Memories of Indonesian Food

BY Susan Hallett TIMESeptember 3, 2014 PRINT

When I asked an Indonesian friend about cuisine in her home country, I got a rather terse reply: “Rice and peppers.” This comment didn’t give me much of a glimpse into cuisine in Indonesia, a country that has been called “The Archipelago of the Gods.”

However, it seems that Indonesian cuisine’s refined mixture of traditions from Indian, Chinese, and Dutch melting pots offers some rather intriguing surprises. 

Rice is the main food but snacks are served throughout the day, such as egg rolls (also served before a meal with cocktails) and a variety of chips. Shrimp chips are served only with the noon and evening meals. The traditional rice table, so popular in Holland where many Indonesians settled, takes a week to prepare.

Below are several traditional recipes shared by my Indonesian friend;  

Rice Cooked in Coconut Milk
Makes 10 servings 

500 ml (2 cups) rice 
1 litre (4 cups) coconut milk
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

Wash rice and drain. Put coconut milk into a heavy saucepan. Add the rice and the salt and slowly bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Cook until the liquid is the same level as the rice, and then reduce to very low heat. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve. Often served with shredded omelet (below), sliced cucumbers, and whole fried peanuts.

Shredded Omelet

1 egg, beaten 
Pinch of salt

Heat a heavy 15 cm (6-inch) skillet. Brush with oil. Lift pan off the heat and add 1/3 of the egg. Roll the pan so mixture covers the entire surface. Cook over low heat until dry on top. The omelet should not brown. Remove from the pan and roll tightly. Repeat this procedure. When cool, cut in slices about 2.5 mm (1/8 inch) thick.

Pork on Skewers (Sáte)

750 g (1 1/2 lbs) lean pork, boned and cut in 2 cm (3/4-inch) cubes
Salt and pepper 
1 ml (1/4 tsp) each coriander and cumin
1 pinch garlic powder 
50 ml (1/4 cup) soya sauce
50 ml (1/4 cup) cooking sherry or rose wine

Put the meat in a bowl with the other ingredients and marinate for 30 minutes. Place five pieces of meat on each skewer, saving the juice. Grill over a moderate charcoal fire for about 10 minutes, or until the meat is done, turning and basting two or three times. Use a brush to baste the sáte. Serve hot with sáte sauce.

Peanut Butter Sauce (Sambal Sáte)

125 ml (1/2 cup) unroasted skinned peanuts
15 ml (1 tbsp) cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ml (1/4 tsp) grated ginger root 
1/2 red chili pepper, crushed
5 ml (1 tsp) margarine or butter 
500 ml (2 cups) water, divided
Salt to taste
15 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar 
65 ml (5 tbsp) soya sauce

Fry the peanuts in the cooking oil. Cool and grind very fine. Combine garlic, ginger, and red pepper and sauté in the margarine. Mix the ground peanuts with enough water to make a thick paste. Add the sautéed ingredients to the peanut mixture. Add salt, sugar, soya sauce and the rest of the water. Cook for two to three minutes. Keep the sauce hot until ready to serve with the pork.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: 

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