James Oseland (jamesoseland) Mon 11 Feb 08 18:46
Hi, all. I fell down the Saveur well for the last two days--now I'm back. Re. the shrimp paste question: To my knowledge, yes, they are essentially the shrimp you feed your fish (remember Sea Monkeys?). But they make amazing people food, too! Re. the question about making strict vegetarian versions of Indonesian food (namely, sans shrimp paste): No problem. Frankly, I wouldn't (and haven't) substituted anything for the shrimp paste or other animal foods when I've made vegetarian renditions. The only thing I might do, though, is pump up the veg aromatics, like, say, doubling the ginger or galangal, or even the chiles or turmeric. And re. the canned cheese: No, it's not a common ingredient over there--it's the same supermarket gunk we know as Velveeta, only it's in a can (and, by the way, they're really aren't all that many supermarkets as we know them--outdoor markets reign supreme). But I must confess that the stuff is very delicious in a non-food sort of way. Yes, I have indulged. Re. the popularity of toast question: No, it's really not popular outside Malaysia or Singapore (and even in those places it's just one of countless breakfast treats). Re. the daun salam question: Dry and crumbly is just fine for these leaves. Though the fresh are used in Indonesia, the dried version has a lot of pleasing oomph (when they're cooked, anyway). For those who want to see a picture of the package that David is referring to, check out: http://indomart.us/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=salam&osCsid=86 91923c78350ea46d9c74a397ddc79d&x=0&y=0 And no, sadly, best to skip the ingredient if you can't find it--our bay leaves are totally wrong tasting. Cassia leaves, however, may be OK (wow--where did you find those?). Cassia is a close relative of salam, and the leaves (which are usually used to make medicinal tea) would be nice--just remove them (a la a bay leaf) before serving the dish. (And don't grind them up.) Re. the hilarious post about the kimchee: Yes, you've described one of the joys of shopping in foreign-food markets. It's like going to a museum, only a lot more tactile (and, ultimately, delicious).
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Mon 11 Feb 08 20:05
Found the cassia leaves in my amazing local Thai supermarket, just a mile or two away in Thai town in Los Angeles. I also found wonderful things like "young peppercorns" frozen on the branch. I was somehow fixated on Pandan when I was there last night, however, and did not know to investigate the dried "bay leaf" packages to see if one of them was the salam leaves. Will check it next time. The potatoes rendang came out pretty delicious despite my leafy confusions and delusions, however, although I suspect my overcrowding of a too-wide pan caused a bit of a problem with undercooked potatoes (easily solved with a bit of water, judicious use of the lid, and then a redrying/frying step at the end). I'll be eating them with lunch for the next few days. Yum!
John Ross (johnross) Mon 11 Feb 08 20:34
What can you tell me about candle nuts? I've seen them in SE Asian recipes, and theere's always a warning "don'tt eat them uncooked, they'll make you sick." There's a similar warning on the package I found at Uwajimaya, the great Asian supermarket in Seattle. I'm not sure I have the nerve to use them.
fat and sassy and laying eggs (wiggly) Mon 11 Feb 08 20:44
Is Indonesia safe for solo travelers in the wake of 9/11? The State Dept. re-upped their warning last October, and apparently US government employees are restricted in where they can travel without permission. Sambal tempe and muttakos poriyal were well received this evening. There was no missing the Indian roots of the cabbage - I would have guessed S. Indian in a blind taste test. Are there many other dishes that have made the crossing as unchanged as that one?
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Tue 12 Feb 08 17:12
For the long cooking portion of both beef and chicken rendang, would it be workable to do it in a crock pot? The reason I'm asking is for time management - we're going to be skiing all day, and we're at 7000 ft, which always makes it take longer anyway.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Tue 12 Feb 08 17:15
Had some potatoes rendang for lunch today, and have to say I was a bit surprised by how mellow they were. Reading the recipe I was more than a little suspicious of directions to use not only some long, thin, hot chilies, but also a handful of the very small, thin, hot thai chilies. When I tries to taste test that in my imagination it was inedibly hot, but I was not accounting sufficiently for the dilutional effect of both the potatoes and the quiunoa over which I served it, and the mellowing of all the coconut milk. I left out the thai chilies, and shouldn't have. Did you worry that including the full traditional complement of chilies would frighten away timid-palated readers and cooks? And slipped by <smash>, with a question about another version of a rendang dish...
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Tue 12 Feb 08 18:39
Wow--I wish I had access to that Thai market. I LOVE fresh, green peppercorns, still on the vine (even if they are frozen)--they're a classic ingredient in Thai curries (they're left whole, and eaten like a vegetable). As far as the mildness of the rendang goes: Yes, it's up to you how hot (or not) you want a dish--think of each dish as a blank canvas to reflect your moods and ingredients. Ah, candlenuts and the scary labeling: They're really only VERY mildly toxic when raw (as are a variety of foods--even potatoes, if I'm not mistaken). Cooking them for a few seconds eliminates that toxicity completely. No worries, truly. And as far as Indonesia being safe in this post-9/11 world: Frankly, I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be than Indonesia. It is, simply, the warmest, friendliest place I've ever been, even for Americans--and I've been about five times since 9/11. Now Western Europe (think England, Sweden, France...), that's another story! Alas, I wouldn't advise using the unwatched crock pot for rendang--a periodic stirring is essential. The skiing part sounds pretty amazing, though. Just make something with a quicker cooking time!
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 12 Feb 08 21:21
Although I haven't been to Indonesia since 9/11, I have to agree with James: it is certainly the warmest, most effusive place I've been. I can't imagine it's really changed. One of my best memories: I was bicycling, alone, in some ultra-remote area of the Kei Islands, which is even more remote than Banda, if that's even possible. I usually have a decent sense of direction, but I got hopelessly lost, and it got dark. My wife, Karen, was waiting for me back at our hut, and she was surely freaking out. I pulled into some isolated shack, and knocked on the door. I was immediately offered a glass of beer and some snacks. My Indonesian was quite poor, but I must have conveyed something, because the pater familias hopped on his bike, and 90 minutes later I was back at the hut, at which point he turned around and went home, with a prostrate, insanely grateful foreigner in his wake. Different question: James, do you have any quick-and-easy shortcuts to Indonesian culinary nirvana you can show us? I sometimes write about "global flavor blasts" -- Japan has miso, green tea, and umeboshi, Middle Eastern countries have pomegranate molasses, preserved lemons, and rose water, India has tamarind, Southeast Asia has lemongrass and fish sauce . . . all of these ingredients, I find, can be easily incorporated into contemporary Western cooking through simple combinations. Does Indonesia have a global flavor blast? What "Indonesiany" yummy thing you could make for breakfast or lunch in just a few minutes?
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Wed 13 Feb 08 19:17
Well, I've got the chicken rendang simmering away. It smells great in here, and several things are now stained yellow. Our friends don't have a food processor, so I had to use a stick blender to make the spice paste. Lots of work, and quite a mess. I also found that the dried turmeric was very hard, and therefore, very difficult to turn into powder; I hope that the taste of fresh-ground is worth it. TIme will tell - and I'm going to be late with dinner; the skiing was too good, and the prep took a fair while. A few years ago, we were in Bali. A small wayang (restaurant) made us a phenomenal dinner. It was a duck which had been coated with something like 15 spices, and then steamed for about 8 hours. They took off the clay pot cover (it was more like a Moroccan tagine than a deep pot), and there was the duck, propped up, with its head lolling to the side, and covered with a soft crust of this amazing spice blend. The smell that came off of it was swoon worthy, and the duck itself was even better. The owner gave us the recipe (and conveniently sold us a packaged set of the spices), but we've lost it to the tide of time. I was hoping to find this recipe in teh book, but there was nothing similar. James, are you familiar with this dish?
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Wed 13 Feb 08 22:58
The chicken rendang was a great success. Very tasty, and everyone loved it. It ended up taking almost 2.5 hours to cook from the time I put in the chicken. But well worth it. Next week, beef rendang.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 14 Feb 08 06:05
I love Indonesian food. When I lived in SF I used to eat in a great little place called "A Bit of Indonesia." I think it was on Geary, but that was a long time ago, and it long ago closed.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 14 Feb 08 09:55
Yeah, but once I got Rosemary Brissenden's book and started cooking out of it, I realized what I was missing. A pioneering work. And then I started going to Amsterdam. Which brings up a question, James: Have you tried any Indonesian places in Holland? Is their food more Indonesian-Dutch than authentic? Or, as with Italian-American food, is there a strong echo of the homeland in it? (Oh, and any recommendations, particularly in Amsterdam or Utrecht, gratefully received!)
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Thu 14 Feb 08 13:32
After reading a discussion about Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation series in another conference, I would like to know if there was any particularly wonderful dish that you left out of the book because you thought it might upset squeamish cooks, or just because there was an ingredient that was not widely available enough.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 14 Feb 08 16:37
> Bit of Indonesia ... on Geary I ate there a lot, mcdee, back in the '70s. (wouldn't that be amusing to find out we'd both been in that restaurant at the same time all those years ago...) It was on Clement, which is just north and parallel to Geary. It was my introduction to Indonesian food and I adored it.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 14 Feb 08 17:15
It's entirely possible we were! I ate there a lot ca. 1977-79. Great little place, and dammit my dry beef curry has never turned out as well as the stuff I ate there.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Thu 14 Feb 08 18:34
Chicken rendang: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/smashz/sets/72157603913352919/>
a plague of cilantro (cjp) Fri 15 Feb 08 09:39
That was a photo set worthy of a coffe table tome like Beautiful Indonesian Cookbook, or somesuch title. This is such a wonderful discussion... I can almost smell what people are making, and I'm getting terribly hungry.
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Sat 16 Feb 08 14:22
God, a really great photo set--looks like a complete success to me! When can I come over? I'll bring the rice! The duck (bebek) dish you've described, smash, is virtually identical to the ikan pepes dish in "Cradle of Flavor": a whole fish that's slathered in spice paste and fresh basil, then steamed, then grilled (or broiled). Though the recipe calls for fish, chicken or duck could be substituted (though I don't actually come out and say that in the book). The dish is an exemplar of SE Asian cooking, and really shows off its gorgeously sunny tastes to great effect. (The dish is a bit labor intensive--like the chicken rendang--but so, so worth it.)
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Sat 16 Feb 08 14:31
Regarding Eric's question about Indonesian flavors: Yes, absolutely. The essential tastes would be, in no particular order, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, lemon basil, shallots, garlic, coriander seed, red chiles, and palm sugar--such a friendly palate of flavors. Often what I do when I'm hankering for these flavors but don't want to make a full-on curry or other main dish, I'll simply make an omelet and spike the egg with sliced red chiles and lemon basil. Or I'll garnish some spaghetti with sauteed (in olive oil) garlic, smashed coriander seeds, and finely julienned kaffir lime leaves.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Sun 17 Feb 08 09:47
So what's a good way to remove turmeric stains from clothing?
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sun 17 Feb 08 11:02
Ultraviolet light breaks down turmeric's colorful ingredient fairly quickly. When I've stained kitchen stuff with turmeric, I just put 'em where the sun will shine, as it were.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Sun 17 Feb 08 12:02
great tip! Does the fresh turmeric have the same staining properties, or is it more subdued?
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Sun 17 Feb 08 13:10
I can't say; I used dried (which were a bitch to grind). James, thanks for the ikan pepes tip. Two items with the switch to duck: - It calls for marinating the fish in lime juice. This does not seem as appropriate for duck. Is it? - Your recipe does a short steam and then grilling. What we had was steamed only, and it seems that a long steaming would be good for rendering the duck fat. Do you have specific points along that line?
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Sun 17 Feb 08 18:05
I'm stumped by the turmeric question--I've not yet figured out how to remove turmeric stains, barring repeated washings! I think it would actually be appropriate to marinate duck in lime juice--it tempers its gaminess (see the sole duck recipe in the book, FYI: itek tim). My mom was taken ill out in Walnut Creek yesterday--you guys may not hear from me for a day or two....
Eric Gower (gower) Sun 17 Feb 08 21:44
Oh no -- I know I speak for everyone here in wishing her a speedy recovery James ... check back in when you can.
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