Sunday, April 24, 2016

Indonesia

Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia. It is the third most populous democracy in the world and the largest majority-Muslim nation. It is the 15th largest country by area, which makes it less than three times the size of Texas. It consists of over 17,000 islands, about 6000 of which are inhabited. Over 255 million people live there, making it the 5th most populous country in the world. The capital, Jakarta, is located on the island of Java. With over 145 million people, it is the most populous island in the world.

Read more at the CIA World Factbook and, of course, Wikipedia.

I know it has been a long time, but in case you have forgotten, I actually own a Southeast Asian cookbook. I have only gotten to use it once before, for Cambodia, with some great results.


In reviewing entries to try to figure out if I had used the book for more than that I realized that we haven't done many Asia countries recently. That will certainly be changing here soon!

Even with the book, though, it was hard to find a recipe we could do. Not surprisingly, almost everything involved fish. Fish as protein, fish sauce, fish accents. Brendan's allergy made that a no-go, so our options were limited.

We were also having some friends from Church over, so we had to be able to cook for a crowd.


I picked "Extraordinary Beef Satay" and "Indonesian Grilled Chicken." Getting the ingredients was more of an adventure than I had bargained for. I asked Chad, one of our guests, where I should look for ingredients. He suggested an Asian food store about 30 minutes away. I went and found a lot of things I had been looking for for other recipes, but not Indonesian stuff. I didn't find lemongrass, Asian basil, pandanus leaves, sweet soy sauce, red finger-length chilies, OR kaffir limes. I did find bamboo skewers and sesame oil though, so close enough, right? We trekked on with substitutions, but I would not dare say it ended up authentic.


Also, the day we were doing this I realized I was out of brown sugar. I was seeing a friend at the library, so she brought me some. Exchanging powder in baggies in public places? Thanks, Carrie!


This was our marinade for the beef satay. Soy sauce with brown sugar instead of sweet soy sauce. Lemon rind instead of kaffir lime. At least these were both substitutions sanctioned by the book!


That marinated for a few hours while I started the chicken.

I had to make a seasoning paste. I used green chilies instead of red and red onion instead of shallots (I couldn't find any!) Seeing as there were only four total ingredients, we were only 50% on track.


Amelia was on nap strike that day, so Kevin was on get-her-to-sleep duty. He modeled the ideal behavior.


That paste was stir-fried with lemongrass, Asian basil, pandanus leaves, sweet soy sauce, and tomatoes. Out of all of those ingredients, the only one I really had was tomatoes. Ouch.


The book suggested I look for pananus extract, which was nowhere to be found either. The substitution I found online was vanilla plus green food coloring. Seriously. Apparently it has a slightly sweet flavor and a very bright green color.


The chicken got simmered in this not-even-close-to-Indonesian concoction. I didn't have a cover for my wok so I used a pizza pan. I'm sure it was authentic.


It came out looking kinda ghastly green.


Kevin and Chad grilled the beef. I believe it was February but actually warm enough! Jennifer and I watched the kids be kinda weirded out by the green chicken.


Then they also grilled the chicken. Even though it was already cooked through, this dish gets grilled to give it a nice crispy finish.


I somehow didn't get a picture of it, but that white container contained Indonesian fried rice that Chad made. He even found a recipe that didn't involve fish! It came with a few different toppings to go on it.

The beef satay was really really good. The marinade brought out some great flavors in the meat. It didn't get cooked for a long time, so the sesame oil still had a great flavor and overall the combination was excellent. They cooked it just the right amount of time so that it was still a bit red in the middle too.

The rice was good too. Definitely different than Chinese fried rice. It seemed maybe a little more dry and crunchy? But rice mixed with veggies and flavors is generally a hit.

The green chicken was...fine. For all of the work with preparing the marinade, it didn't really have a lot of flavor. Seeing as over half of the ingredients were substituted, though, I don't think I can really blame the recipe. It wasn't bad, just not that exciting. Our kids ate it, but Jennifer and Chad's are slightly older and didn't really feel comfortable eating green chicken.

We liked the cooking method though. Having it already cooked and then grilling the skin gave it a nice crisp without drying it out. That is definitely a tip I could take away from this.

So Indonesia was a mixed bad in no small part because I couldn't find the right ingredients. Maybe next time I'll try a different Asian grocery store. Also, I'm not sure we could ever travel to somewhere like Indonesia with Brendan's allergy. Yikes.

Next time: Iran

Friday, April 1, 2016

India the Third

For India the Third we mix things up a bit. This is a Northern India recipe that comes to me via my former boss in Virginia. She's actually from Pittsburgh, but we will still take her word on authentic Indian cuisine. :-)
We may have gotten a little excited about Christmas and I have relatively few pictures of just Joey...
Not only that, but we were in Colorado! Nothing better than trying out a new curry recipe on the in-laws, right?
Kevin prepped by sharpening some knives.
First note: make sure you actually use a Dutch oven, or something that is intended to go on the stove top, not actually in the oven. It is very important.

Anyway! Cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks? Not the way I'm used to starting a heavily-spiced dish, so let's try it! And of course onions. Always onions.


I read in one of the comments to mix the chicken and yogurt and some spices ahead of time to enhance the flavor, but I can't find it for the life of me now. That's what I did though.


The girls enjoyed a snack while mama had to make dinner instead of entertaining them. So unreasonable!

The nephew did not approve of my chopping technique.


I used a little mini food-processor/spice grinder instead of a mortar and pestle. The next few parts all went pretty fast and furious, so there aren't many pictures. I caught up again when the chicken/yogurt mixture got added to the onions, tomato paste, and spices.


Then that just cooks for a while! There's really not a ton to it, just a lot a lot a lot of chopping.


Serve over rice or naan!
This was pretty good. Definitely not what I have come to expect from a curry. More sweet than spicy. Now, I did not add the extra cayenne pepper because I was worried about the spiciness of the fresh peppers. However, those didn't end up having much of a kick, so that toned it down a lot. I think a little bit of extra spice would really up the complexity.

We're a pretty spice-happy family, so I think that is what I would change if I were to cook it again. More spice, less sweet. But it was certainly a nice change of pace and pretty yummy, especially if you don't like spicy but want to try some curry.

And then our India adventure comes to an end. It was fun, but we have to move on if we are going to actually make any progress.

Next time: Indonesia