Norman Musa’s Javanese Lamb Curry

This bright and colourful Javanese lamb curry recipe is from from Norman Musa’s Bowlful cookbook. He adapted it from Tongseng, a well-known Javanese dish but his version uses pointed cabbage as the sweetest and mildest type, and also ups the amount of cabbage used, providing a healthy balance of protein to vegetables.  Freshness from the tomatoes and cabbage makes this an unusually light and refreshing curry dish.

Javanese Lamb Curry

Read our in-depth review of Bowlful by Norman Musa.

Javanese Lamb Curry

I adapted this dish from the famous Javanese dish known as Tongseng. I chose a pointed cabbage as it is sweeter and milder than other types and goes well with lamb. I added more than is used in the traditional dish to give good balance of protein and vegetables, and also to provide a nice crunch. Alternatively, you can use Savoy or round cabbage. The paste can be prepared in advance and refrigerated; it will keep fresh and fragrant in the fridge for at least 3 days.
Servings 4 people
Author Norman Musa


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp palm sugar or soft dark brown sugar
  • 600 g (1lb 5oz) leg of lamb, cut into large chunks
  • 100 ml (3½fl oz / scant ½ cup) coconut milk
  • 200 g (7oz) pointed cabbage, cut into thick pieces
  • 4 firm tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 spring onions, cut into pieces 2.5cm (1 in) long
  • 4 makrut lime leaves, ribs removed and thinly sliced
  • jasmine rice, to serve

For the paste

  • 2 banana shallots, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2.5 cm/1in ginger
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, trimmed
  • 3 red chillies, deseeded
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg


Instead of pointed cabbage, you can use Savoy or round cabbage.
The paste can be prepared in advance and refrigerated; it will keep fresh and fragrant in the fridge for at least 3 days.


  • Blitz together the paste ingredients with 2 tablespoons of water using a handheld stick blender or food processor until fine and smooth.
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat and fry the bay leaves for 30 seconds, then stir in the paste and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Next, stir in the soy sauce, salt and sugar, stir well and then add the lamb. Stir to coat the lamb and then add 200ml (7fl oz / scant 1 cup) of water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lamb is tender.
  • Add the coconut milk, stir well and then add the cabbage, tomatoes, spring onions and kaffir lime leaves. Continue to cook for 3 minutes until softened.
  • Turn off the heat and transfer to a large serving bowl. Serve with jasmine rice.

As with many of the recipes in Bowlful, this delicious Javanese lamb curry is quick to make, so it’s ideal for a midweek meal when you’re short on time but looking for lots of flavour.

Javanese Lamb Curry (homecooked) Javanese Lamb Curry (homecooked)

Made the recipe? Leave a comment below to let us know how you got on!

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This recipe extract from Bowlful: Fresh and vibrant dishes from Southeast Asia by Norman Musa is reproduced with permission from publishers Pavilion. Book photography by Luke J Albert. Home photography by Kavita Favelle.

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