Monday, October 29, 2007

Ayam/Pork Buah Keluak

I have seen this special 'buah' which means 'fruit' in malay many a time as a cooking ingredient and have always wondered how it will taste as everyone who have tasted it raved about it. After 62 years, i finally had the opportunity to make this curry when my friend, Agnes, who had just came back from Singapore, gave me a dozen. I had to agree that this Buah Keluak or Indonesian Black Nuts undeniably, ambrosia among Nonya dishes is an acquired taste. The taste is indescribable and has to be eaten to be believed
To the uninitiated, buah keluak is a black nut from Indonesia about the size of a misshapen golf ball. The surface is ridged with a smooth nut 'mouth' across the flattest part. A slit is made in this mouth through which one scrapes out the contents which have been variously described as 'opium' and soft tar'. . Good nuts, when cooked, should be richly black and oily.

To prepare Buah Keluak or Indonesian Black Nuts, wash and scrub throughly until the thin film of dried mud they come in is completely gone. A proper and crucial step in cleaning is desired otherwise the gravy will be not be good eats. Soak in a large pot of water over-night or for at least six hours. An even quicker method is to boil the keluak for 15 minutes, which, I'm told by friends, works just as well. Most recipes will suggest that the contents of the nut be dugged out, to be mashed and mix with egg whites for binding. An addition of ground pork/chicken or prawns can also be added and then this mixture is stuffed back into the nut shells. However, really authentic , according to Agnes, Buah Keluak is cooked with the insides of the nuts and are served neat, in all their bitter glory. The resulting curry is literally black, with a slight orangey sheen of oil that you will either love or hate. To me, it was love, thank you Agnes for giving me the chance to experience the buah keluak's glory. I was also told that if not properly prepared for cooking, the nut is toxic and since all my friends who tasted my dish are still around and kicking, i am glad i did not kill anyone.


30 buah keluak(i had only a dozen that's why my gravy is not black
3 lbs chicken pieces
1 1/4 lb pork ribs - cut into bite size
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
12 ozs garam assam paste (recipe is at bottom of page)
3 ozs tamarind saked in 6 fl ozs water, squeeze an strain
1 - 11/2 tsp salt
32 fl oz water

Soak nuts in cold water for at least 6 hrs or overnight.
Brush nuts t remove mud and sandy particles.
Crack where nut is smooth.
Marinate chicken pieces with 1 tsp salt and pepper for 1/2 hr.
Heat wok with a tsp of oil and brown chicken pieces.
Remove chicken pieces and add in more oil. Add in the garam assam paste and saute until fragrant.
Add the tamarind juice and bring contents to the boil.
Add in the pork ribs and saute well. When contents come to a boil ,reduce the heat to medium, cook the pork ribs for 1/2 hr covered.
Add the nuts and the browned chicken pieces. Continue to cook for another 1/2 hr, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked and pork ribs are fork tender.
Serve with white rice.

3 ozs sliced galangal
3 ozs sliced lemon grass
2 -3 ozs candlenut/buah keras
4 ozs shrimp paste/belacan
6 ozs fresh red chillies

12 ozs shallots
1/4 - 1/2 oz tumeric powder
1/4 oz chilly powder or 10 - 16 dried chillies, cut into small pieces, soaked in hot water until soft, drained(add this to A)
6 fl ozs cooking oil for frying

In the food processor, grind A into a fine paste, then add in the rest of the ingredients. Blend well.
If using the blender, put all the ingredients in including the oil and blend to very fine.
Pour blended ingredients into a microwable bowl and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stir and continue to cook on high until oil surfaces and paste is fragrant and almost dry.
Paste is ready for cooking but it has to be completely cooled before packing in airtight freezer containers.



Rina said...

Another nv recipe!!

emyln said...

FYI, its my fave dish when I go back to Singapore.

One thing about your recipe, you should scoop out the insides of the fruit, and mash it with minced pork, not too much. (Enough so there is visibly more Buah Keluak than pork. Season it and then stuff it back into the shell.

This is the main reason why your soup was not black at all. Mashing up the Buah Keluak releases the flavor into the entire soup and makes the taste sooo much better :)

emyln said...

PS. Another reason why most recipes today scoop out the flesh of the fruit is because Buah Keluak is hard to find now a days. And getting a huge quantity is expensive, about 50 cents to a dollar per nut.

Oh and the aroma! That wonderful Buah Keluak aroma! I'm drooling...

Unknown said...


the next time if i get some buah keluak, i will certainly try to dig the nut out. then i will know what's the difference

Anonymous said...

hey lily.the oven u used to cook the roast pork belly,is it a microwave oven?

Unknown said...


my sharp microwave oven has the top and bottom grill function.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your lovely recipes, Lily!

As S'porean, I was pleasantly surprised to read a few comments besides yours, that the nuts you used were from S'pore : ) esp cos I'd look for them when I'm in Melaka!

If you do come here, you'll be spoilt for choice at the Pasir Panjang Veg & Fruits Wholesale Market; $5 - $6 per bag of almost 24 or 25 cents each. Not all wet markets sell them.

Also, I'd always dig the 'flesh' out because some of them may be smelly (wet), mouldy or unripe (white, hard flesh which makes it toxic). Depending on where you buy the nuts from, of course.

Thanks again for your recipes!

Happy Cooking, everyone!

Unknown said...


i will certainly dig the flesh out when i land myself with some buah keluak

Michelle said...

where can you purchase buah keluak here in the US?

Unknown said...


sorry, have not seen buah keluak in the asian stores here.

Got these few from agnes who brought them back from singapore

Unknown said...

did you get this recipe from the Singapore Cookbook?


yes, this recipe is from the best of singapore cooking.

CC NG said...

Hi, first of all, thanks for sharing, this is good information. I tried to make ayam buah keulak for the first time today and I was surprised that the curry wasn't black. I thought that I should have added the black soy sauce to it or something. Could anyone please share with me how to make it black just like how it is served at Blue Ginger Peranakan restaurant? Thanks!

Unknown said...


as you have read in my text, this is the first time and only time i had the opportunity to cook with buah keluak. My curry was not black too but it was delicious. I think the color of the curry depends on the amount of buah keluaks you use to cook the curry with. I had only 12. Adding a little of dark soya sauce is a good idea. I hope peranakan readers of this thread can help.

CC NG said...

Now that I have finished cooking my first ever Buah Keluak, I would like to share some tips and comments with you guys.
I got all my ingredients from Tekka Center shops and followed the ingredients from this site ( I have to say it was A LOT of work and it took me at least 1.5 hours to do all the prep work with a mortar and pestle.
The only difference was that I added sticks of cinnamon to the curry and also pounded some garlic in the paste as well. While I was waiting for the chiken to simmer, I just made myself some panda and lemongrass tea.
Once the meat is cooked and tender, I switched off the heat and let the curry sit to room temperature.
How would I rate it? I think I would give myself 6/10. While the chicken meat was tender and the curry was tasty, I was a little disappointed that the meat in the buah keluak shell wasn't as creamy as the ones at Blue Ginger restaurant in Tanjong Pargar, it was a little gritty and I think I over stuffed it as the meat was a little hard to scoop out. I also didn't have enough buak keluak shells so I just made some buak keluak rugby balls using the teaspoon and I was actually surprised that the balls didn't fall apart in the heat.
It took a lot of time and effort, I will go out and eat next time but I would do it again when I am in the mood for it! Thanks guys for sharing this wonderful post!

emyln said...

The buah keluak is never black. But if you have alot of buah keluak in the soup, then it will get darker.

And if you like the taste of buah keluak then adding more of it in is even better :)

Some people use 2-3 buah keluak dig it out and stuff it back into 1 shell. Hence the very dark color.

Anonymous said...

I live in the states and I can't find whole keluak nuts in the US at all. The closest thing is peeled (and dried, i think?) buah keluak, as seen here:[3_units].html

does anyone know where to buy whole buah keluak? or failing that, will the above recipe work with the already peeled nuts?

Unknown said...


like i said this is my first time eating these nuts, so sorry i can't help but i hope readers who are more familiar with this nuts can help.

emyln said...

There's no actual reason to have the shell. Its just a convenient way to hold the meat.

In theory if you mash the nut meat with egg and pork to make a ball it should work just as well. Might need to use more egg/pork cos the nut meat is not very malleable.

Worst case is the ball won't hold its shape well and it spills out into the soup (which is it usually does to an extent anyway).

Unknown said...


thanks for the great tip.

Matty said...

my grandma keeps the original nuts for the adults, and digs out some to mix with the mince (to be rolled as bakwan meatballs) for the kids (who usually can't eat bitter nuts whole)..

I cook this dish in Australia, and used the packet (deshelled) keluak meat which you need to handle with care (as there are remnents of shell mixed with the meat).

To make the sauce black/dark colour, mash the keluak meat and mix in after cooking the rempah and before adding the assam water.

I also find that if the taste develops overnight, as my freshly cooked batch doesn't have the "right" taste. hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

20 pieces kluak ? I think too may be 3 or 4 pieces because kluak have a little toxic

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if I could prepare the Buah keluak nut one day in advance (contents of the nut dugged out, pound and stuffing the paste back to the empty nut shells) and keep in the fridge overnight? Thanks

Unknown said...


i hope someone will have the answer for you. btw i managed to buy some shelled buah keluak from the asian stores here.

Adeline said...

I've bought some from KK market. They cost 30cents per nut because the stall holder has selected them and packed them into bags of 50.

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