Yummy Yum from Around the World

The world’s largest archipelago: more than 13,000 islands home to more than 200 ethnic tribes with more than a million people speaking more than 100 languages. I was so fascinated by the diversities of the culture and the people in this country; I could very well imagine how diverse its cuisine would be. Join us as we explore this island country and its cuisine with our friend and RC partner, Farida. “Selamat Datang” and Welcome to Indonesia!!

Fida, as most of us know her, explains that Indonesian cuisine is not just a single cuisine, but a combination of several regional cuisines, each with its own distinct flavor and style, shaped by the culture and traditions of people in that particular region. Indonesian cuisine, as most of us know, is probably Javanese or Sumatran cuisine. Spices are integral to their cuisine. Chilies, tamarind, coriander, cumin, pepper, ginger, garlic, nutmeg and cloves are some of the many spices used in Indonesian cuisine. World famous for its spices, Indonesia has attracted travelers and traders from across the world. Indonesian cuisine, therefore, also reflects these myriad influences and has adopted techniques, tools and ingredients from India, China, Europe and the Middle East. The cuisine also uses coconut milk, soy sauce, dried shrimp paste, shallots, peanuts, and palm sugar. Most of the local dishes are curry-based, and cooking methods include boiling, steaming, grilling, roasting and stir- or deep-frying. Rice is the staple ingredient of most of Indonesia, although some of the eastern parts use corn and potatoes. A typical Indonesian meal would include rice, side dishes of meats and vegetables, and one or two “sambals”-a spicy chili sauce. A gourmet meal would have steamed or boiled rice and numerous side dishes of meat, poultry, fish and vegetables served with several relishes, sauces and crackers.

Fida, who insists there are no authentic Indonesian restaurants in Boston, has taken it upon herself to recreate the Indonesian experience at her home on campus. Over her past few months in Boston, Fida has learned to “network” her way through, and is now thrilled and excited to have found friends and contacts who can help her source the “once almost impossible” to find Indonesian ingredients fairly easily today. A novice cook, she takes pride in having honed her cooking skills and confides that she owes most of it to a cookbook she found sometime back. She offered to share one of her simple and easy-to-make versions of the Satay with us.

Fida’s Satay
Satay (or sate) is a popular delicacy in Indonesia. As diverse as the cuisine is, so too is its satay. There are different variations of the satay depending upon the region. Fida explains Satay to be a common street food snack originating in Java, Indonesia. It is skewered diced/sliced meat (chicken/goat/beef/fish) that is grilled on top of wood or charcoal fire and then served with various spicy seasonings. The most common type of satay peddled by street vendors in Java is chicken or beef satay with spicy peanut sauce, onions and pickled cucumbers.

For Fida’s version of the satay, you would need:

1 lb chicken breast, diced/sliced
5 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
bamboo skewers

3 Thai red chili (optional)
4 cloves garlic
1 clove shallot
4 oz peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter

Skewer the meat. Make sure to leave enough room on the skewer to hold when grilling/eating. Pour the Satay with sweet soy sauce and lime juice. Grill until slightly charred, occasionally turning the satay. When there is no grill, use the oven to broil it. It will take only about 5 minutes or so. Be careful not to overcook. Good Satays are slightly charred on the outside but still moist on the inside.

For the sauce, mix the chili, garlic and shallot together using a mini food processor. Heat the margarine and stir-fry spices until fragrant. Stir in peanut butter, salt, sugar and water. Boil until sauce thickens. To add extra flavoring, coriander and/or cumin can be added for the marinade/sauce. As an additional option, sweet soy sauce and diced shallot/onion can also be added into the sauce.

Serve the Satay with the sauce.

Thank you Fida!! We sure can’t wait to try out your Satay. It looks absolutely delicious!!! Yummy yummmmm!! 🙂 As Fida continues to talk of the infinite diversity and the undisturbed beauty of her home country, I realize, our culinary tour is only a modest effort to peep into this eclectic mix. I feel we haven’t explored enough and want to stay longer. But then, I tell myself, maybe that’s the beauty of our tours. We peep in now, and we can always dive in later. Excited to explore more of these delectable destinations, we set off again. We hope you, too, are having fun. See u next week in yummy yum Brazil!!

Niranjana Neelakantan Gupta is an EC Partner. A home-maker, Niranjana enjoys hosting friends, cooking, writing and travelling.

November 9, 2009
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