Selamat Malam – an Indonesian evening
One of the countries that fascinate me the most is Indonesia (like much of South East Asia). I am fascinated by the land and the sea, the underwater world, the people, the language and of course, the food.
Last month I was in Flores and Alor for a couple of weeks, enjoying diving in some fairly remote and pristine reefs. We were staying on a liveaboard (the Mandarin Siren, above), which is a blissful way of diving and relaxing. And of course, eating!
We were surprised at the food he was cooking for us three times a day!
Some of the dishes he prepared were very good, and while some like Beef Rendang, I was familiar with, others, like his Sambal, I wasn’t.
I asked him to show me what he did and gave some recipes, so that once home, I could recreate the flavours of Indonesia. Here is my take on what I learned and what I prepared for some friends a couple of days ago.
Before the meal, with a glass of prosecco (Berlusconi had just resigned so I had cause to celebrate!), I fried some Indonesian prawn crackers. It was surely a fun experience as they come out of the packet small and flat, and as soon as they hit the oil, the puff up… once you turn them over, they curls as well, and they cook really fast! But they were good and authentic (after all, bought in Bali).
The main meal was all served at once. I had of course planned Beef Rendang which I have made before (I follow the Indonesian recipe) and ordered Angus feather steak which proved to be perfect, and of great flavor and texture. I made it mild because the other main was a first timer and potentially hot, Black pepper chicken. Black pepper sauce is one of my absolute favourite and for some reason, I had not managed to learn it before, but Andre, our boat cook, gave me his recipe.
Funny enough, he gave me quantities of ingredients but no indication on what to do – making the dish I felt I was on the blind challenge on the British Bake Off!
Yet it turned out absolutely delicious. I rarely blow my own trumpet, but this was really good, and pretty close to the original, the only difference being the colour of the sauce (mine was slightly too red). I used free range chicken, and a mix of legs, thighs and breast, with bones on to add flavor.
Black pepper chicken
I also made a gado gado salad with peanut sauce, unfortunately not being able to add the tempeh which had been on each lunch and dinner while on the boat.
Kim, a very talented under water photographer, is a vegetarian so each meal he would enjoy tempeh one way or the other, and we’d be always picking from his plate! I could not find it in central London and had no time to check out Chinatown.
I prepared boiled eggs, potatoes, baby spinach, peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber but no tofu as I actually did not have time to fry it as the first couple of guests arrived half an hour earlier!
And then of course.. Sambal. How could I not make the hot spicy sauce our Andre prepared every day fresh, for each meal including breakfast! He makes a ‘basic’ version (May of SlowFoodKitchen told me Sambal comes in many varieties) but yet it was fiery. I used Dorset chilies and my my, it was HOT!
We all tried it and appreciated it but… left the bowl nearly full. Rice was served (plain, jasmine rice) and wine continued to flow. I did not venture into Indonesian desserts and served a tropical fruit salad and chocolate. It did take me a while to prepare the whole meal. Seems easy but even the gado gado takes time so allow yourself a few hours, should you wish to try it out.
I write below my interpretation on the Black Pepper sauce, let me know if you make it!
Black Pepper Sauce (serves 4 / 6)
1 soup ladle of tomato ketchup
1 soup ladle of oyster sauce
2 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 white onion, cut into chunks
1kg assorted pieces of free range chicken, some on the bone
I finely chopped the shallots and the garlic and browned them in the olive oil in a large, wok like pan. I then added the oyster sauce and the ketcup and mix everything up. I added the chicken, the black pepper, the salt and the sugar, then added the water to come up about half way to the chicken. I covered and let it cook until the sauce become thicker and uniform. It cooked for about one hour. Half way through the cooking, I added the pepper and the onion chunks.