Sunday, April 19, 2015


This has been a great week. I went to the library’s Half Price Day for their book sale and filled a huge grocery sack for only $5.65! I got my husband a manual on Kawasaki motorcycles, a GRE study guide for me, and I picked up a few books for the kids. And of course, I also found eight classics to add to my collection. The problem with owning hundreds and hundreds of books is that sometimes I forget which ones I already own!

So, although I’d love to just sit and stare at all my books (even though I’m supposed to start putting some of them in boxes since we’re supposed to be moving toward the end of the summer, I hope), I know I have something just as good waiting for me: Indonesian food. From the land of coffee (in fact, the island of Java has become another name for coffee itself), their cuisine takes in many of the flavors of Southeast Asia. Many of the recipes I found have a ton of ingredients but with only a few steps to make them. 

This is the bees knees.
Today, I started with Indonesian Potato Bread.  First I began by peeling and shredding a potato, then cooking it for about ten minutes in just enough water to cover it.  Once it’s done, I drained the water off and cooled it. In the same bowl with my cooled shredded potato, I poured in some orange juice concentrate, water, orange marmalade, oil, and an egg. In a separate bowl, I added in my dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Once I mixed those together, I poured in my liquids and stirred it all together.  The recipe called to pour the batter into mini-loaf pans, but I used a regular one instead, so it took a little longer than indicated on the recipe. It took almost 50 minutes, and even at that, it probably needed to be in a little longer. The crumb was still a little mushy in places, although it may have been the marmalade.  However, the taste was phenomenal. I think it’ll go great with my Sumatra blend coffee in the morning.  

My husband thought this was the best part.
Next, I made Cap Cai.  I heating up some vegetable oil in a pan, stirring in garlic and onion when it was hot. Then I added in the shrimp, bok choy (I bought baby bok choy because it was so cute), chopped broccoli (and I left out the cauliflower because no one in my family actually cares for cauliflower), carrots, and green onions. After pouring in some water, I covered it and left it cook for about ten minutes.  I bought my shrimp already cooked, so really it was just allowing it to heat up sufficiently.  Then in a smaller bowl, I dissolved some cornstarch into the fish sauce, then poured it onto the pan with the vegetables and shrimp, along with some sugar, salt, and pepper and stir it so that everything is coated evenly. (It also called for oyster sauce, and I bought some, but I didn’t realize it has MSG in it, so now I have to figure out a way to get rid of it.) This dish was good, but a little salty, and the fish sauce definitely gave it a fishy flavor; perhaps I should’ve used a little less.

This is comfort wrapped up in noodles and shrimp.
I love noodle dishes, and I always have. Noodles are so comforting. Anyone who doesn’t like noodles is a little bit shady and should probably be put on the no-fly list. When I came across this recipe for Mie Goreng (there are about 500 versions out there), I knew it was the one. The first thing I did was cook ramen noodles and then set them aside (I purchased the cheap kind that are popular on college campuses. However, I threw out the MSG-laden “flavor” packets.) I don’t have a wok, so I used a skillet to heat my oil, throwing in garlic, crushed red pepper, scallions, and cabbage when it was hot. (Word of caution: I didn’t purchase a Savoy cabbage just for a little bit that was needed. I did, however, use some Salvadoran curtido that I already had. The flavor is probably not the same, but it’s generally the same stuff, right? Kinda?). Then I added in my shrimp and the eggs. When it had cooked for a few minutes, I threw in the rest of the ingredients: sriracha (in lieu of sambal oelek, a another type of chili sauce), soy sauce, salt, pepper, and fried onions (in lieu of fried shallots). Again, this recipe called for oyster sauce as well. Once this was all mixed together, I threw in my noodles and tossed everything so that the noodles were completely covered. The flavor was more subtle than I thought, and a lot of my noodles stuck together. Actually, I thought it was much better when I mixed the cap cai into the noodles. It’s like they helped each other. 

Oh, clearly chicken satay with peanut sauce represents everything good in the world.
And finally, one of the most iconic street foods from Southeast Asia: chicken satay. I started out making my marinade in a bowl: soy sauce, tomato sauce, sesame oil (in lieu of peanut oil; I used to see it in stores all the time as a kid, now it’s nowhere), garlic, pepper, and cumin. Then I put my chicken cubes into this mixture and coated it, letting it sit in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes while I made the sauce. To make the sauce, I heated the oil and sautéed onion and garlic, then I added in water, peanut butter, soy sauce, and sugar. Once it was well blended, I took it off the heat and added in my lemon juice.  By this time, the chicken was done marinating, and I put it on skewers. I was going to let my husband handle the grilling outside, but today was one of those all-day rains that we get during the spring. So, it wasn’t the best conditions. I used our George Foreman grill instead. Once it was done, we served this with the peanut sauce I just made. Clearly, this was the winner of the evening. It actually prompted a discussion on which sauce we would bathe in. I picked this peanut sauce, my daughter picked queso blanco, and my son picked peppermint pudding. I’m not sure what peppermint pudding is, but I feel the need to make this happen.  

I think this photo sums up Indonesian food: color and flavor.
This was a great meal, and it seems like everywhere I turned, I was coming across articles or programs about Indonesia. I am an avid fan of the show Vice on HBO, and while I was researching India, they had a story about surrogacy mills in India. A couple days ago, they ran a story about how medical researchers are searching the rainforests of Southeast Asia for plants they can use as antibiotics and for cancer research. However, many of these rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia are being burned for the palm oil industry. It always seems that the places in the world that are the richest in natural resources are in the poorest ran areas. These areas are usually notorious for government corruption and unethical environmental treatment of the land. And of course, the local people are often at the short end of the stick when it comes to being compensated for having corporations strip their valuable resources. But outside of that, I would love to have the chance to visit areas like Indonesia. If not just for the food. And the beaches. Maybe one day….

Up next: Iran

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