INDONESIAN RECIPES Part 3 – Martabak (Padang Stuffed Pastry)

ImageI’m sure most cultures have their equivalent of the late night kebab crave that many people experience. I have to say, I’m not one of the many in this regard. I can put hand on heart and say I’ve never had a takeaway pitta pocket of mystery meat, chili and raw onion after a night out. Something about the smell of it on some of my less-than-wise romantic choices put me off forever. But after a night out in Seminyak in the south of Bali or even an evening drinking draft Bintang at the dive bar Naughty Nuris’ Warung in Ubud,  I crave a mouthful from the Bali equivalent of the kebab van – the late night Padang stalls that line far end of the Ubud’s main drag. The Balinese believe that midnight is when the bad spirits wander around, so they almost all try to be tucked up in their communal beds by the time to clock strikes 12. The more commercially minded Javanese merchants hold no such fear, so stay open until late in the night. A welcome sight after the 45 minute journey up from the coast.

Padang is the food of the Minangkabau people of Western Sumatra and you can find it all over SE Asia. It’s a saucy cuisine rich in coconut milk and chills. It’s also Muslim so most meat sources are either beef or buffalo, goat or chicken. The food is sold like a French traiteur, pre-made and piled high. The unrefrigerated windows of the padang shops can look a little on the risky side in daylight, but after a skinful, let’s face it, we’ll try just about anything. Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself there.Image

Sumatra is also the island of birth for Sri Owen and it is her recipe that I have adapted. I hope she doesn’t mind but I’ve tried to ape a version of Martabak that’s served in one of my favourite Ubud restaurants, Batan Waru. It’s a more eggy and herby version and where Sri uses Wonton pastry and makes little martabak which she fries in oil, I like a big wedge so use spring roll pastry and bake it in the oven. If you can’t get spring roll pastry, filo would do at a push.

My acar (pr. Achar) is a fresh pickle you can make a couple of hours ahead. It cuts through the richness of the pastry and meat but really isn’t a traditional addition at all. I just like it. It’s a variation on a recipe I learnt on my very first trip to Bali from Aussie chef Jonathan Heath at Alila Manggis. I’d happily leave it on the table to have with the rendang I’m going to blog next.




  • 200g minced beef or buffalo (Laverstoke Park do it)
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil and more for basting
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5cm of lemongrass, outer layers removed and finely chopped
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 6 sheets of spring roll pastry

For the Acar

  • 1 small shallot
  • 3 cm, of cucumber, seeds removed
  • a little chopped pineapple or mango
  • 1 small chill, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp nam pla
  • juice of one lime


  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok and add the onions to soften for a few minutes.
  2. Next add the ginger and garlic and allow the aromas to develop.
  3. Add the spices and lemongrass and cook for a minute before adding the beef and cook stirring regluarly for about 7-8 minutes. You’ll be cooking this again in the oven so don’t over cook the beef or it will go grainy and dry.
  4. Set this mixture aside to cool.
  5. When you’re ready to cook the martabak, preheat the oven to 200C.
  6. Brush a 18cm tart ring or small frying pan with some peanut oil, and layer up 3 sheets of the pastry draping the excess over the side.
  7. Beat the eggs and mix through the beef mixture with the spring onions and salt. Pour into the pastry and pull in the excess pastry. Top with the remaining three layers of pastry, pushing the edges in neatly.
  8. Place in the oven for 25 minutes and turn out 15 minutes before serving, cut into wedges with the acar.
  9. To make the acar, finely slice the cucumber, carrot and shallot on a mandolin if you have one.
  10. Add all the fruit and vegetable ingredients to a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
  11. In a jug, mix the liquid ingredients with the sugar and allow to dissolve.
  12. Pour over the fruit and veg and allow to marinate for at least an hour.