A plate of chicken gulai.
TypeCurry or stew
Place of originIndonesia[1][2][3][4][5]
Region or stateSumatra[5]
Associated cuisineIndonesia,[1] Malaysia,[6][7] Singapore, Brunei, and Southern Thailand
Serving temperatureHot and room temperature
Main ingredientsGround bumbu spice mixture; including turmeric, coriander, black pepper, galangal, ginger, chilli pepper, shallot, garlic, fennel, lemongrass, cinnamon, caraway, cooked in coconut milk

Gulai is a class of spicy and rich stew commonly found in the Malay Archipelago (Indonesia,[4] Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei). The main ingredients of the dish are usually poultry, goat meat, beef, mutton, various kinds of offal, fish, and seafood, as well as vegetables such as cassava leaves, unripe jackfruit, and banana stem.

Gulai is often described as Indonesian curry,[8][2][9][10] although it is also considered a local dish in Malaysia and Singapore. Gulai is a common name to refer to curry dishes in the country,[1] although Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisine also recognise kari (curry). In Javanese-Surinamese cuisine, it is known as guleh.[11]



From Malay Gulai. Probably from Tamil குழை (kuḻai, “to become soft, well cooked”).[12]


Cooking gulai in a kawah, a large vessel akin to a wok.

The gulai sauces commonly have a thick consistency with a yellowish colour because of the addition of ground turmeric. Gulai sauce ingredients consist of rich spices such as turmeric, coriander, black pepper, galangal, ginger, chilli pepper, shallot, garlic, fennel, lemongrass, cinnamon, and caraway, ground into paste and cooked in coconut milk with the main ingredients.[4][13] In Malaysia, kerisik is also added to thicken the gravy.[14]

Gulai recipes and ingredients are slightly different across the archipelago. For example, the colour of gulai in Java is mostly light yellow, while in Sumatra, it has a more reddish tone. In Palembang, the gulai is composed of ingredients such as garlic, shallot, turmeric, turmeric leaf, and pineapple. In the Minangkabau lands of West Sumatra, the ruku-ruku leaf (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a must-use ingredient, while in its Javanese counterpart, the coriander is preferred. Another difference is that tamarind is often added in Javanese gulai called gule, giving it a slightly sourer taste than other versions of gulai.[15]


Various types of gulai offered in nasi kapau food stall in Agam Regency. Gulai is very prevalent in Minangkabau cuisine of West Sumatra, Indonesia.

Gulai originated on the island of Sumatra,[1] Indonesia and is thought to be a local adaptation of Indian curry, having developed and derived from Indian influence on Southeast Asia. The dish is widely served in the Malay Archipelago, especially in Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Java and Borneo. The thick and yellowish gulai sauce is one of the most common sauces found in Minangkabau cuisine, used to give a rich and spicy taste to meats, fish, and vegetables. Gulai is often described as succulent and spicy, yet subtly combining flavours of different spices into one suave and smooth taste which makes it difficult to figure out the individual spices used.[16]

The ingredients are simmered and slowly cooked in coconut milk, a mixture of spices and chili pepper. The thick golden, yellowish, succulent and spicy gulai sauce has become a hallmark that can be seen on window displays of restaurant establishments in Padang, Indonesia. In Padang, smart cooking means being capable of preparing gulai. Rendang (beef simmered in coconut milk and spices), asam padeh (sour and spicy stew) and kalio (watery and light-coloured gravy) are often considered as variations of Padang gulai.[17]

In Malaysia, asam pedas, a popular Malay sour fish soup is sometimes called gulai tumis. In the states of Perak and Pahang, gulai tempoyak, a local specialty is commonly served as a daily meal and a meal for festive celebrations such as Hari Raya and wedding ceremonies.[7] Negeri Sembilan is well known nationwide for its spicy dishes. Masak lemak cili api, a type of gulai made with coconut milk spiced with turmeric and bird's eye chili, is described as the hallmark of Negeri Sembilanese cuisine. In some restaurants, roti canai (which is usually served with curry) might also be served with gulai.

The gulai sauce found in Minangkabau, Acehnese, and Malay cuisine usually has a thicker consistency than the gulai sauce found in Java which is thinner, served in soup-like dishes containing pieces of mutton, beef or offal.[4][3] Gulai is usually served with steamed rice.



Gulai recipes can be found in various cooking traditions across the Indonesian Archipelago; such as Minangkabau, Malay, Acehnese and Javanese cuisine. However, gulai recipes show exceptional diversity in West Sumatra.[18] Some variations of gulai include:


See also



  1. ^ a b c d "40 Indonesian foods we can't live without". CNN. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b Hunt, Kristin (16 March 2014). "A beginner's guide to the curries of the world". Thrillist. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Gulai" (in Indonesian). Tribunnewswiki. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Sejarah Asal Mula Masakan Bersantan" (in Indonesian). Republika. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Sejarah dan Jenis-jenis Gulai yang Khas di Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Kumparan. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  6. ^ Raji, Mohd Nazri Abdul; Ab Karim, Shahrim; Ishak, Farah Adibah Che; Arshad, Mohd Mursyid (2017). "Past and present practices of the Malay food heritage and culture in Malaysia". Journal of Ethnic Foods. 4 (4): 221–231. doi:10.1016/j.jef.2017.11.001.
  7. ^ a b [bare URL PDF]
  8. ^ "Gulai, Traditional Stew From Sumatra". Taste Atlas. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  9. ^ Lilly T. Erwin. "Aroma Rasa Kuliner Indonesia: Sajian Gulai (Indonesian Culinary: Gulai (Curry))". Gramedia International. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Padang-Style Chicken Curry (Gulai Ayam)". SAVEUR. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  11. ^ Maryansetro (18 February 2018). "The taste of Guleh an ancestors recipe". Steemit. Retrieved 24 March 2024.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Resep Gulai Ayam" (in Indonesian). Resep Masakan Indonesia. Archived from the original on 21 June 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  14. ^ "Resipi Gulai Ayam Sedap, Mesti Naik Selera". 4 December 2019.
  15. ^ Pertiwi, Ni Luh Made (17 May 2017). "Apa Bedanya Gulai Jawa dengan Gulai Sumatera?". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  16. ^ Tan, Christopher (24 February 2014). "Spice World". SAVEUR. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  17. ^ Donny Syofyan (24 November 2013). "By the way ... I just can't live without Padang food". The Jakarta Post.
  18. ^ "Mengapa Makanan Khas Minangkabau Banyak Menggunakan Santan?". kumparan (in Indonesian). Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  19. ^ "Resepi Gulai Telur Itik" (in Malay). MyResipi. Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  20. ^ "Gulai Kambing" (in Indonesian). 17 August 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  21. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  22. ^ Kompas Cyber Media (24 May 2016). "Gulai Gajebo, "Makanan Surga" dari Ranah Minang". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Gourmet or Garbage?". My Cooking Without Borders. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Gulai Banak, Perpaduan Otak Sapi yang Gurih dan Lembut Dengan Kuah Kental Berbumbu". 8 November 2017.
  25. ^ Kompas Cyber Media (19 October 2009). "Gulai Kepala Ikan". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  26. ^ "Kedahan home cook Azah Johari starts YouTube channel to revive traditional Malay recipes (VIDEO) | Life | Malay Mail". 26 August 2020.
  27. ^ "Gulai Tumis (Tamarind Fish Curry)". 26 April 2010.
  28. ^ "#JOM GO: A taste of kampung life | New Straits Times". 28 August 2019.
  29. ^ "Gulai Nangka (Indonesian Unripe Jackfruit Curry)". Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  30. ^ Setiawati, Odilia Winneke. "Resep Sahur : Gulai Daun Singkong Tumbuk". detikfood (in Indonesian). Retrieved 23 July 2018.