Ketjap Manis is a totally slept on condiment that’ll change your fried rice, dip and marinade game for the better. Also spelt “Kecap Manis” (it’s the same product, this is just the original spelling rather than the Dutch one), and it’s a salty, sweet, umami-filled sauce that’s commonly used in Indonesian cooking.
While some people might confuse it for soy sauce or tamari, it’s definitely not the same thing, and comes with loads of complexity, spice notes and a sweetness that really sets it apart from its salty relatives.
What is Ketjap Manis?
Ketjap Manis is an Indonesian sauce that’s similar to soy sauce but sweeter in taste with a more syrupy, molasses-like texture than its Chinese cousin. This taste and texture is achieved by adding palm sugar and loads of tasty spices.
The sauce is made from a fermented paste of black soybeans and roasted grains that’s similar to the method of making soy sauce, but Ketjap Manis differs in its use of palm sugar or jaggery (an unrefined sugar product commonly eaten in India, Southeast Asia and Africa). It’s these ingredients that give Ketjap Manis its signature sweetness, and the contents of palm sugar or jaggery in the sauce can be up to 50%!
It’s also different from soy sauce because it’s got a load of lovely spices, including star anise, cinnamon, coriander and cloves.
Good news for those with dietary requirements! It’s usually vegan, gluten and dairy-free, but you’ll need to check the bottle as different producers will vary the ingredients they use to make the umami sauce.
How do you use Ketjap Manis?
Typically, Ketjap Manis is used in Indonesian cooking alongside fish sauce and regular soy sauce to create the cuisine’s signature aromas and flavours. It’s also used to make satay, the gorgeous peanutty sauce that often accompanies charred chicken skewers. It’s famously a key ingredient in Indonesian dishes like Nasi Goreng, a sweet and salty fried rice, and Babi Kecap, a spicy, saucy pork belly dish.
It’s also great tossed with noodles or rice, vegetables and strips of omelette for a fried rice dish, as a drizzle over finished Indonesian-inspired dishes, or as a dipping sauce for dumplings, spring rolls, summer rolls or other snacks mixed with shallots or spring onions and chillies.
How do you make Ketjap Manis?
It’s probably better to leave it to the pros for making Ketjap Manis, but you can make a version of the sauce by reducing ingredients like soy sauce, vinegar, spices and palm sugar in a pan until thick and syrupy.
Where can you buy Ketjap Manis?
What does Ketjap Manis mean in English?
You might have noticed that “Ketjap” sounds quite similar to “Ketchup.” There’s some truth in this, because Ketjap Manis is as widely used in Indonesian cuisine as Ketchup is in Western or American cuisine. But essentially “Ketjap” or “Kecap” as it’s also spelled, means fermented sauce and “Manis” means sweet.
What can I use instead of Ketjap Manis?
Although Ketjap Manis is a unique condiment that can’t really be replicated, especially if you’re making Indonesian dishes that require it, you can definitely make some alternatives in a pinch. Regular soy sauce and sugar mixed together will create a similar effect, or you could even use hoisin or oyster sauce to get that spicy sweetness that’s so special about Ketjap Manis.