List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Indonesia
I had never tried Indonesian food until I met my husband. Even now, you don’t really get too many Indonesian restaurants in the UK. Chinese and Japanese? Definitely. Thai and Vietnamese? Sure. Korean? Increasingly, yes. Indonesian food, however, has gotten left behind, which is a shame for my Dutch husband who grew up with Indonesian in the same way I kinda grew up with Cantonese Chinese takeaways.
It’s the way that the colonial pasts of our countries differ though and it’s the reason why I probably have had more Indonesian food than the average Brit and look forward to being able to travel to a Dutch city so I can have a Rijsttafel again. Until then, I try to make Indonesian food every now and then – which is why it has taken so long for me to make something for this list. I like to space out the cuisines I know a bit about.
Like with the Philippines, to talk about Indonesia as having one cuisine is pretty much glossing over things. There are thousands of islands here with different ethnic groups and traditions. So when looking at what I was going to make, I wanted to not too bogged down into the minutiae and look at what are the national dishes. Luckily for me the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism went and made a list of six dishes that are considered the national dishes – so I thought why not make two of these instead of wrestling with a dessert that requires 20 egg yolks.
On the list of six Indonesian national dishes, gado-gado was the only one I had not heard of or seen before somewhere – which meant I automatically gravitated towards it. The name itself means ‘mix-mix’ as it is such a combination of vegetables with egg, tempeh or tofu and then a gorgeous peanut sauce. I love the peanut sauces of Indonesia, so I knew that I had to make something with a peanut sauce – even if just to have a reason to order a jar of sambal from an online specialty store.
Following the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, the vegetables in my bowl were cucumber, beansprouts, potato and spinach. I know this recipe can be a mix of most vegetables, but I followed this mostly to ensure that I got the portion size correct. This is the first time in years that I have cooked with tempeh and that’s only because my local Tesco have started selling it. So glad I could go authentic here as this second shot at tempeh has really helped me to appreciate it more. I can definitely see me using it in more dishes, like maybe as a vegetarian burger.
Obviously the star of the show was the peanut sauce. It would be rude to say otherwise and this recipe actually made a sauce that reminded me of some I have had in restaurants. As long as I have access to sambal oelak and red curry paste, this is going to be a keeper.
Main: Nasi Goreng
As part of a way to introduce something he knew into the family Christmas traditions, I started to make nasi goreng on Boxing Day with the leftovers. I would normally make this with a premade seasoning and just focus most of the time in chopping the left over meat, potatoes and dumpling into small enough chunks. That, however, resembles nothing of the nasi I have had in Singapore or that amazing plate in Hong Kong Disney.
What I made this time, again thanks to Recipe Tin Eats, it tasted just like the nasi gorengs I have had abroad rather than the Christmas Fried Rice I have been making. The fact that I can get there with just one specialty ingredient – the shrimp paste which makes all the difference – is a real game changer.
Next Christmas I can see myself reaching for this version instead of the sauce base from Tesco. I mean, I am already planning on making this as a weeknight meal soon – so I may have to find a better source of shrimp paste and start thinking of some things to have in the rice to have it be a properly balance meal rather than just a carbo-bomb.
Sure has been nice to cook something from a cuisine that I broadly know. It’s back to the unknowns of African cuisine next week as I find yet another excuse to make something from neither Ethiopia nor Morocco and instead focus on a country that needs some research.