The Best of Indonesian Cooking..

Is our new friend. Let's say hello to this beautiful little darling,

The Best of Indonesian Cooking by Yasa Boga.

It is written by Yasa Boga, a group of bestselling cookbook authors. They are four Indonesian who were both career women. From years of experiences as food editors in women's magazine, they've gained their specialties and published a lot of cookbooks. The Best of Indonesian Cooking is just one of their bestseller.

The book first published in 1998, have been sold 200,000 copies worldwide ever since and therefore been reprinted four times. I was dying to have a copy of it, and finally got paid off.

First chapter started with a brief explanation of Indonesian cooking equipments, and followed later with basic ingredients, herbs, spices, seasoning, fruits, buds and leaves. Then the recipes divided into seven sections; rice and noodles, vegetables, poultry, meat, seafood, soybean and eggs. All written in English, and described very well. If you're looking for Indonesian cooking references, you should take this book into your consideration.

Hmm, yum!

The title really did explain the book as it is. You can find a lot of great, famous Indonesian dishes in this book. I can't wait to test all of the recipes. Don't worry, I will absolutely share the best of my Indonesian cooking experiences here. In my version, of course. You do not expect me to copy paste all the contents, do you? Because I think they would not allowed it. Copyright matters.

Actually, there is another book entitled The Best of Indonesian Desserts from the same author. They (the books) are like twin, and I'm thinking to reunite them within a month or two. Wish me luck, dear!

GrowinKitchen's recipes adapted from The Best of Indonesian Cooking:
Opor Ayam
Javanese Mixed Vegetable Salad with Spiced Grated Coconut

Fish and Chips, and Friends

Our kitchen poured with music early this morning as Rikha, my (other) housemate, played aloud a number from an Indonesian female pop singer whom showed up to last year Grammy Awards red carpet. Honestly speaking, I can not stand her singing. But apparently Rikha kept listening to her the whole morning, one song after another. So I plugged my earphone in and tuned on some Iga Mawarni as I prepared to cook for brunch.

Anyway, for those of you who were wondering what have I done with my spiny dogfish, please be relieved for I am about to reveal to you now.

My fish and chips, and friends.

Fish and chips is a classic British take-away food popular since the mid of 18th century. The dish then invaded other continents. Original fish and chips recipe used salt and pepper seasoning, but I've made some spice improvement. Just for fun.

Not just spice, if you saw the dark and coated sprigs there that would be crispy herbs. Yes, I did fried herbs as well as other ingredients I found in the fridge; from rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley, onion, mozarella to chili. But I think parsley's the best companion of all, followed by onion rings.

Fish and Chips, and Friends

  • 750 ml oil for deep frying 
  • 200 g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoon black mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 3 large potato (thinly sliced or wedge cut) 
  • 250 ml beer (cold, or substitute with 250 ml cold water and 1 teaspoon baking powder)
  • 1 egg white (optional)
  • 300 g spiny dogfish fillet (substitute with other fish fillet, cut in fingers)
  • 1 small onion (sliced)
  • a handful of fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Tartar sauce, ¼ lemon and salt for serving

Preparation method:
  1. Pre-heat the pan with oil.
  2. Mix flour with salt, garlic, cumin, mustard, chili and turmeric powder (and baking powder, if using). Take a bit to slightly coat potato, onion and fish. Whisk in cold beer (or water) into the flour mix until well incorporated. Store it in fridge.
  3. Meanwhile, deep fry potato until golden, lift and drain straightly into kitchen towel.
  4. Take out the batter, whisk in egg white.
  5. Dip in fish fillet and onion. Deep fry in several batch, don't get too crowd, until golden brown. Lift and drain. Repeat with parsley leaves.
  6. Deep fry potato again until golden brown and crisp.
  7. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice, serve with tartar sauce.
Yield 3 serves.

Jamie (Oliver) noted that the only way to keep the batter crisp is to serve it straight away. Indeed, no matter how crisp the batter was, after one hour it'll become all mushy. So make a nice little batch and enjoy while still hot, with your friends and probably with some beers too. They'll love it, like my housemates do.


Rendang, the Delicacy of Minangkabau Legacy

Who does not know rendang? Almost all Indonesian must be familiar with this particular meat dish in spicy coconut milk sauce, that can be found in every Padang restaurants across the country—and abroad too.

For you who do not know yet, rendang is a delicate legacy of Minangkabau ethnic (also known as Minang or Padang). They are the indigenous of West Sumatran highlands. This dish is served with rice or ketupat to honor guests, notably in ceremonial occasions, and has been become a prima donna in Indonesian cuisine.

Cooking rendang needs a lot of patience as it is a slow cooker. The meat is boiled in seasoned coconut milk for hours until the sauce become concentrated and oily, in that way it become very tender and all condiments become well absorbed. Commonly, rendang recipes use beef, but not necessarily. It can also be substitute with other meat or even vegetable.

The beef rendang recipe that I share later on this post is adapted from my relative whom a Minangkabau descend. Over all of rendang recipes that I have tested before, this is by far the best—tasted nearly as the authentic one. May be because the use of turmeric leaf (which also made the dish can be stored for months) and kerisik.

Some alterations have been made though. My version uses half thick coconut milk and half beef stock which then poached with the rest of ingredients in the traditional way to make a sauce; and beef steak that cooked separately (I grilled it medium rare). Excluding these changes, the composition of basic ingredients remain the same. Even so, the result still have core taste of rendang.

Beef rendang a la GrowinKitchen.
Want some?
Grab fast.

Beef Rendang (a la GrowinKitchen)

  • 200 g beef filet mignon (or substitute with regular tenderloin)
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil
  • a pinch of salt and pepper to taste
  • 50 g garlic
  • 40 g shallot
  • 100 g chili
  • ½ cm ginger
  • 2 cm galangal
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (toasted)
  • ½ tsp cumin (toasted)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 stalks lime-grass (bruised)
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 turmeric leaf (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 tablespoons of kerisik (toasted shredded coconut)
  • 400 ml thick coconut milk
  • 400 ml beef stock
  • 200 g small potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon onion (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon spring onion (chopped)

Preparation method:
  1. Cut beef into two big chunks and marinate with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  2. Refine all garlic, shallot, chili, ginger, galangal, coriander, cumin and salt.
  3. Boil the refined ingredients with coconut milk, beef stock, lime-grass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric leaf, tamarind, star anise and kerisik. Stir well.
  4. Continue to boil until become concentrated oily paste. Take off heat, take off tamarind remnants, then blend it with food processor.
  5. Boil potatoes until cooked through, sauté with onion and spring onion.
  6. On a grill, put in the beef (smear a little sauce gradually if you like). If your chunk is 2 cm thick or less, cook 5 minutes each side, but if it is thicker then put a little longer until the surface is dark-colored.
  7. Serve steak with sauce and potatoes.
Yield 2 serves.

Note: Original version use light coconut milk and young coconut water, instead of beef stock. If you want to cook it the old fashioned way, bring light coconut milk and coconut water to boil together with turmeric leaf, lime leaves, star anise and refined ingredients. When liquid half evaporate, pull in the beef and thick coconut milk and cook until the sauce is dry and dark-colored. Serve with rice. This dried style rendang can be stored up to three months.


Creamy Caramel Custard

Bit a shocking news today, I made crème caramel.
Crème caramel. For heaven's sake!

Cause to tell you the truth, I never made a non-instant pudding before in my entire life. But yesterday I managed the making of six creamy caramel custards from scratch and cool them overnight. Even I myself can't believe I did. It may not be winning crème caramel, but not so bad for first trial either.

Here, may I present you.. (Drum roll please.)

Ahem! My first crème caramel ever.

I first saw a puding karamel (this is how we called the dessert in Indonesian) recipe on a local cooking community site. I could not bear the temptation so I googled for more. There were load versions of this dessert under the name caramel flan (the term used in Spanish-speaking countries and North America), pudding or custard. Amongst them I found a great caramel custard plus a caramel sauce recipes from separate sources. Then I combined both and, as usual, made few changes.

The caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce
(Adapted from Simply Recipes)

  • 240 g caster sugar (or you can use cane or brown instead)
  • 2½ tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
  • 90 g unsalted butter
  • 120 ml heavy whipping cream

  1. In a saucepan, simmer sugar with lemon juice until melt. Do not stir.
  2. When sugar all golden, stir in the butter—careful, melt boiling sugar stings more than boiling water (my left index-fingertip is only one of the living proofs)—until wholly dissolve. Take pan off the heat.
  3. Count to three, then gently whisk in whipping cream.
  4. Store in a mason jar, reheat briefly in a boiling water before use.
Yield 1 jar (approximately 400 g).

The creamy custard.

Crème Caramel
(Adapted from Taste of Home)

  • Half recipe of caramel sauce
  • 230 g cream cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 350 ml evaporated milk (or can be substitute with fresh milk)
  • 400 g sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 vanilla bean (take the filling, or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence)
  • ½ teaspoon plain agar or gelatin powder (or can be substitute with 2 tablespoons cornstarch)—optional, only if you're using fresh milk.

Preparation method:
  1. Preheat a bain-marie or steamer.
  2. Meanwhile, make the caramel sauce and pour into the mold. (I used 1 part of caramel sauce to 5 part of custard mixture.)
  3. Straightly beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in yolks and eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Beat in all the milk and vanilla until smooth. (If using fresh milk, simmer first until boiling. Take a part and mix with agar until all fused, mix again with the rest of the boiling milk.)
  4. Pour over caramel sauce in the mold and cook for 30 minute in bain-marie.
  5. Let cool in room temperature for an hour, chill it in fridge for another eight hours or overnight. To unmold, put in boiling water briefly, run a knife around edges and invert on a serving platter.
Yield 6 serves.


Vulnerable Spiny Dogfish

The fish monger displayed an unusual commodity today..

A pigmy, stunted shark.

For some of you this might be familiar, but not me. I did asked the monger and he said it was a marble goby. But, judging by its cover, I just could not believe him. So, I dig it up.

The closest information I could get was that this is—correct me if I'm wrong—a spiny or smooth-hound dogfish, Squalus acanthias, one of the smallest shark species. Preferably known as cape shark in the United States market, rock salmon or huss in Great Britain (used in classic fish and chip), small salmon or saumonette (from its salmon-pink flesh when skinned and beheaded) in French, sea eel/zeepaling/seeaal in Belgium and Germany.

Yet, my most important finding is from Wikipedia. It said that their conservation status classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In the Northeast Atlantic their populations have decreased significantly, by at least 95%, over the past 15 years. It was also added into Greenpeace International list of fishes which with '...risks of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries', in 2010.

Squalus acanthias.

Substitutes: Shark, swordfish and monkfish in which have similar firm-textured flesh may be used as substitution.

GrowinKitchen's recipes using spiny dogfish:
Fish and Chips


Another Weekend with Chicken Kiev

A moment ago, just when I was about to create this post, a thought came through my mind. Is this another weekend already? Oh, shoot, where did my weekdays go so fast? There were Magnums, this part I remember vividly. Been whirligig cracking a lot of Belgian chocolate pleasure lately. Others than that are vague.

Yet the weekend itself started pretty nice. On my way to a yoga class this morning I saw a modest couple sat on a curb and laughed onto something. The husband was visually impaired and the wife stared with sparks at him. Between them a plate of bakwans—simple snacks, which probably their only breakfast, bind them together in joy. They're just so sweet I can't take them off my mind. The only thing I was sorry for is that I didn't bring a camera.

Anyway, back at home, a half pack of French tarragon leaves stood still on my fridge. After my failure of Simon Rimmer's Chicken Kiev before, I had no intention to use it. Until this noon. Since I also have a piece of chicken breast, I decided to remake the stuffed chick dish. The leftover tarragon eventually transformed into another batch of filling.

Chicken Kiev is a dish similar to Chicken Cordon Bleu, a stuffed boneless skinless chicken that is coated, fried and/or baked. Main difference between the two chicks is the filling—if Cordon Bleu use cheese and ham, Kiev use cold garlic butter with herbs. The recipe is said to be Russian, from early twentieth century. Up to this very moment, I still have no idea how the original recipe is. But what I have did with mine was this..

The remake of Chicken Kiev.

Modified Simon Rimmer's Chicken Kiev

  • 175 g chicken breast
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic (blended)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of fresh ground black pepper
  • a handful of fresh tarragon (or a pinch of dried)
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of finely ground black pepper
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 5 tablespoons of fine breadcrumbs
  • palm oil for frying (could use olive or vegetable oil, which-ever you like)
  • cherry tomatoes and cos lettuces salad dressed with vinagraitte 
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon leaves for finishing

Preparation method:
  1. Slice chicken breast thick-wise into two, do not cut off but left a centimeter. Spread the lemon juice into the inside cutlet.
  2. Mix well garlic, butter, tarragon, salt and pepper, chill it then put over the chicken and reel tightly.
  3. Season flour with salt and pepper (or you can use ready mix seasoned flour). Roll in the chicken, the coat need to be even but thin.
  4. Dip into the egg, and cover it with breadcrumbs.
  5. Deep fry until golden brown.
  6. Serve in a plate together with salad, sprinkle with chopped fresh tarragon.
Yield 1 serve.

In the original Simon Rimmer's, he suggested to fry it lightly brown then bake in oven for 18-20 minutes, 200°C/400°F/Gas 6, until completely cooked through. But I did not have any oven. And deep frying did well too. For I (there was no one else at home, I was left alone) love how my remake looked and tasted, I considered it as a success.

Well, enough about me now. How's your weekend doing?


Meet the Tarragon

I never heard of tarragon until about two years ago when I was walking around in herbs and spices section at a supermarket nearby. This herb was not common in Indonesian traditional dishes. For as far as I know, not a native plant either. Although nowadays a lot of local farming industries planted it.

I never used it in any of my cooking too, until recently. Last week I went back to the supermarket, and impulsively bought a pack of fresh tarragon—not that I know what to do with it, but only a matter to satisfy my curiosity.

Fresh French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus L. var. sativa) leaves.

I was told that the best way in learning ingredient is to taste it. So when I got home, I took a bite of one long-narrow-lance-shaped soft green tarragon leaf and experienced a distinctive sweet, strong and complex aromatic flavor. I then spent almost an hour searching on my Larousse Gastronomy e-book, before I realized tarragon is not 'tarragon' in French. I know, I know, it was so silly of me. I totally lost in translation. Well, I did not finish any of my French courses, so forget it. For now. I better just asked the omniscient Mr. Google instead.

It turned out that tarragon is one of the four fines herbs of French cooking; an aromatic plant of the Compositae family, native to central Asia. Tarragon was once known for its curative powers against bites from venomous animals, and its therapeutic properties have always been recognized. Meanwhile, its bright green leaf has been used in cooking since the sixteenth century. Many source says that it resembles the taste of anise and licorice.

Tarragon is particularly suitable for seafood, egg, and a perfect match for chicken dishes. It can flavor consommes, cream-soup, terrine, fraichés, salads, butter, mustard, vinegar, purée, sauces (e.g. béarnaise, tartar, etc.) and even make a liquor. It can be used whole or chopped, and keeps well by various method—boiled, frozen, or even dried.

Even though the species has many varieties that grown in a wide area of the Northern Hemisphere from easternmost Europe across Asia to America and Mexico, French tarragon is the variety generally considered best for the kitchen. I have no picture of the whole plant, but here is how a French tarragon like growing on ground.

Substitutes: Some says that an equal amounts of parsley and cinnamon powder together, tagetes or Mexican mint marigold, marjoram, half amount of anise or chervil, or a dash of fennel seed can substitutes tarragon.

GrowinKitchen's recipes using tarragon:
Chicken Kiev


The Indonesian is Rice

If you are what you eat, then the Indonesian is rice.

Almost 78% of our carbohydrate source dominated by rice, the rest are wheat and roots. Yet we are only the third largest rice-producing country worldwide. Food diversification programs are intensively attempted to redeem our dependency. Still, the average rice consumption of Indonesia comparatively high in Asia—it reached 139 kilograms per capita per year according to a December 2010 article in a local newspaper.

Well, as a matter of fact, we knew rice ever since before we could belch the alphabet. Prior to our lands' mutation into commercial high-storey buildings and estates, we used to have a vast paddy field from Sabang to Merauke. Rice, is in our blood. There even an anecdote amongst us, if you do not eat rice that means you have not eaten—at all.

We sure believe that rice is important not only to Indonesian. They just don't consume it as much as we do.

Rice is a grain of monocot plants, Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima, that has been separated from the chaff. As a cereal grain, it is the uppermost staple food for a large part of human population. In some cultures, rice is even considered sacred. It is also the second-highest worldwide food production, after corn.

More than 100 countries cultivate rice, result more than 110,000 varieties including sticky rices, wild rices and fragrant/aromatic rices. All can be categorized as long-, medium- or short-grain. Long-grain rices are thin, dainty, pointed and contain less amylopectin therefore relatively less sticky. While medium-grain and short-grain are plumper, starchier and more absorbent.

Indonesian medium-grain rice (Oryza sativa var.).
Unmilled medium-grain rice.

Substitutes: A lot of carbohydrate source can substitute rice for its nutrient. But so far, nothing can replace its characteristic as main ingredient in rice-based dishes.

GrowinKitchen's recipes using rice:
Javanese Red and White Rice Pudding
Mixed Rice with Garlic


Feast the Javanese Way: Red and White Rice Pudding (Bubur Merah Putih)

Happy valentine's day.

In every feast of traditional Javanese serves a two-colored rice pudding. We called it 'bubur merah putih' (red and white rice pudding) in Indonesian—even though it is not actually red, but more of a brownish. The given name might be derived from the use of palm sugar, which here some time some one might call it red sugar (if translated literally).

Red itself figuratively speaks wealth, beauty, bravery, fortune, passion and happiness in eastern culture, as far as I can remember. While white, is often associated with purity and death. According to that, I can only assumed the two colors represent the celebration of life. Or so.

Bubur merah putih.

Not only in Java, this dessert can be found in several region of Indonesia. And, in Malaysian cuisine too. Regarding we are from the same tribe, the malay. Long story short, wear your apron and get ready.

Bubur Merah Putih
(Javanese red and white rice pudding)

  • 100 g rice 
  • 50 g sticky rice (can be substitute with glutinous rice flour)
  • 1 pandanus leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 500 ml water
  • 400 ml light coconut milk
  • 100 g palm sugar (you can use brown sugar, but I think palm sugar taste better)
  • 1½ tablespoons cane sugar

Preparation method:
  1. Soak rice and sticky rice (if using) in water for 15 minutes, then coarse-ground it with food processor or blender. Boil with pandan, salt and water into purée. If you're using flour, it is better to mix with water first before pour it in to pan to avoid lumps. Stir constantly.
  2. Add coconut milk and continue to cook in simmer—it is important in order to keep the texture. Continue stirring, and turn off the heat prior to your desired consistency. Divided into two.
  3. Refine palm sugar and cane sugar, into a half rice pudding and stir well in simmer. Arrange it in a plate or bowl to your taste, serve while still hot.
Yield 6 portions.

The result.

Some of you probably wondering why in a sudden I share this dessert, on this day. I mean, valentine's is practically chocolate. Then, what, are we celebrating this rice pudding for?

Well, not necessarily. We can celebrate anything, anything that we have in mind. Me, I'll go with my blog transitions: the new concept, name and home. Not to forget my friend's birthday, Niken, whom now stays in the Hague studying—may this (pictures) make her feel like home. I wish us all a happy healthy life along with this salty sweet pudding. Love is in the air.

How about you?


Sugary Sap of Palm

Last week, I accidentally overheard the conversation between my housemate and our housemaid. It was about palm sugar and brown sugar. Mrs. Wiwi, our housemaid, said to Mala that they are two different things. As far as I could recall, my relatives always cited all kind of brownish block sweeteners as brown sugar. Apparently, so did Mala's. Hence we—me and Mala—raised our brows and perplexedly respond, 'Really?'

Oh my, it really is.

Arenga palm sugar.

Palm sugar is a natural sweetener made from nira (Indonesian term), the sugary sap of palm. Commonly from Borassus species (Palmyra palm), Phoenix sylvestris (Date palm), Arenga pinnata (Aren palm), Metroxylon sagu (Sago palm) or Cocos nucifera (Coconut palm) sap that collected by binding tightly and/or making slits into the bud. Thereof, it may be sold as arenga (or aren) sugar or coconut (palm) sugar.

In the traditional way, the sap then boiled until thickens and poured into bamboo tubes, left condensed to form cylindrical blocks. It sometimes sold in bowl-shaped too. As a product of cottage industries, its color, flavor, sweetness and consistency varies from batch to batch—light-colored or dark, soft and gooey or hard. Some palm sugar found in the market is not a 100% pure but is blended with cane sugar and/or malt sugar. These tend to result white hard blobs, which will distinguish it with the pure one.

Commonly sold in cylindrical blocks (in various size), or in bowl-shaped.
The dark-colored and hard one.

As I have previously mentioned, here in Indonesia, particularly in some part of the Java region (where I grew up and had been reside), we often misplaced it as brown sugar—which is made from sugar cane. Although, the taste of pure palm sugar indeed resembles that of brown sugar. Yet more tender, dense and chewy without the intense ending flavor.

For cooking purposes, palm sugar has a very low melt temperature and an extremely high burn temperature, makes it suitable for confectioners. Compared to other sweeteners, palm sugar also has has an extremely low glycemic index and an extremely high nutrient. That is why it is sometime used as replacement of cane sugar in culinary, in order to maintain sugar intakes.

Substitutes: Brown sugar and maple sugar. These both will have to be moisten first, with molasses or maple syrup, to attain a similar consistency as palm sugar which is generally soft and pourable.

GrowinKitchen's recipes using palm sugar:
Javanese Red and White Rice Pudding
Ginger Cloves Cinnamon Milk with Honey
Javanese Mixed Vegetable Salad with Spiced Grated Coconut


Yeay.. My First

Cookbook. And by that, I do not intent to say that I had written and published a book. What I mean is I just bought a cookbook, on my own, for the first time.

Last night I went grocery shopping at a food mart nearby. They also have a Periplus store in the building, and I stopped by on my way home. There, I found an interesting cookbook on sale for almost 75% off. The book was always on my wish-lists, a copy of Rosemary Brissenden's South East Asian Food: Classic and Modern dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. What an unexpected discovery!

Southeast Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden.

I haven't got the chance to read it thoroughly as I typing this, so I will save the book review for later. Meanwhile, we have a visitor in our kitchen this morning. A hairy caterpillar was found racing through the edge of our table which was the set of today's photo session. Mala, my housemate, asked me to move him out. But I kinda like having him around. Hereby I declare him as GrowinKitchen's first associate.

Hello, little fella!

Indeed he will have to metamorphose and get off ground soon. But for now we're just going to have some quality time together in the kitchen, and we still need more companions—a management team to taste, share, encourage, discuss.. anything to keep this merriment. So, an open call it is. Interested?

Let's grow!