What is Jamu and How to Make Jamu Beras Kencur

Ibu Jamu
Ibu Narti is one of two ‘Ibu Jamu’s’ in my South Jakarta neighbourhood of Kemang. Each morning she prepares her individual tonics, loads up her bike and cycles to our neighbourhood where she mixes remedies for her customers

Jamu is Indonesia’s system of traditional herbal medicine used by many for the prevention and treatment of a variety of ailments. Many recipes for Jamu tonics utilise the flora that is indigenous to tropical Indonesia including roots and rhizomes (eg: ginger, galangal, turmeric), flowers (eg: roselle, cloves and butterfly pea), bark (cinnamon,secang), leaves (eg: kaffir lime, lemongrass), and seeds & fruits (eg: peppercorns). 

Jamu is said to have originated 1300 years ago in the Javanese Royal Courts, and is still practised today throughout Indonesia. Many neighbourhoods in Jakarta have an ‘Ibu Jamu’ – a female Jamu practitioner who prescribes Jamu tonics to her clients, based on existing ailments. Jamu cafes such as Suwe Ora Jamu in Jakarta now sell their own house blend Jamu. This is a great way to try a variety of Jamu, made using fresh ingredients.

Suwe Ora Jamu
Keen to try a variety of Jamu? You must visit Suwe Ora Jamu

Previously we featured our recipe for Jamu Kunyit Asam – a Jamu concoction that uses turmeric, tamarind and palm sugar, and is believed to aid in blood circulation, eliminate toxins and purify the complexion.

Today we return to the ajb kitchen to make another renowned Jamu recipe: Beras Kencur. Unlike Jamu Kunyit Asam, today’s recipe requires a bit of cooking time and uses rice as a key ingredient.


Benefits of Jamu Beras Kencur
Increased appetite
Removal of tiredness and body aches (‘pegal-pegal’)
Easing symptoms of cold and flu
Treating indigestion
Prevent acne
Increasing vitality and stamina (especially for men 😉 )


How to Make your own Jamu Beras Kencur
(6-8 serves)

** Soak rice 3 hours before commencing recipe **

200g rice (I like to use brown rice)
50g kencur (kaempferia galangal) *See below, ‘The Ginger Family’ for more information
30g ginger
20g tumeric
130g palm sugar or coconut sugar
2Tb fresh lime juice
30g tamarind paste
2 pandan leaves (knotted together)
Pinch of salt
1.5 litres+ of fresh water

ingredients for beras kencur
The simple ingredients for today’s recipe. Note: In this photograph, Kencur is inaccurately displayed as Lengkuas (AKA Laos in Indonesia, or Greater Galangal). Infact Kencur is a much smaller rhizome, as shown in the photograph at the bottom of this post.


1. Wash the rice in fresh water then drain.
draining the rice
2.Return rice to bowl and cover with fresh water. Allow to soak for 3 hours before commencing recipe.

3.Peel, wash and chop galangal, ginger and tumeric.

4.Grate palm sugar.

5.Into a blender add soaked rice (drained), galangal, ginger, tumeric, tamarind and palm sugar.

6.Blend until a soft, smooth mixture is formed. Note: At the beginning you will need to add a dash or two of fresh water to allow the mixture to start blending.

7.Pour mixture into a saucepan and add 500ml fresh water as well as knotted pandan leaves, lime juice and salt.

8.Stir constantly until mixture reaches a very light simmer (approx. 5 minutes). This will allow the palm sugar to dissolve and the essential oils in the pandan leaves to be released.** Do not overheat as this will cook the rice.

9.Remove from heat. Discard pandan leaves and add a further 1 litre of water. Stir to combine.

10.Strain mixture either through a muslin cloth or a fine sieve.

making jamu
Use a spoon to move the mixture around, pressing the mixture with the back of the spoon to squeeze out the liquid. This will significantly speed up this step

11.Allow mixture to cool.

12.Transfer into sterilised bottles and refrigerate until ready for consumption.

According to our neighbourhood ‘Ibu Jamu’, start your day with a glass of jamu for best health

Cooks Notes

Most commonly, white rice is used in this recipe, although I definitely prefer to use brown- or red rice to increase the nutrient content of the final product.

Using brown or red rice will yield a thicker Jamu so adjust your Jamu according to your preference – add more fresh water if you prefer a thinner Jamu.

Many recipes for Beras Kencur do not include turmeric as an ingredient. I’ve added turmeric as it imparts a lovely earthy flavour and rich colour (It is also believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties).

Don’t add all the sugar at once – I prefer my Jamu less sweet. Often traditional recipes call for extra sugar so as a general rule, always add half of the prescribed sugar then adjust from there.

Shake bottle before consumption as the heavier rice will fall to the bottom.

Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Once you’ve made your first batch of Beras Kencur, don’t waste the pressings. There is still plenty of goodness in the remaining mixture

Don’t waste the pressings. Once you’ve made your first batch of Beras Kencur, add another 500ml of water to the pressings and stir well. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to steep then strain again, creating a more dilute Jamu (but one that is still tasty!)

About The Ginger Family
The Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae) consists of 1600 known species. In the kitchen most commonly used include Ginger, Galangal, Tumeric and Cardamon.

There exists 4 types of Galangal including:
Kencur (Kaempferia galanga)
Finger Root (Temu Kunci)
Lengkuas (or Greater Galangal)
Lesser Galangal (native to China)
In Indonesia, Kaempferia galanga is known as Kencur and features in today’s recipe.

the ginger family jamu ingredients
From top (clockwise): Lengkuas (Greater galangal), Kunyit (Tumeric), Jahe (Ginger) and Kencur (Kaempheria galaga)


Keen to try Jamu?
Of course, you must make your own! And if you live in Indonesia, you should visit your local neighbourhood ‘Ibu Jamu’. Moreover, in the basement of Pasar Mayestik in South Jakarta is a traditional Jamu shop which has a very strong following from its  loyal customers. Fondly known as “Jamu Ibu Hadi”, this special shop is owned by Hadi’s mother and is so popular that all Jamu stock is normally sold out by 12 noon each day. Liz and I have visited Jamu Ibu Hadi and we recommend the Kunyit Asam.  

Also in Jakarta is the Jamu cafe, Suwe Ora Jamu – which sells an excellent variety of Jamu as well as a selection of traditional snacks like pisang goreng and delicious singkong goreng. Our favourite Suwe Ora Jamu outlet is upstairs in the Komunitas Salihara building, South Jakarta.

In the meantime, we invite you to check out the following posts which celebrate Indonesia’s rich and varied produce.

All about Jamu and How to make your own Jamu Kunyit Asam

Meet Ibu Helianti Hilman of Indigenous Indonesian produce brand, Javara

ajb’s Guide to Tropical Fruits of Indonesia

Words: Jo Stevens     Photography: a Journey Bespoke

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