Is kecap manis vegan? | Indonesian sweet soy sauce
So, is kecap manis vegan? This sweet, dark soy sauce from Indonesia called kecap manis contains stronger flavours than traditional soy sauce and it’s one of my personal favourites when it comes to vegan condiments. Here’s why.
A long, long, long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was dating an awful, awful man. He was an emotional vampire, a narcissist and we broke up in a very confronting and spectacular way. The only (and I mean only) good thing about this horrible ex-boyfriend of mine was that he introduced me to kecap manis, this deep, dark Indonesian sweet soy sauce. In the early throes of our love we ate this vegan sauce in a simple vegan dish in Ubud, Indonesia, which I will share for you.
Is kecap manis vegan?
Are you wondering is kecap manis vegan? Well the great news is that ketjap manis is vegan and is a wonderful accompaniment to vegan cooking. It contains fermented black soybeans, roasted grains, palm sugar and a combination of spices, including star anise, all of which are vegan safe. There are no animal products in most traditional bottles of kecap manis, but always check your local label.
Please note, kecap manis is also spelled ketjap manis or even sometimes spelled ketchup manis (which is just plain incorrect!) so don’t get these confused – they are all the same thing!
I previously wrote about 10 Amazing Vegan Sauces and Vegan Spices & Seasoning and I covered everything from vegan pesto to hummus, as well as kecap manis. When you’re vegan, having an arsenal of delicious spices, sauces and seasonings helps to keep your diet varied and interesting. A “safe” vegan sauce can also be a lifesaver if faced with “just plain steamed veggies” at a restaurant that doesn’t cater properly for vegans. Some vegans even carry a bottle of their favourite vegan sauce in their bag, just in case they are faced with this scenario.
What is kecap manis?
Most of us would be familiar with soy sauce. When I was a little girl, I lived in Bangkok, Thailand, and my favourite thing to eat in the whole world was fluffy white rice with soy sauce. Still to this day, I don’t have many foods I prefer more.
Kecap manis has a stronger flavour than soy sauce. It’s thicker, stickier, more viscous, and you would generally use less of it.
What are the ingredients of kecap manis?
Is kecap manis vegan? Well, you can tell by the ingredients that yes, it hits all the marks of a non-animal product food. It contains:
- fermented black soybean paste
- palm sugar
- roasted grains
- aspergillus wentii (a type of fungus)
- star anise
- black pepper
I previously wrote about whether HP Sauce was vegan and then how to make your own Quorn, which contains mycoprotein (a type of fermented mushroom) which acts similarly to the more natural duxelles (mushrooms) in beef wellington. The aspergillus wentii fungus in kecap manis is similar to this is flavour and texture.
How can I cook with kecap manis?
I will now give you the recipe that I ate in Ubud, Indonesia. For those who have read the very famous book Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is where the protagonist goes to reconnect with her spiritual self (“pray”) and where she meets the man of her dreams, from whom she is now divorced.
Ubud is lush and green, and very spiritual. Many people go there to visit temples, do yoga courses, undergo massages and treatments and to just generally chillout.
While there, the ex-boyfriend too me to a “hole in the wall” establishment where we had one of the best (if not “the” best) vegan meals I ever ate. The warung (like a casual eatery in Indonesia) was just a few palm mats surrounding low tables where you sat on the floor to eat. On every table were a selection of ABC Sauces – like the one in the picture below.
Typically, it seemed that you would get kecap manis, chilli sauce called Sambal Asli, and maybe regular or salty soy sauce as well (if anyone can confirm the 3 or 4 sauces for me, I would be grateful, please head to the comments section) to choose from, and you could flavour your dishes to your liking.
The dish: Kangkung is a type of Indonesian water spinach. It has a delicate flavour, and cooks very quickly, just needing a blanch in boiling water. Use 4 large handfuls, chopped.
- In a pan, heat up 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Stir in 1 clove crushed garlic
- Add roughly chopped kangkung, strir through until wilted
- Remove from pan and squeeze with fresh lemon
- Sprinkle with shaved fresh coconut
- Serve over white rice
- Add ketcup manis and chilli to taste!
What are your experiences with ketchap manis and Indonesian cooking? I’d love to learn more about this, so please leave me a message in the comments!