Indonesian Curry Pastes and Sambals: the Uleg in Action

I recently introduced my Indonesian Uleg as part of my April’s IMK post. The Uleg had a great workout over summer and before the season changes and gets too autumnal, requiring more Cucina Italiana, I thought I might show off some of the impressive curry pastes made in this wonderful mortar and pestle. When B and I bought our Ulegs in the market in Cipanas, Java, I was surprised to hear the elderly vendor use the old Hindu word ‘Lingum” for the pestle, especially in a largely Islamic Indonesian region.Image

A lingum is

“Sanskrit for “shaft of light” and is the term for the Hindu god Shiva as represented by a phallus (erect male organ). Usually found in conjunction with the Yoni (‘vulva”) which represents the goddess Shakti – the source of Creative Energy. They co-join to form Bhrama – the Universe. This is the Hindu Trilogy; the representation of the twins of Creation and Destruction as the highest manifestations or aspects of the One (Bhrama).” 1.Image

I must admit that the Indonesian pestle is more phallic than my others and certainly does a very good job.

A very hot sambal makes the perfect side dish for spring rolls and nasi goreng.


The photos above and below are some of the wonderful curry pastes and sambals Barnadi introduced me to this January. As you can see, all sorts of wonderful things get ground in the Uleg, not just spices. After some practice, the combinations become intuitive. Once ground to a paste, magic cooking follows.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage


15 thoughts on “Indonesian Curry Pastes and Sambals: the Uleg in Action”

  1. Great post! I’ve run across lignum stones in my archaeological researches. In the 19th century there was thought to be a link between these and the great henges of western Europe (like Stonehenge) – including the phallic symbolism. Nonsense, of course, but interesting. I like the idea of it being connected to an object in the kitchen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Many Lingum stories and images abound throughout Asia but they are usually connected to a Hindu background. When I used to travel to Indonesia in the 70s, the Hindu past had a stronger connection to the locals. This has changed since Islam has become dominant, so I was surprised to hear the ibu mention this word. Stonehenge and lingum myths? Interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Are those purple cloves of garlic? Gorgeous food & thanks for the history. I will admit I laughed out loud at the following line: “I must admit that the Indonesian pestle is more phallic than my others and certainly does a very good job.” Ha! Thanks for the smile.


  3. All pestles look a bit phallic don’t they. I am glad your enjoyed the smile- I had to be careful not to take take the line further, with references to banging and grinding, which is necessary when using an Uleg.


  4. I have a small mortar and pestle for grinding spices but confess to blitzing all other pastes in a mini processor. I KNOW it better done by hand. I think I have Uleg envy!


  5. There is nothing more delicious than dishes made with homemade/ground pastes and spices. I could almost taste it through the photos… been wanting to make a Beef Rendeng, just waiting for some cooler weather. Inspiring post, thank you.


  6. What beautiful flavours and colours! I looked at a similar mortor and pestle when I was in Bali learning about making curry pastes but didn’t think my luggage could handle the weight!


  7. It all looks wonderful! My friend owns a restaurant in Melbourne and he cooks with an Indonesian base in a lot of his dishes (his boyfriend is Indonesian). Fabulous Fine Foods is the restaurant should check it out one day I think you’ll like it


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