Today is the final day of my one week multicultural food challenge. The last six days have been filled with foods from different cultural backgrounds. It is so fun to combine them and enjoy how deliciously they compliment each other. This challenge has made me realize that there are still so many things to explore in the culinary world. Most importantly, it has re-ignited the sparks in me to look for more recipes from any parts of the world.
I love completing the challenge with a noodle dish. Noodle is a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture. I think it somehow represents my hope for a long, healthy life, in which I shall enjoy life (and foods!) to the fullest.
This is Vegetable Tom Yam Noodle. It is inspired by the famous Thai/ Lao cuisine Tom Yam Kung. It is flavorful, quite sour and very spicy. It requires many ingredients, which is an extra challenge for me.
The soup is made of coconut milk, dried shrimp paste, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lemon basil, anchovy sauce, tamarind juice, Thai chili flakes, soy sauce and processed spice mixture (lengkuas/ greater galangal, onion, garlic, shallot, chili peppers, sugar, salt and pepper).
To make the noodle, cook the noodle in boiling water until it is half-cooked. Stir fry some mashed garlic in a the frying pan with coconut oil. Add in the vegetables (corn, leek, Napa cabbage, chili peppers and fragrant mushroom) and cook for another minute. Pour in the soup liquid and bring to boil.
Put in the noodle into the soup and keep cooking until the noodle is done. Add sugar, salt and pepper of necessary. Serve it with chopped scallions, fried shallot, fried garlic and cilantro leaves.
Liz, the owner of a very cool blog, My Favorite Pastime, suggested me to try to make avocado juice with lime or lemon. I had never mixed the two wonderful fruits before. It is something I had not even thought of, even though I often buy those fruits in the same trip to the market.
I decided to make the avocado juice, as suggested by Liz, by mixing avocado, crushed ice and a bit of honey in the food processor. I poured the result into three cups. I added a squeeze of lime juice into one of the cups, a squeeze of mountain lime juice into another one and a squeeze of kaffir lime juice into the last one.
They all tasted very refreshing. The juice from the limes had added a fresh kick into the avocado juice. I think I should make it for some people I know who dislike avocado because of its overwhelmingly rich aroma. My favorite one, out of the three glasses, is the one mixed with the juice from the common lime. The aroma of mountain lime and kaffir lime made the juice tasted “too much”.
Liz said that when she drank it during her travel to the tropics, she heard people calling it as “juice” instead of “smoothie”. I think it was simply because those people did not know the term “smoothie”. How can I be so sure? Well, We also call it as avocado juice in my hometown!
Anyway, I did not stop there. I, as a friend once beautifully stated it, have the talent to enhance something simply wonderful into something sinfully delicious. I mixed the avocado “juice” with a bit of palm sugar, fresh coconut milk and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. It tasted like a heavenly Sunday noon!
I have been combining two foods with different cultural backgrounds in one meal for the first five days of my challenge. The idea of a-week-of-multicultural-food challenge is to appreciate and to enjoy how well foods from different ethnic roots can compliment each other.
I decided to take a new interpretation of the word “multicultural” for today’s dinner. Instead of having two food, I combined two foods into one dish.
I was on my way back from the morning market when I suddenly got the idea to fuse Indonesian Satay with Pork Roast. I used all the spices required to cook satay; but instead of skewered and grilled the small pieces of meat on burning charcoals, I cooked it as one whole piece.
In the place where I am from, Pork Roast is not something we commonly see outside the western restaurants. In fact, it is mostly associated with American or British family dinner (as we often see on TV).
The spice mixture was a blend of garlic, coriander seeds, soy sauce, salt, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and coconut milk. There is no need to use measurement. I did it “housewife style”, just like most of my hometown folks usually do. Rely on your instinct and just play with the spices!
I marinated the pork for one hour and I grilled it in the traditional oven which had no temperature controller. This is the tricky part, I had to keep watching the flame to make sure that the heat stayed medium. I also had to keep peeking into the oven from the glass window to check if the pork is cooked.
It may sound strange, but this type of oven is still popularly used in many parts of Indonesia. It is shaped like a cube with small glass window. It can be paired with modern gas stove, kerosene stove or anglo (Javanese brazier, a traditional cookware looking like a clay urn with a hole to put in burning woods or charcoals).
Once the pork is done, put it on a serving dish. Collect the liquid from the oven tray, cook it with butter, onion, sugar, ground roasted or fried peanut (optional), salt, pepper and sweet soy sauce (kecap manis). Thicken it with the mixture of tapioca and water if necessary.
Serve the pork roast with the sauce, a squeeze of lime juice (optional), a little sweet soy sauce (optional), fried shallot and cilantro leaves (optional). It is best served with hot rice, emping (melinjo crackers) and bird’s eye chili sauce.
Today is the fifth day of the a-week-of-multicultural-food challenge. I was thinking about combining Chinese snack with Indonesian dessert for the afternoon snack.
Steamed vegetable dumpling (菜包粿: cài bāo guǒ) is a traditional Peranakan Chinese treat. It is one of the types of traditional Chinese steamed dumplings (蒸餃子: zhēng jiǎo zi).
The wrapper (shell) is made of flour and water. The filling is the mixture of minced meat, carrot, dried shrimp, scallion and jicama. Its surface is usually oily because it has to be greased with vegetable oil to prevent it from sticking to other dumplings.
There are two types of steamed veggie dumpling. The filling is pretty much the same. The only thing different is the wrapper. If the wrapper is yellow, it is made of sweet potato. If it is white skinned, the wrapper is made of rice flour.
Steamed Veggie Dumpling is best eaten with sweet & sour chili sauce. Some eat it with bird’s eye chili dipped in soy sauce.
Kolak is a traditional watery dessert from Indonesia. It is made of coconut milk, palm sugar, pandan leaves and fruits. The Kolak shown above contains banana, cassava, palm fruit and jack-fruit. Some other popular ingredients are pumpkin, sweet potato, yam and breadfruit.
Kolak is usually eaten as afternoon snack or dessert. It can also be served cold. Es Kolak Dingin (cold kolak) consists of kolak, tapai ketan and crushed ice.
Today is the fourth day of the a-week-of-multicultural-food challenge. I had curry puffs & banana milkshake on the first day; Chicken Salad with Pandan Dressing & Sop Buah Dingin on the second day and then I had two snacks made of cassava on the third day.
After three days of East meets West, I was thinking about North meets South. The food is from Borneo, which is in the northern part of the equator, and the beverage is from Java which is in the South.
Ayam Cincane is a traditional grilled chicken dish from East Borneo (Kalimantan Timur). Its main tone is dominated by candle nuts and shrimp paste (terasi). The chicken is braised with coconut milk, tamarind juice, kaffir lime juice and spice mixture (garlic, candle nut, chili peppers, salt and pepper).
The chicken is then grilled on burning charcoals. As soon as the chicken is done and removed from heat, glaze it with sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and lime juice. Ayam Cincane is traditionally garnished with fresh shallot slices.
Wedang Limau Selasih is a traditional beverage from Java Island. It is often made during the rainy days and the changing of the season. It is a great mood enhancer. It helps the body to adapt with the weather and protects it from the negative effects of the turbulent climate.
Wedang Limau Selasih is very easy to make. Boil some cubes of rock sugar and pandan leaves in the water. Once it has boiled, remove it from the heat. Squeeze the juice from some limes and mix it into the sugar liquid. You can put as much as you like, according to your taste.
Add some poppy seeds, which have been previously developed with warm water, and a little bit of honey to taste. You can also try the recipe with orange, lemon, kaffir lime or any fruit from the citrus family. You can also replace pandan leaves with lemongrass or ginger.
Two colleagues of mine showed up with big bags of cassavas. One of them dug some out of his backyard. The cassavas he brought was fatter than my calf. They are common cassava with white, starchy flesh. They are usually a little tough, which is why they are mostly made into chips and other “dry” treats.
The other colleague dug some wild cassava roots from the riverbank near his house (he lives in a nearby village, pretty close to the mountain). These cassavas taste sweeter. They also have nicer texture. They are often called as Ubi Roti (literally means Bread Cassava) because they are softer than most cassava when they are cooked. Some call them Ubi Pulut (Glutinous Bread) for their chewy texture.
I was thinking that I should make my a-week-of-multicultural-food challenge more fun. I was going to make two treats from the same main ingredients!
Today is my third day of the challenge. The treats for the first day was curry puffs and banana milkshake. I had a chicken salad and a big cup of sop buah on the second day. The third day as gonna be a cassava day!
Perkedel Ubi is a Peranakan Indian treat. It is usually sold by the local Indian food street-vendors. In the past, Perkedel Ubi could only be found in coastal towns in the western parts of Indonesia. Do not be fooled by its friendly look. Perkedel Ubi is as spicy as any Indian food.
I do not know the original name of the food. Perkedel Ubi is its common name in Indonesian tongue. The word perkedel came from a dutch word frikadeller, which was the name for pan-fried minced meat shaped like meatballs.
Perkedel Ubi is very easy to make. The cassava is washed and grated once the rind is removed. It is then mixed with dried shrimp (re-hydrated in hot water for at least five minutes), minced meat (optional), tapioca, salt and spice mixture.
The spice mixture is processed chili peppers, coriander seeds, garlic, onion, shallot, turmeric roots, white peppers and cumin seeds.
Once the dough is mixed well, they are ready to be fried. Once the perkedels are golden brown, remove them from the frying oil. It is best to not overcook them because they will be so tough.
Perkedel ubi is usually eaten with bird’s eye chili. They are also often added into Gado-Gado (a type of traditional Indonesian salad) and Mie Rebus (a type of noodle dish).
The second treat I made was a traditional Javanese snack. Its name is Talam Singkong. The word talam means “tray” while singkong is cassava. The Indonesian folks also call cassava as Ubi Kayu and Ketela Pohon.
The treat was originally made by using tray made of wood, clay or metal. Nowadays, people prefer using smaller mold so that they can make it in different shapes.
Talam Singkong has at least two layers. The bottom one is a mixture of grated cassava (500 grams), tapioca (10 grams), palm sugar (250 grams), medium-thick coconut milk (200 ml) and a bit of salt.
Once the ingredients are well-mixed, pour them into the mold and steam until it is cooked. It will averagely take 15 minutes depending on the size of the tray or mold used.
The second layer is the mixture of coconut milk (300 ml/ medium-thick), rice flour (15 grams), tapioca (15 grams) and a bit of salt. You can add pandan extract, colorant or other flavoring extract if you like. Pour the liquid on top of the first layer and steam for another 20 – 25 minutes.
The first layer is usually twice as thick as the second one. I usually pour the first dough until the mold is 60% full. It is better to give extra space just in case the dough develops. Some types of cassava swells when cooked.
It was super fun to be able to make two different treats from one main ingredients. The first one was ala Peranakan India and the second one was original, native Indonesian treat. I guess I managed to meet the term “multicultural”.
The best part was the fact that all of my colleagues really enjoyed those snacks and they thought that they should bring more stuff from their backyards!
Today is the second day of the a-week-of-multicultural-food challenge. The plan is, I am going to have at least one multicultural meal in a day. It could be the breakfast, brunch, lunch, teatime, dinner or supper. In one of those meal, I am going to have two treats originating from two different cultures. I started the challenge yesterday, with the Curry Puffs ala Peranakan Indian and a glass of Banana Milkshake for afternoon snack.
This is basically a classic chicken veggie salad with mayo-based dressing. I just made a few small changes. I do not want it to be too “Asian” because salad is one of the most iconic western foods in common Indonesian perspective. I want it to stay “western” so that it can contrast against the equally colorful Peranakan Chinese dessert.
The lean chicken breasts were cooked in two ways, flour-fried and boiled. The fried one was dressed with sweet & sour creamy mayo sauce while the boiled one was covered in the mixture of mayo and pandan cream.
Sop Buah Dingin (literally translated as cold fruit soup) or Es Buah is a popular watery dessert in my hometown. It is usually sold by the Peranakan Chinese street food vendors at night.
This version I made is a little different but it still has the same idea. The fruits are mostly tropical fruits. I mixed longan, aloe vera, nata de coco, palm-fruit, diced melon, canned strawberry and jelly cubes (made of pomegranate juice). The liquid is basically sugar water flavored with lychee syrup.
I was reading a post in dawndancers.com when I got this pretty cool idea. Clare, the blog owner, had a couple of delicious-looking Mexican fajita wrappers after a day of hard works. She completed the meal with super cute mini French cakes.
I thought it was a very fun thing to do, combining two great treats originated from two different continents. I told myself that I should do a challenge, in which I am going to have at least one multicultural meal in a day. It should not be a difficult thing to do, considering how colorful this country I am living in is.
There are, of course, many ways to interpret the word “multicultural”. I might have two treats like Clare did. I might also cook something by fusing two different cooking styles, ingredients and other cultural factors.
For the first day of the challenge, I meet with something east with something west. It is a sweet and spicy afternoon snack: two curry puffs and a glass of banana milkshake.
Curry Puff is one of my favorite Peranakan Indian treats. It is a type of puff pastry filled with meat and potatoes cooked in thick curry sauce. Curry puff can be found in South East Asian countries, especially in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia where it is popularly eaten as breakfast or teatime snack.
Curry puff can be either fried or baked in the oven. Fried curry puff is more crispy then the baked version because of its thin shell. The young folks usually prefer the fried one to the baked one.
Baked curry puff is quite similar to any other baked pastry. It has softer, puffier shell which makes it more popular among the elderly folks. Baked curry puff is usually sold in the bakeries while the fried one is usually sold by street food hawkers and traditional treat vendors.
Despite its Indian root, I have never seen any Indian people selling this treat in my hometown. Most of the curry puff sellers I have encountered are of Chinese descent. It is called as Karipap in local Malay tongue. The Chinese folks call it as “curry horn” (咖哩角: gā lí jiǎo) because of its shape.
Milkshake and Smoothie are viewed as a “western” beverage in Indonesia. You can find them in cafeterias and restaurants that also sell western treats such as burgers and steaks.
The milkshake I made was a delicious blend of ripe banana, skimmed milk, palm sugar and crushed ice. I topped it with a spoonful of traditional hand-whisked whipped-cream; and then I poured in a generous amount of dark chocolate sauce.
Kaffir Lime is one of the most exotic fruits I have ever encountered. Its fragrance can entice both human and spiritual beings. Even until this very day, I still get goosebumps every time I smell the aroma of a freshly cut kaffir lime.
Kaffir Lime is called as Jeruk Purut in Indonesian language. It can be literally translated as rough-skinned orange. The name might be inspired by the physical appearance of the fruit.
The aroma of kaffir lime is rather floral. It smells like the combination of mountain lime and jasmine. It was said that the aroma of the fruit had the power to invoke magical power and summon the spirits. For this particular reason, kaffir lime is used in most mystical rites.
Kaffir lime has all the goodness of a common lime. It can cure nausea, influenza, cough, bleeding gum, hemorrhoid, tonsillitis, diphtheria, fever, menstrual problems, sore throat and hypertension.
Kaffir lime is also used in traditional body treatments to cure dandruff, rough skin and pimples. Traditional Javanese ladies used this fruit to strengthen their nails, freshen their breath, clean their hair, and scenting their body.
In the kitchen, the leaves of kaffir lime are more commonly used that the fruits. Just like pandan leaf, kaffir Lime Leaf is considered as one of the royalties of traditional flavors in Indonesian cooking.
I often replace lemon zest with kaffir lime leaves when I cook. There is something about the aroma of kaffir lime leaves that is so appetizing. It smells so “regal” and “luxurious”, but it also screams “traditional”, “earthy” and “homey”.
Kaffir Lime leaves can be dried to make them last longer. Dried kaffir lime leaves has rich zesty, bittersweet aroma. Preserving the leaves can also be done by freezing them. Frozen kaffir lime leaves have more “original” aroma.
Kaffir lime leaves are very cheap in my hometown. The fruit, unfortunately, is quite expensive. In big cities, the price of one kaffir lime, as big as a lemon, is as much as a kilogram of the common lime.
It is very common to find Chinese folks in my hometown whose name are of the animals. Those names are usually not their real names. The practice of nicknaming the children with names of animal is a very old Chinese tradition.
Disadvantaged children – those who have weak bodies, those who often get accidents and those who are foretold to be short-lived – are usually nicknamed as animals so that the spirits and demons will not harm them, thinking that they are too unworthy to be taken as preys.
Children are also nicknamed as animals so that they can have certain qualities possessed by the animals. A child who is too thin might be named as “Little Pig” (小豬: Xiǎo Zhū) so that he can grow fat.
Some people might be skeptical or feel amused by this nicknaming tradition. What matters is, the practice has been repeatedly proven to be successful in giving positive mindsets to the parents and the children. Something that seems so ridiculous and superstitious has enable many Chinese folks to embrace life with less anxiety in their hearts.
The thing is, once the people get used to calling someone with his nickname, they will not likely to use the person’s real name anymore. When “Little Pig” grows into a man, his friend and neighbors will simply call him “A Pig” (啊豬: Ah Zhū).
It is not meant to be an insult. It is just a habitual thing. It is not something uncommon that even the closest friends of those people with nicknames do not know their real names.
Here are some animals whose names were commonly used by the Chinese folks to name their children: (Some of them are still popular nowadays)
- Little Mouse (小老鼠: Xiǎo Lǎo Shǔ). A child was usually nicknamed as a mouse, a cat or a dog because the child was physically weak and small. The other reason was to make the child looked more meaningless in the eyes of the evil beings.
- Little Ox (小牛: Xiǎo Niú). Nicknaming a boy as an ox or a horse was believed to be able to make the child grow tall and muscular. Since cattle was extremely valuable, the boy was hoped to bring wealth and prosperity to the family as he grew up.
- Little Tiger (小虎: Xiǎo Hǔ). A boy who was scared of his own shadow was often nicknamed as a tiger or a dragon to help him grow into a brave, charismatic man.
- Little Rabbit (小兔: Xiǎo Tù). Young infant who seemed to be spiritless and showed little effort to live was often nicknamed as a rabbit or a monkey so that it might grow into a healthy, active child.
- Little Dragon (小龍: Xiǎo Lóng).
- Little Horse (小馬: Xiǎo Mǎ).
- Monkey (老猴子: Lǎo Hóu Zi).
- Little Puppy (小狗: Xiǎo Gǒu).
- Little Piglet (小豬: Xiǎo Zhū). As I mentioned above, Chinese folks of old believed that nicknaming a thin child as a pig will help the child grow fat. In the harsh past time when food was scarce, a fatter child meant higher chance survival.
- Little Kitten (小貓: Xiǎo Māo).
- Little Swallow (小燕子: Xiǎo Yàn Zi). Little girls who seemed to have weak body were often named as Swallow so that she grew into a healthy, agile girl.
- Bear (熊: Xióng).
- Little Leopard (豹: Bào)
- Little Goose (小鵝: Xiǎo É)
Ayam Kecap is a a pretty popular Indonesian dish. There are many versions of Ayam Kecap in Indonesia. Each province seems to have their own twist; whether it is the spices, cooking techniques or additional ingredients.
The version I made this time is ala Peranakan style. It shows the fusion of Indonesian and Chinese cooking. I usually call it as Ayam Kecap Lima Bawang because it requires five members of the bawang family: bawang putih (garlic), bawang merah (shallot), bawang bombay (onion), bawang perai (leek) and bawang daun (scallion).
It is very easy to make. Simply marinate the chicken with garlic powder, ground coriander seed, soy sauce, lime juice and ground black pepper for one hour; fry it and cut it in any size that you like.
Stir fry some julienned ginger-root and five bawangs with coconut oil until they release fragrant aroma. You can also add some chili peppers if you like it hot
Once the liquid is boiling, add in soy sauce, Chinese black soy sauce, Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and crushed palm sugar. Let it boil and thicken a bit.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the flame, add in a few drops of sesame oil.
Pour the sauce on the top of the chicken. You can add a little bit of lime juice if you like. It will make the dish more fragrant and fresh.
Ayam Kecap is best served with hot rice and fresh cucumber.