Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Big Fat Banana is Plantain!


It's funny how people give name to different fruit. In Indonesia, we call the big fat banana "pisang tanduk" literally it means "horn banana" - perhaps because it looks like Rhino horn :-).  

I just learned recently that "pisang tanduk" is called plantain and plantain is not the same with banana. Banana is the type that does not require cooking while plantain should be cooked first by boiling or frying before eating, and can be consumed either when ripe or unripened.  

Plantains may look like bananas and smell like bananas, but as anyone who has ever tried eating one raw can tell you, they certainly don’t taste like bananas.
When it is medium-ripe, plantain skin is yellow with a few black dots. 

This is when it is perfect to be steamed or boiled and served as a side dish to 
replace rice or potatoes. When the skin has turned black, plantains develop a wonderfully sweet taste and fragrance. That’s when it can be used to make desserts.  

Here is my quick easy to prepare fried caramelized plantains sundae recipe for dessert.

  • 1 big ripe but still firm plantain
  • 50 gram unsalted butter
  • 50 gram brown sugar or shaved palm sugar
  • vanilla and chocolate ice cream
  • Cut off the top and bottom of plantain, then peel the skin back.
  • Cut the peeled plantain in half lengthwise and cut each pieces in half crosswise.
  • Brush each pieces with butter.
  • Preheat the pan.
  • Put the butter on the pan until melted
  • Fry the plantains in butter until both sides are golden brown.

  • Just before removing the plantains from the heat, sprinkle them with brown sugar to caramelize.
  • Remove from heat, put the plantains on a plate.


Serve the caramelized plantains by adding chocolate and vanilla ice cream to cheer your day up. 

Don't Get Bitter, Get Better !

The title of my today's post is borrowed from Joel Osteen, the famous Pastor from Lakewood Church Texas who often says "don't get bitter, get better" .


But this post has nothing to do with Joel Osteen or his book. I still focus on cooking........  

Why bitter?
Today my post is aboutMomordica charantia or bitter melon, bitter gourd or bitter squash in English, Pavakai in Tamil, Karela in Urdu and Pare in Indonesian. It is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all fruits. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit.

Bitter gourd is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage. The young shoots and leaves of the bitter gourd may also be eaten as greens. It is often used in Chinese cooking for its bitter flavor, typically in stir fries (often with pork and douchi), soups, and also as tea. 

It has also been used in place of hops as the bittering ingredient in some Chinese beers. In Vietnam, raw bitter gourd slices consumed with dried meat floss and bitter gourd soup with shrimp are popular dishes. Bitter gourd stuffed with ground pork are served as a popular summer soup in the south. It is also used as the main ingredient of "stewed bitter gourd". 

This dish is usually cooked for the Tet holiday, where its "bitter" name is taken as a reminder of the poor living conditions experienced in the past. In my country, we call bitter gourd 'Pare' or 'Paria' and is prepared in various dishes, such as gado-gado, and also stir fried, cooked in coconut milk, or simply steamed and eaten with 'sambal'  

This morning, I was inspired to cook bitter gourd and started experimenting to turn the 'Bitter Gourd' into 'Better Gourd' .
  • First I cut the bitter gourd into 2 parts and cut each part half lengthwise.

  • Take out the seeds and cooked them in water plus salt.

Prepare spice ingredients as follows:
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • a few cuts of pork fat (optional)
  • 5 pieces of dried salted squid - thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai spicy crispy shrimp (I bought this in Bangkok)

  • When the bitter gourds are cooked and softened, take out from the water, set aside for a few minutes to cool down
  • slice the cooked bitter gourds into small pieces

How to cook:
  • put the wok on medium heat
  • pour in the cooking oil and pork fat, stir fry until the pork fat becomes yellow-brown
  • add in the sliced onion and garlic, continue to stir fry until golden
  • add in all the spice ingredients (the sliced salted squid and spicy crispy shrimp) and continue to stir fry for a few minutes
  • add in the sliced bitter gourds and stir until mix well with the other ingredients
  • continue to stir fry for a few minutes then remove the Stir Fried Bitter Gourd from heat
  • serve warm with rice
Voila..........from Bitter to Better Gourd.....so yummy 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Soup and the City


As the capital city, Jakarta is now almost five centuries old but still growing (painfully) while modernizing itself. It is certainly not one of the best places in the world, but if you ask any Jakarta true believer if he or she would like to live elsewhere, you can be sure the reply would be an emphatic no. 

Jakarta city, warts and all, does have its charms not found elsewhere. And one of its charms is the authentic Betawi cuisine. The authentic Betawi (=Jakarta) cuisine created by the city’s longtime native residents, is especially famous for it bold flavor combinations. 

The name Betawi originally came from Batavian in Dutch for ethnic group in capital city now known as Jakarta. One of the most popular dishes in this City is Soto Betawi

Soto, which is a generic term for a variety of Indonesian soups, can be found in just about every area in the city. Unlike the other types of soto (=soup) which usually have clear or transparent broth, Soto Betawi is a creamy beef soup consists of a tasty beef broth enriched with coconut milk and a combination of herbs and spices.

picture from sotobetawi.com

If you are very adventurous when it comes to culinary treats, this soup can also be served with offal.  

What is so special about this soup? It is the richness of its flavor........ You can check the ingredients list... there are cinnamon (stick), coriander, cumin, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, nutmeg, plus garlic and shallots. The nice combination of herbs, spices, coconut milk, beef and tomato will produce a soup-dish which has very deep of flavor.  

Coconut is perhaps the most versatile of this soup, it harmonizes all the flavors. That's not the end... you still need sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), lime juice, melinjo nut crackers (emping) and chili sambal as the companion to serve the soup.  

Due to its hearty, satisfying taste, Soto Betawi is a popular Soup in the City particularly as lunch meal. Even though I’m not a native Betawi, I love this dish. And the best Soto Betawi I’ve ever tasted is 'Soto Betawi Babe' located in Kelapa Gading area, northeast Jakarta.  

Last week end, I was craving for Soto Betawi but I didn't feel like going all the way from the southeast (where I live) to northeast of Jakarta to have it. So I grabbed one of my cooking books and looked for the recipe of Soto Betawi. My craving for this special soup was the perfect motivation to try cooking it myself.  
I remember that according to one famous Soto Betawi seller, the most important element in Soto Betawi is the broth. No matter what [meat] you put inside, if your broth is not delicious, then you will not cook the perfect Soto Betawi. To produce the right broth for Soto Betawi, you need to cook the coconut and beef stock together just right.  

Here's my version of the Step-by-Step "Soto Betawi"  

Ingredients :
  • 500 gram beef
  • 500 ml of water
  • 5 cm cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 nutmeg, bruised
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 2 spring onions, sliced finely
  • 2 tomatoes, take out the seeds, cut into small wedges


  • 3 tablespoons fried shallots
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 100 g fried Emping (Melinjo Nut crakers)


Ingredients for the Spice Paste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 6 shallots
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 cm galangal, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon cilantro or coriander leaves
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roasted
  • 3 candle nuts, roasted
  • 1/2 cumin powder (I skip this because my family don't like cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Grind all the ingredients for spice paste in a mortar using pestle until smooth Condiment:
  • 10 red bird eye chilli, boiled
  • salt
Grind the boiled chilies and salt, add 1 teaspoon of lime juice 


 How to cook the Meat:
  • Cut the beef into small cubes (around 2 com)
  • Cook the meat cubes in water until they change color and become tender
  • Remove the beef cubes from the stock; set aside the beef stock (around 250 ml) to be used for the soup
  • Season the boiled beef cubes with beef powder seasoning
  • Fry the beef in cooking oil for around 10 minutes


 How to cook the Soto (Soup):
  • Heat the oil and saute the spice paste until fragrant.
  • Add the cinnamon stick, nutmeg, kaffir lime leaves and salam leaves.

  • Add the stock , stir
  • Add the coconut milk, stir

  • Pour the coconut soup in a pan
  • Cook until it boils or around 10 minutes

How to serve the Soto Betawi:
  • Arrange the beef cubes in a bowl
  • Add fresh tomato and spring onion

  • Top with "emping crackers"

  • Pour in the warm soup


The art of enjoying Soto Betawi is that you can customize the taste and the look of your Soto. Some people like to add 'kecap manis', some people just add salt, some people add sambal and some people just let it plain etc. Here's the look of my customized 'Soto Betawi' after added with 'kecap manis' and 'sambal' but without the Emping (I like to eat them separately) 


  • www.sotobetawi.com

The Onion and The Garlic


The idea to write this post came when I was slicing the onion and garlic in the kitchen as part of my daily cooking ritual. While looking at these two most essential cooking ingredients, the Onion and the Garlic remind me of the Indonesian version of a 'Cinderella-type-of-story'. 

In my country, the Onion and the Garlic or ‘Bawang Merah & Bawang Putih’ are not just known as the most essential cooking ingredients but also one of the famous Indonesian folktales, passed down orally through the generations. Like most folktales, the story is laden with lessons regarding family values, patience in the face of adversity, and that ultimately good will be rewarded and the evil will be punished.

The story centers on a pair of half-sisters named Bawang Merah and Bawang Putih. Bawang Merah, literally means red onion, is the Indonesian name for shallot while Bawang Putih, literally means white onion, is the Indonesian name for garlic. The use of these names for the female protagonist and her antagonist is symbolic of their physical similarity (both girls are beautiful) but have completely different personalities. Bawang Putih is the good and kind daughter, while Bawang Merah is the cruel and vindictive one.


 This story was made into a movie back in 1953 and then again in 2007 as a serial TV film. If you are interested to read more on the story of Bawang Merah and Bawang Putih, perhaps you may visit the following blog sites: www.blognyanajib.blogspot.com; www.hyori-writing.blogspot.com

Why Onion and Garlic ?

Onion and Garlic have the amazing ability of enhancing our cooking to a very large extend. They work equally well when combined together in a dish or when used separately or individually in different dishes. Therefore, we almost always find onion and garlic in different recipes from all over the world.  

The onion (Allium cepa), also known as the bulb onion, and common onion. is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food. In my country, it is more common to use Shallot than Onion. 

The Latin name for shallot is Allium ascalonicum, a derivative of the city name Ashkelon in ancient Canaan. In Australia, the term "shallot" can also refer to scallions. The garlic (Allium sativum) is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It has been used throughout its history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Onions Make Me Cry 


Cutting into an onion will break open its' cells releasing noxious sulfur fumes. When this gas hits our eyes, the tears start flowing. This is due to the mild sulfuric acid that is produced when the gas dissolves in the watery tears. We react to this eye stinging by blinking and producing even more tears which will eventually flush out the irritating acid. Please resist the urge to rub our eyes, especially if we have onion juices all over .  

How to avoid the tears  

Here are a few tips to avoid the tears when slicing onions or shallots:
  • Wash an onion after the first cut.
  • Cut under cold running water.
  • Heat the onions before chopping.
  • Peel and then chill the onions in the refrigerator (1 hour) or freezer (15 minutes) before chopping

Garlic... Perfectly Pungent 

You love it or loath it. Garlic is an extremely popular condiment and medicinal herb with a wide range of therapeutic uses but with a unique, very strong flavor that’s not for everyone. Cooks know there's a huge difference between raw and cooked garlic. If you've ever gnawed on the raw form, you know it too. What a bite. When cooked, it is mellower.  

Raw garlic is full of sulfurous compounds, including a chemical called alliin. When a clove is bruised, chopped, or crushed, the alliin is quickly converted to a chemical known as allicin. That's the stuff that makes raw garlic pungent. It actually activates two human proteins, called TRPV1 and TRPA1, that interact with pain-sensing neurons in your mouth. But when the garlic is cooked, the allicin is converted into other sulfur molecules.  

Crispy Fried Shallots and Fried Garlic

I love to keep stock of fried shallots and/or fried garlic in my kitchen. Often I just buy ready-made fried shallots and fried garlic from supermarket. Recently, I even found a special vendor for spicy fried shallots and garlic. These crispy shallots or garlic are delicious garnish to enhance just about every dish. They will keep 3-4 weeks in an airtight container, so it is worth making a large quantity. Here is the recipe : 

  • 30 shallots or 30 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup (250 ml) oil

  • Peel and thinly slice the shallots or garlic , then pat dry with paper towel.
  • Heat the oil in a work over medium low heat and stir-fry the sliced shallot or garlic until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes (*)
  • Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container.
  • Reserve the shallot or garlic oil for frying or seasoning other dishes
(*) note: You may need to fry the shallots or garlic in batches as they cook best if they are in a single layer

 Fried Shallots

 Fried Garlic


    • wikipedia
    • www.messygourmet.com
    • www.goldenglow.com.au
    • www.livescience.com
    • www.freephotosbiz.com
    • authentic food recipes from Indonesia by Heinz von Helzen

Hawker Style Cooking


After I had my first experience cooking tongseng (Indonesian goat meat curry), I simply can't stop wondering why the Hawker Style tongseng almost always tastes better than home made tongseng including the one I cooked. 

To satisfy my curiosity I went to one of the famous tongseng and goat satay hawkers near my home. Of course I ordered Tongseng and watched carefully when the hawker prepared and cooked the tongseng.  

After that visit, I tried to cook Tongseng the Hawker Style Here’s my Hawker Style Tongseng Recipe

The Ingredients Main ingredient:
  • the goat meat
The goat meat used by the hawker for 1 serving of tongseng is the same amount of the goat meat used for 10 skewers of goat satay hence already cut into small cubes.
  • I used 300 gram of goat meat, cut into small cubes

Other ingredients:
  • ½ cup of coarsely sliced onion or shallots
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)

  • 3-5 red chilies, cut diagonally
  • 50- 100 gram of coarsely sliced cabbage
  • 2 red tomatoes, cut into wedges

How to prepare the curry soup (kuah gulai)

The hawker has prepared the curry or gulai soup at home and then sends it to his tongseng stall. When asked what ingredients are used, he refused to reveal them. 

However, he mentioned that the secret of the tongseng taste lies on the ingredients of the curry soup hence it's not to be shared – fair enough. Although didn't share the recipe of his curry soup, the hawker was very helpful. He advised me to use instant curry paste (bumbu gulai) rather than trying to prepare the curry spice-paste myself. 

He did not say which brand is the best but suggested that I try out different brands and find out which one I like the most – then stick with what suits me best (....perhaps this is his secret recipe....who knows he's being sponsored by one of the curry spice-paste producers :-) I follow the hawker's advice and will try out different brands of instant curry paste or bumbu gulai until I find which one tastes best.  

Ingredients for the curry soup:
  • 1/2 pack of instant curry spice paste - this time I used Finna bumbu gula (note: one pack is for 500 gram of goat meat)

  • coconut milk (diluted from 1 pack of coconut cream powder in 300 ml water)

How to prepare the curry soup:
  • On a pan or wok stir fry the curry-paste (bumbu gulai) until fragrant

  • Then add coconut milk, stir until mixed well
  • Continue to cook until it boils then remove from heat

How to prepare the goat meat:
  • Put the goat meat cubes in a plate or bowl, cover the meat with the sliced onion, garlic and chilies then pour in kecap manis and stir until mix well


How to cook the Tongseng:
  • Put a pan or wok on medium heat
  • Pour in the cooking oil until hot
  • Stir fry the mixed goat meat until well cooked

  • Add in the cabbage and tomatoes, continue to stir fry until wilted

  • Then pour in the curry soup, continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so until the soup is boiled and the meat is tender
  • Add salt and pepper and more kecap manis if needed

  • Remove from heat, sprinkle with fried shallots on top (optional)

Voila.... Here's the result of Tongseng the Hawker Style........


 Indeed it tastes better......

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stay Cool on a Hot Day

Most of my life, I live in a city with warm and humid climate, I am supposed to get used to hot and humid weather. But somehow my body does not seem willing to adapt to it. The combination of warm temperature and high humidity like now always make me all sweaty and cranky….

How can I stay cool  on a  hot day like this?

How about making cold dessert drinks?

In my country, we have so many popular drinks which are based on ice (in our language we call it Es) and can also be classified as desserts.  Typical examples include es campur (mixed fruit ice drink), es cincau (grass jelly ice drink), es blewah (musk melon ice drink),  es kelapa muda (young coconut ice drink), es alpukat (avocado juice), es cendol and many many more.

Here’s a few of most popular Indonesian Cold Dessert Drinks to stay cool on a hot day and also fit well for breaking the fast:

Es Kelapa Muda (Young Coconut Ice Drink)

If you travel to my country, you will find lots of coconut tree. We like to drink coconut water, and also make drinks called  Es Kelapa Muda (Young Coconut Ice Drink) where we mix the slippery young coconut with the coconut water then add ice cubes and this is how we make the drink:

  • 2 cups of young coconut water
  • 1/2 cup young coconut flesh
How to prepare:
  • take the water from a fresh, young coconut
  • scrape slithers of coconut flesh
  • add the coconut flesh into the coconut water in a glass or right in the coconut shell and add some ice cubes

Es Kelapa Jeruk  (Young Coconut in Orange Juice)

This drink is a combination of young coconut and orange juice. The slippery floating slivers of fresh coconut flesh will add textural dimension to the refreshing fresh orange juice, so yummy…… 

  • 8 medium size oranges, squeeze to get the juice
  • 1 cup fresh young coconut flesh
  • simple syrup (optional)
  • ice cubes
How to prepare:
  • Combine roughly 1 part fresh-squeeze orange  juice with 1 part water.
  • Typically a few spoonfuls of simple syrup are added and let it drop to the bottom of the glass so that the sweetness can be adjusted with a little stirring (optional).
  • Add in the coconut flesh and ice cubes.

Es Blewah (Musk Melon Ice Drink)

  picture from unique-of-images.blogspot.com

Musk melon prevents a heat related disorders and making it a great  refresher and stimulator on a hot day. Its high water content helps to reduce body heat. This drink is very popular during fasting month.

  • 250 gram ripe blewah (musk melon), cut into half, peel off the outer skin of the musk melon and  sliver the flesh
  • 800 ml water
  • 200 ml red syrup
  • ice cubes
How to serve (for 4 glasses)

  • In a glass put the musk melon slices.
  • Add water and syrup and ice cubes.
Es Campur (Mixed Iced Fruit Drink)

 picture from www.houseofannie.com
 This special Es Campur or also known as Es Teler can be the ‘so called’ trademark for many of Indonesian Restaurants and Food-Stalls. It has a sweet and fruity taste with chunks of jack-fruit,  avocado and young coconut pulp! The coconut juice combination will cool you down from the heat especially when this drink is consume during hot day under the sun!

  • 1 Young coconut flesh (spoon it)
  • 1  Avocado, take out the flesh, cut into chunks or thinly sliced
  • 10 pieces of Jack-fruits, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 15 pieces buah Atap,  sliced (buah Atap is the flesh of the young seeds of the mangrove plant Nypa fruticans. It is usually soaked in sugar syrup)
  • 500 ml of simple syrup
  • 5 tablespoons  sweetened condensed milk
  • crushed or shaved ice
Note: This dessert can be sweetened to taste, adding more, or less, of the milk mixture and the syrups.

Simple syrup:
  • 400 ml coconut milk (or plain water)
  • 100 gr sugar
How to prepare:
  • Add young coconut pulp, avocado, jack-fruit and buah Atap in a glass or in a bowl.
  • Add in simple syrup and sweetened condensed milk or according to your taste. Stir.
  • Top with crushed or shaved ice. Enjoy!

Es Cendol (Chendol Iced Drink)

  picture from madeinindonesia-store.com

Es cendol is typical Indonesian drink made from rice flour served with coconut milk, sugar palm and ice cubes or shaved ice. While Indonesian people drink es cendol as a nice refreshment, a lot of Westerners like es cendol as dessert.

Ingredients for cendol
  • 125 gr rice flour
  • 50 gr sago flour
  • 75 ml pandan leaves water (boil water with pandan leaves until it has green color)
  • 450 ml water
  • salt as needed
Other ingredients
  • 200 gram palm sugar, boil with 125 ml water until it dissolves. Strain the palm sugar water and boil again. Set aside.
  • 500 ml coconut milk. Boil and set aside to cool.
How to make cendol
  • Mix rice flour and sago flour, then mix it with some of the water.
  • Boil the rest of the water, add green pandan leaves water and salt.
  • Put the flour mixtures into the boiled water.
  • Stir well and cook until it thickens (paste-like).
  • Drain with special cendol strain (usually the strainer has round holes), so when we press the cendol mixture it will go out of the strain as roundish short cendol.
  • Put these cendol directly into a bowl with water and ice in it.
  • Cendol will be solid and then drain them again. Set aside.
How to serve
  • Put some cendol into a tall glass, pour palm sugar syrup and coconut milk (separate layers). You can add shaved ice or just ice cubes.
  • www.houseofannie.com
  • www.madeinindonesia-store.com
  • www.uniqueofimages.blogspot.com