharing it with us on Facebook and Instagram!

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