A Nod to Indonesia

Last night's sunset was religiously momentous on two accounts; it marked Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as well as the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that includes, among many things, daily fasting.

Although it's a little late in the game to offer up Rosh Hashanah menu ideas, I'm dedicating next Tuesday, Sept. 18, to a forum on breaking the fast, in time for Yom Kippur, which takes place on Friday, Sept. 21. It will be your chance to exchange tips and ideas for Saturday's repast after the 24-hour fast, so mark your calendars.

I had other plans for today's blog space, but immediately scrapped them when I learned of yesterday's seismic rumblings on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which has spawned three earthquakes and a resulting -- albeit small --tsunami. (How the words "small" and "tsunami" can be in the same sentence is beyond me.)

Indonesia isn't just an enormous archipelago with an enormous population (241 million people) it's also where more Muslims (213 million) make their home than any other place in the world.

Admittedly, in the past, I've looked to the Middle East for Ramadan recipe ideas, and a few astute readers have suggested looking beyond those borders, that there's a big wide Muslim world out there, encompassing many cultures, traditions and yes, recipes.

So, in light of recent seismic events that undoubtedly have taken lives and made others homeless, I turned my attention to the cookery of Indonesia, which, with the help of James Oseland's "Cradle of Flavor," has become a recent obsession.

For starters, I focused on rice, which I learned is a symbol of bounty in Indonesia, and fried rice in particular is a breakfast staple. Those fasting could make a pot of rice the previous evening (during the breaking of the fast), plus the spice paste, and quickly assemble this dish in the morning before the fast resumes.

The centerpiece of the spice paste is shrimp paste, a highly odiferous paste made from fermented shrimp, available at Asian groceries. Don't be put off by the stench; a little dab goes a long way and offers the flavor depth and complexity that we always marvel at when dining in pan-Asian restaurants. The other item of note is Indonesian sweet soy sauce, which offers a sweet-salty yin and yang and yes, you can tell the difference. Worth getting a bottle.

Vegetarians, you can still make this dish; try substituting equal amounts of light miso paste or fermented soybean paste, and please let me know how that goes. The fried egg is a really nice touch, but if you omit, the dish is still wonderful.

Omnivores, consider the fried chicken recipe that follows; it's a rather simple marinade of garlic, salt and vinegar. At first, I was overwhelmed by the acrid aroma, but the vinegar is undetectable in the final result, which offers crispy (even without skin) yet tender eating. I'll be doing this one again. Ramadan cooks could make this in advance and reheat, I presume.

With all this food, I called up my pals Karla and Joe, who were able to join us at the last minute. I shared my thesis behind the meal, and as dinner was served, we made a toast to the people of Indonesia.

For the road, a few more Ramadan recipe ideas, and if you've something to add to the pot, by all means, share in the comments area below.

Javanese Fried Rice (Nasi Goreng)

From "Cradle of Flavor" by James Oseland

Ingredients
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste (KOD note: Vegetarians may want to consider light miso paste or fermented soybean paste, also sold as yellow bean paste)
2 shallots (about 1 ½ ounces), coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1-2 fresh long, red chiles, such as Fresno, Cayenne or Holland, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon palm sugar or dark brown sugar (palm sugar made from the sap of the sugar palm, available at Asian groceries)
5 cups cooked Jasmine rice made from about 2 cups rice, chilled in fridge for about 1 hour
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 egg per person
salt to taste
1 ½ tablespoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
4 Kirby cucumbers or 2 small-seeded cucumbers, peeled and quartered or thickly sliced

Method

To make flavoring paste, place shrimp paste in center of a square of aluminum foil. Fold over to make a small parcel and press down with heel of your hand to flatten shrimp paste into a disk. (I can imagine doing this with the miso but am less certain about the soybean paste.)

Turn on a burner to medium-low. Using a pair of tongs, place sealed parcel directly onto the heat source. Toast until paste begins to smoke and release a burning, shrimpy smell, about 1 ½ minutes. With tongs, turn parcel over and toast second side. Turn off heat, allow parcel to cool for a minute. Carefully unwrap foil; edges of disk should be black-brown and toasty and center should be golden with patches. Using a spoon, scrape toasted paste into the bowl of a food processor.

Add shallots, garlic, chiles and sugar. Pulse until you have a smooth paste the consistency of mashed potatoes. You may add up to 2 tablespoons of water if necessary.

In a 12-inch skillet (nonstick if you wish) or wok, heat the 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. When oil is hot - will appear slightly shimmery - crack an egg into pan. Season with a pinch of salt. When white is just beginning to turn brown and crispy around the edges, carefully turn egg over with a spatula. Saute until yolk is set and firm, about 1 minute. Runny eggs are not good for this dish.

Transfer egg to a plate and set aside. Fry remaining eggs in same manner. Leave oil behind in pan (there should be about 3 tablespoons left; add more if necessary). Allow pan to cool for a few minutes before proceeding to next step.

Reheat oil over medium heat. When hot, add flavoring paste and saute, stirring often, until it begins to separate from the oil, about 5 minutes. Don't let paste burn.

Add cooked rice to skillet, breaking up as many large clumps as possible as it goes into pan. Increase heat and cook, stirring constantly until all of the rice is hot and coated with oil and paste, about 5 minutes. Add sweet soy sauce and stir well to combine, cooking for another 30 seconds. Taste for salt, add if needed.

Spoon rice onto plate, topping each serving with a fried egg. Serve with cucumber slices.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.


Mien's Garlic Fried Chicken
From "Cradle of Flavor" by James Oseland

Ingredients
3 pounds chicken parts (wings, thighs or drumsticks)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup palm, cider or rice vinegar (palm vinegar available at Asian groceries)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
oil for frying

Method
In a large nonreactive bowl, combine garlic, vinegar and salt. Stir to combine, dissolving the salt. Add chicken and cover with marinade. Allow chicken to marinate, 1-2 hours (KOD note: I did notice at the 2-hour point, the vinegar was starting to "cook" to chicken), turning occasionally.

Remove from marinade and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels, as vinegar if it meets hot oil, will splatter like crazy.

Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch into a 12-inch sillet or wok over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking (about 365 degrees). Carefully drop in chicken, in small batches, as many peieces that will fit without touching.

Fry on first side until deep golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Turn over with a pair of tongs and cook on second side, keeping temperature hot and stable, so that oil is always bubbling vigorously. Second side should take less time, about 6-8 minutes. When done, juices will run clear, not pink.

Remove from oil and allow to drain on paper towels. Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Javanese Fried Rice (Nasi Goreng)
From "Cradle of Flavor" by James Oseland

Ingredients
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste (KOD note: Vegetarians may want to consider light miso paste or fermented soybean paste, also sold as yellow bean paste)
2 shallots (about 1 ½ ounces), coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1-2 fresh long, red chiles, such as Fresno, Cayenne or Holland, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon palm sugar or dark brown sugar (palm sugar made from the sap of the sugar palm, available at Asian groceries)
5 cups cooked Jasmine rice made from about 2 cups rice, chilled in fridge for about 1 hour
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 egg per person
salt to taste
1 ½ tablespoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
4 Kirby cucumbers or 2 small-seeded cucumbers, peeled and quartered or thickly sliced

Method

To make flavoring paste, place shrimp paste in center of a square of aluminum foil. Fold over to make a small parcel and press down with heel of your hand to flatten shrimp paste into a disk. (I can imagine doing this with the miso but am less certain about the soybean paste.)

Turn on a burner to medium-low. Using a pair of tongs, place sealed parcel directly onto the heat source. Toast until paste begins to smoke and release a burning, shrimpy smell, about 1 ½ minutes. With tongs, turn parcel over and toast second side. Turn off heat, allow parcel to cool for a minute. Carefully unwrap foil; edges of disk should be black-brown and toasty and center should be golden with patches. Using a spoon, scrape toasted paste into the bowl of a food processor.

Add shallots, garlic, chiles and sugar. Pulse until you have a smooth paste the consistency of mashed potatoes. You may add up to 2 tablespoons of water if necessary.

In a 12-inch skillet (nonstick if you wish) or wok, heat the 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. When oil is hot - will appear slightly shimmery - crack an egg into pan. Season with a pinch of salt. When white is just beginning to turn brown and crispy around the edges, carefully turn egg over with a spatula. Saute until yolk is set and firm, about 1 minute. Runny eggs are not good for this dish.

Transfer egg to a plate and set aside. Fry remaining eggs in same manner. Leave oil behind in pan (there should be about 3 tablespoons left; add more if necessary). Allow pan to cool for a few minutes before proceeding to next step.

Reheat oil over medium heat. When hot, add flavoring paste and saute, stirring often, until it begins to separate from the oil, about 5 minutes. Don't let paste burn.

Add cooked rice to skillet, breaking up as many large clumps as possible as it goes into pan. Increase heat and cook, stirring constantly until all of the rice is hot and coated with oil and paste, about 5 minutes. Add sweet soy sauce and stir well to combine, cooking for another 30 seconds. Taste for salt, add if needed.

Spoon rice onto plate, topping each serving with a fried egg. Serve with cucumber slices.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.


Mien's Garlic Fried Chicken
From "Cradle of Flavor" by James Oseland

Ingredients
3 pounds chicken parts (wings, thighs or drumsticks)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup palm, cider or rice vinegar (palm vinegar available at Asian groceries)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
oil for frying

Method
In a large nonreactive bowl, combine garlic, vinegar and salt. Stir to combine, dissolving the salt. Add chicken and cover with marinade. Allow chicken to marinate, 1-2 hours (KOD note: I did notice at the 2-hour point, the vinegar was starting to "cook" to chicken), turning occasionally.

Remove from marinade and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels, as vinegar if it meets hot oil, will splatter like crazy.

Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch into a 12-inch sillet or wok over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking (about 365 degrees). Carefully drop in chicken, in small batches, as many peieces that will fit without touching.

Fry on first side until deep golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Turn over with a pair of tongs and cook on second side, keeping temperature hot and stable, so that oil is always bubbling vigorously. Second side should take less time, about 6-8 minutes. When done, juices will run clear, not pink.

Remove from oil and allow to drain on paper towels. Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 13, 2007; 12:13 PM ET Dinner Tonight , Ramadan
Previous: Chat Leftovers: Purple Cabbage, Cheesy Grits and Meatless Meal Planning | Next: Don't Leave Me This Way, Basil Baby

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Kim-kudos to you. Never has there been an editor/writer of a food section write about Ramadan and Ramadan meals.
As being an Arab-Muslim from the Levant, it is really refreshing to discover Indonesian Muslim Ramadan Recipies. The focus, if any, is the usual Syrian-Lebanese side. Maybe next year, Morocco.

Posted by: arlg_pali | September 14, 2007 12:54 PM

**drooooooool**

That is all.

Posted by: Sass in Arlington | September 18, 2007 6:33 PM

If only more people shared tastings from all over the world, we might just bring PEACE through food!
Having shared a home with two sisters from Indonesia, my interest in the food from this region continues to interest me.
And, wlthough I am Christian, I still fast for Ramadan.
Keep up the good thougts! and by all means, bring us more recipes from all over.

Posted by: Sylvia in Buffalo NY | September 20, 2007 1:28 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company