dinsdag 29 maart 2011

Souvenirs from Java / Bali, Indonesia

I guess the perfect holiday is to relax and explore the beautiful country you are visiting. Finding a balance is very important to the success of a holiday. Our latest holiday, while being very enjoyable, left us with the feeling of needing a holiday to recover! OK jetlag was a major factor, crossing 7 time zones really has a negative effect on one's body, and the fact that we had two stops also took its toll.
We took a round trip starting in Jakarta, Java ending in Sanur, Bali. We have seen and experienced many things- with increasingly widened eyes. Travel is certainly a teacher- our knowledge and awareness considerably expands with each new holiday destination. A review will follow.
We usually favour round trips, ending with a couple of relaxation days on the beach but this time it was not enough. It was a case of planes, trains, buses, a ferry and a motorbike! I hardly had time to sunbathe let alone visit the local supermarket!
In a quick dash I raced around a supermarket and grabbed just a couple of cooking souvenirs:

I love fresh vanilla and since Indonesia is the second largest producer I couldn't resist buying a packet. It looks pretty impressive, the pods are long and they certainly feel good, now I only have to sample the quality and from what I've been told, it is of particularly high standard.
I coudn't resist palm sugar / gula melaka, after seeing it being collected from the trees. This will be explained in the review. It seems darker in colour than the Thai palm sugar. It certainly tastes heavenly. Shame I couldn't bring more but I knew I was pushing the weight limit (next time I am going to reduce the clothes I take by half! Who needs four bikini's? Three cardigans, four pairs of shoes…)
Luckily I had already purchased kemiri nuts (candlenuts) from the local market. These nuts have a high oil content, they are used mostly ground as a thickening and stabilising agent in curries and taste/ look similar to the macadamia nut.

They are mildly toxic however, if eaten raw. Various parts, bark/leaves/oil have been used in traditional medicine in most of the areas where it is native. To name two: The oil produced had many beauty properties, ie hair conditioner. It can also be used a laxative.
The candlenut, due to its high oil content, was used as a measure of time. Each nut burns for 15minutes. I tried it!

While coffee is available is numerous types and enticing packaging we did not appreciate the Indonesian coffee and left it on the supermarket shelf!
Oh yes, a bottle of Pepsi Blue jumped into the trolley, just for novelty value. Apparently, it was an enormous flop in the US (2002-2004) and I am not surprised at all- it tastes awful!
Also some delicious Cassave crisps- well everyone likes to snack- even I do!

Although I was overall rather disappointed in the Indonesian cuisine/ restaurants, I was inspired by one or two dishes. Thailand/ Greece remains jointly at nr 1/2.
Everyone must be familiar with Sambal and know its potency, but Sambal does not need to be overly hot. One of my best holiday meals was a dish served with two different types of Sambal. One was moderately hot, the other mild.
Today I tried to reproduce it by what I tasted. It was pretty damn good. Look it as being a kind of Asian pesto. You could of course use this same paste as a basic to cook with in a chicken/ shrimp dish.

Lemongrass Sambal- Asian Pesto:
approx 6 kemiri / candlenuts
3 rawit peppers (1 green, 2 red) with or without seeds
1 lemongrass*, finely chopped (fresh) or pureed
1 small piece fresh galangal*
1 small piece fresh ginger*
1/4 tsp salt
small piece palm sugar
lime juice
olive oil
Of course you could add shallot, trassi/shrimp paste, garlic….whatever you fancy.

Gently dry roast the candle nuts for a few minutes.
Finely chop the inner part of the lemongrass discarding the dry outer leaves. Finely chop the galangal, ginger and peppers.
Grind the toasted nuts in the mortar and pestle, add the galangal, ginger, peppers, salt and sugar and continue to blend, allowing all the juices to come out of the peppers.
Add a tbsp limejuice and olive oil. Add more olive oil until the required texture has been reached. Taste and add more lime/ salt/ sugar to personal taste.
I served mine on the side with noodles but it is equally delicious for dipping.

* Of course you can buy jars of galangal and lemongrass and that works fine but I prefer to use 'fresh', or frozen in my case. I buy sticks of lemongrass, galangal and ginger from the Toko. It can successfully be stored in the freezer until use. (You can actually buy lemongrass in the freezer section at the Toko) lemongrass need no special instructions just pop it in the freezer and take out as required. As for the galangal and ginger, I remove the skin and chop in varying sized pieces and store in a plastic bag/ container. It can be removed and directly chopped while still frozen, and used immediately.