Sumatran lamb korma with Indonesian lace pancakes

Sumatra, on the west of the Indonesian archipelago, is where Islamic Indian and Arab spice seekers most clearly left their mark. Islam first took root here before spreading across the country, interweaving with and taking over from other religions. The traders also left a taste for complex spicing. This dish shares its name with the Indian korma that influenced it, but the addition of lemongrass and coconut milk roots it firmly to its Sumatran home. Golden pancakes with a swirled lacy texture are the traditional accompaniment, perfect for dipping and scooping as the sauce clings in the gaps.

Fire Islands by Eleanor Ford (Murdoch Books, £25). Photography by Kristin Perers

Lamb Korma Ingredients Serves: 4

  • 650 g (1lb 7 oz) boneless leg of lamb, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stick, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cracked nutmeg
  • 4 green cardamom, lightly cracked
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 curry leaves
  • 300 g (10½ oz) new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 150 ml (generous ½ cup) full-fat coconut milk 

Golden Lace Pancake Ingredients

  • 200 g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (seeds from 4 pods, ground)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 300 ml milk
  • ghee or oil, for brushing


  1. To make the korma, season the lamb with salt and heat the ghee in a large casserole pan over a high heat. Brown the lamb, in batches if necessary, until it has a good golden crust. Remove to a plate, leaving the fat behind in the pan. Add a little more ghee if needed and lower the heat to medium.
  2. Soften the onion over a medium heat, scraping up any sticky bits of lamb from the pan. Add the garlic, lemongrass, ginger and chilli and cook for a   few minutes so the aroma hits you. Stir in all the spices and cook for another minute or two. Return the lamb to the pan along with any gathered juices and the potatoes. Add 400 ml (1½ cups) water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a bubble, then cover and turn the heat down to a whisper. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lamb is tender.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. The sauce should be rich and slightly reduced, but lots is needed for scooping. Season.
  4. To make the pancakes, whisk the flour in a bowl with the turmeric, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre for the eggs and milk and whisk to a thin batter. Add 100 ml (scant ½ cup) water, or enough so it drizzles easily from the whisk.
  5. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat and brush with a little ghee or  oil. You need to create a lacy net in the pan. The easiest way is with a squeezy bottle. Another method is to dip your hand into the bowl, then swirl it over the pan in a continuous figure of eight pattern so the batter drips off your fingers. It takes a bit of practice, but is rather satisfying. You could also pierce holes in the bottom of a paper cup, fill with the batter and swirl over the pan. This is similar to the special roti jala cup sold for this purpose.
  6. Cook until just set and golden on the base, turn and cook briefly on the other side. Fold in quarters and set aside whilst you make the rest. Serve alongside the lamb korma.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

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