Nagasari is a traditional Indonesian snack that mom often bought for us. She was a big fan of traditional food, and she wanted her children to appreciate it too. Now she does the same to her grandkids; and I can see that my nieces love it. Anyway, I wasn't a big fan of nagasari because it has a piece of banana inside. I didn't like banana and still don't like it unless it's cooked in certain way. It wasn't until I moved to the States and made nagasari myself that I started to list it on my favorite light dessert.
There are two kinds of nagasari, one that is made out of hunkwe (mung bean) flour and one that is made out of rice flour. Mine is the one that is dominated by rice flour then mixed with a little mung bean flour. The common type of banana that Indonesians use are tanduk, raja, or kepok. However, there are probably only two kinds of banana commonly available in my area, and the closest one is plantain. If I understand it correctly, plantain is the same as pisang tanduk. Choosing plantain is kinda tricky. I've been told that ones that are black and look like rotten bananas are the best. I thought I've picked the ugliest ones among others, but the inside were still tough and unripe.
Ingredients: 1 cup rice flour
1 Tbs mung bean flour
1 liter coconut milk
1/2 liter coconut milk
2 stalks pandan leaves
2 ripe plantain, cut diagonally to 1/2-inch thick Banana leaves, clean and cut it to approximately 8"x6"
Mix rice flour, mung bean flour, and 500 ml coconut milk. Side aside. In a sauce pan, bring the rest of the coconut milk, pandan leaves, and dash of salt to a boil. Let it cool then mix with the rice flour mixture.
Place the pan onto the stove at low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is thickened and bubbling. Remove the pan from heat.
Place two tablespoons flour mixture on the banana sheet, add the banana and cover with another two tablespoons flour mixture, fold both side neatly and put them into a steamer.
Steam for about 30 minutes.
I got the privilege of learning hubby's grandma's secret recipe when I visited her last December. Hubby keeps telling me how great her cooking is, and I proofed it by myself by trying almost everything she offered me during that short visit. In fact, she doesn't cook for her family only, but also for her customers. That's right, she has a small ronde -Indonesian traditional hot drink- shop in front of her house. Eventhough she is over 80, cooking is still her main activity. When I was there, she offered to teach me some recipes and also offered me some kitchen cooking wares, which were her mom's treasures.
Among those recipes she offered, I chose spring roll wrap. Hubby told me that he loved watching his great grandma making the wraps. As boys, he and his brother often asked her to let the wrap cooked longer on the pan, so they could enjoy crunchy spring roll wraps. I can imagine the joy eating the warm crispy wraps fresh from the pan. His grandma continues the business now, and she passed the recipe down to me.
Making the wraps looked easy, but when I tried it at home, it was like a joke. Fortunately, I cooked with my mom. We laughed at my failure together. It was fun! She made the bamboo shoot filling while I was focusing on the wraps. After some got trashed, some were as thick as cow skin, some could be used as masks because of some gigantic holes on it, the wraps finally started looking like.....wraps!
At the end of that afternoon, we had a lot of Indonesian spring rolls enough for several days. The next day, I packed some for dad, using his blue lunch box my sister had it made for him. That lunch box was to replace my 5-year niece's pink princess lunch box dad often brought to office. Haha... It was great to be home.
First of all, my apology for not updating this blog for over a month. I am at my other home right now, have been savoring my time with my family and relatives. Here at my parents' house, food is readily available, sounds redundant to me to cook. So, I've been on a cooking hiatus, except when I want to learn new recipes.
Initially, I was irritated with the weather and told myself not to go home during rainy season like now. It rains almost everyday, not mentioning some intense tropical rains, which cause flood and traffic jam paralyzing the city. Aside from the excessive un-managed stormwater, I love being here during Christmas time because it also means loving-water vegetables and fruits are in season.
One vegetable that only exists at the end of the year is boros. Boros looks like lemon grass but smaller, shorter, and softer. This grass vegetable may be an "acquired taste", because I know many people who swore not eat it. This veggie also loses it's fame. Most people my generation I asked either didn't like or never heard of it. However, Boros is a tradition in my family. Grandma used to make pepes boros in large amount then shared it with her four children and their family.
I had never had a chance to cook it myself, so I was happy when my aunt was happy to pass down the recipe. That Saturday, I picked her up and brought her to my house. Some of my relatives came to see the cooking demonstration also. I treasured our little reunion while following the cooking process then closed with enjoying the final product.
The ingredients for pepes boros are boros, pedo (salty fishes), shallots, garlic, coriander, candlenuts, tamarind, egg, stinky beans, palm sugar, and salt.
For my family, pudding is an all-occasion snack. I call it snack instead of dessert because we usually have it at any time, not just after a meal. What makes our pudding different than pudding I usually found in the States is it is agar-agar based. Wikipedia defines agar-agar or agar as "a gelatinous substance derived by boiling from a polysaccharide in red algae". So, it is plant based, while gelatin is animal by-products. Since agar isn't common in this country, I had to explain what it was whenever I brought it to a gathering so my vegetarian friends could also have it.
Pudding was almost always present in our family's special occasions. For those occasions, the professional pudding makers in our family, my sister and my aunt made it more complex in design. They would make some layers, mix it with fruits, the make sweet sauce to go with it. For regular occasion, we usually just had one flavor and ate it without the sauce. When I was little, mom liked to use animal or flower mold. I remember we had a big gold fish mold and some small turtle molds stored in my grandma's antique kitchen cupboard.
I like to bring pudding to a potluck, and that's what I did not too long ago when we were invited to our friends' house. The main reason is it is a very light dessert, so it can fill a little gap in stomach even after a heavy meal. Other than that, it is super easy to make. The basic is just boiling agar-agar powder, sugar, and milk.
Ingredients for caramel: 150gr sugar
100 ml water
I am still working on learning caramelizing, so read this and this tips for the direction.
1 package (7 grams) agar-agar powder
700 ml milk (I used 2%)
25 gr sugar
1 can halved peach
Dissolve agar-agar powder in 200 ml milk to avoid clumping. Bring all of the ingredients except run extract to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly to prevent agar agar powder from sticking to bottom of pan.
Arrange the peaches on a fluted pan. Using a ladle, gently pour half of the agar-agar mixture into the pan. Wait for 10 minutes until the mixture is half set to secure the peaches. Pour the rest of the mixture.
Cool, then refrigerate.
Belgedel or perkedel is a potato cake grandma often made. I loved it so much that I often lost count how many of it I have had. For grandma, it's better if the food was gone because it was consumed than if it was wasted; and my sisters and I knew that we would be in a big trouble if we wasted food. Her cook was always delicious, so we never could find any reason not to finish it. Oh how lucky I was to have grandma living with us during the first quarter century of my life.
That Sunday, I accidentally made bergedel. Yes, accidentally. I was planning on making pastel tutup, but when I mashed the potatoes, mixed in spices, then tasted it, I knew I wanted to change direction. The taste reminded me of grandma's perkedel. Fortunately, I haven't prepared the filling, so it was in fact shortened my cooking time. Moment later, there were balls of mashed potato calling to be eaten. I was happy to finally taste this food again.
My bergedel was different than my grandma's although I used her recipe. Hers used meat and was double fried. She would cut the potatoes in slices then fried them. After forming to balls, she would fry them again. Mine was meatless because I was too lazy to thaw ground beef, the potatoes were steamed before mashed, and then baked because I didn't like deep frying in my apartment. My kitchen didn't have window, so the stubborn odor from hot oil for frying would stay for a long time. So, as much as I like fried food, I tried not to do it at home. I usually bake it instead. Most of the time, although not the same, baking the supposed-to-be-fried food can also taste great. I think it worked for this bergedel too, or at least it tasted like the one I used to eat with much less grease.
So, here is the ingredients and cooking direction for the bergedel from my grandma. My apology for not having the measurement because the recipe I got from grandma doesn't have one. I should have jot down the measurement right after I cook.
Potatoes, peeled, sliced, fried
Shrimp and ground beef, stir fried
Cut celery or cilantro, chopped
Fried onion, crushed
Mash the potatoes and meat. Mix in the fried onion, salt, sugar, and nutmeg. Shape into small flat patties. Coat patties with beaten egg and deep-fry in hot oil until golden brown.
I made this layer cake last weekend and found out that there were a lot of versions of it. My favorite one is made out of tapioca flour. It is chewy and elastic. The real one composed of a lot of thin layers, unlike mine that has thick fewer layers because I was in a hurry. I liked to eat it by peeling the layers one by one. I also liked to stretch it before I put it in my mouth. Hubby said that he liked to roll it after peeling it.
This one, however, wasn't the one I expected. It's the kind that's inflexible, hence not playful.
Klepon is traditional Indonesian snack made out of boiled glutinous rice stuffed with palm sugar rolled in grated coconut. Klepon is usually sold in packs of five balls served on a folded banana leaf. I am not sure where this traditional food originally is from, but I was convinced that it's from Java.
Eating klepon reminds me of my childhood, especially those time, when my sisters and I took swimming lessons at a public swimming pool not far from our house. I was between the first to third grade at that time. The three of us attended the class twice a week, about 2-3 hours each time; and our beloved grandma was always happily chaperoning us. She didn't swim, but from the spectator seat, she kept her eye on her grand daughters while they were swimming. She would come closer when we needed something or just to give us support. She always brought food for us. She knew that we would be starving after (and in the middle of) the lesson, and would occasionally run to her to get "refueled". I remember vividly when she brought cut mango or peeled rambutan from our yard because I loved them so much.
Despite the "ration" she brought from home, we also liked to get some snacks from the swimming pool's canteen. They sold many kind of traditional snack which included klepon. It became our routine for several years when we took the lesson that grandma and us enjoying the snack together at the end of each lesson before we went home. The klepon from that canteen was special. They looked like usual ones on the outside, but they joyfully POP! in the mouth when bitten. Then sweet fragrant melted palm sugar nicely swarming my tastebud. Ahh... I loveeed that sensation. Hubby said that it was not possible. Now I wasn't sure about the explosion anymore. I could have romanticized it because I was always starving and exhausted after swimming. I told hubby that I would go back to that canteen when I went home, to proof that I was right.
Last Sunday was like a flashback of that time for me. I was preparing ingredients for klepon when hubby asked me to swim. It was a bright evening when we left our apartment, but soon, dark clouds dangling above us. We quickly finished our laps then went home. At home, I continued making the klepon, and we enjoyed those squishy balls after dinner. The taste of the melted palm sugar and grated coconut, the texture of the glutinous rice, and the smell of those combined, really reminded me of my childhood.
Source: Jajan Pasar Favorit Ingredients:
300 gr glutinous flour
260 gr warm water
1/2 tsp pandan paste (pandan essence and food coloring)
100 gr palm sugar, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
100 gr grated coconut
1 pandan leaf
1/2 tsp salt
Mix grated coconut and 1/2 salt. Place pandan leaf in an oven-proof bowl then fill it with the coconut mixture. Steam for 10 minutes.
Mix water and pandan paste. Place the glutinous rice flour and salt in a mixing bowl and slowly add the water mixture, mix with your hands until the dough is pliable. You may not need the whole prepared water.
Pinch about 1 teaspoon of dough and flatten into a disc. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in the middle, close and roll into a ball with the palms of your hand.
Drop the balls into a pot of boiling water. When they float to the surface, let them cook for one more minute. The balls will float when they are cooked. Remove the balls and drain them (about 5 minutes).
Roll them in the grated coconut mixture. Serve immediately.
First of all, happy Eid Mubarak to all my Moslem friends. May this day brings joy, peace, and blessing to you and your family.
In my country, Eid is the biggest day of the year. I was always excited when Eid was about to come. The festivities usually started during Ramadan, when everyone seemed to be high spirited, and it would rub off on me On the day, we usually went to my relatives which involved eating a lot of good food! Our ex-assistant and his wife usually visited our house either on the day or the evening before Eid, bringing ketupat Lebaran. Ketupat Lebaran is a traditional Eid delicacy in our country, and theirs was and still is the best ever!
Since Eid holiday is the longest holiday in my country, it is also a time for my family to reunite. My extended family just had a big family retreat -a rare precious moment that I couldn't attend Hence, it is not surprising that my dad keeps sending pictures of that joyful time. So...yup...it's hard not to think about home...and about home food.
I was glad I made sambal balado because I could have home food in a jiffy when I didn't have much time to cook. We used salmon this time, and believe that it's possible to eat just the sauce with rice.
Summer seems to be a time of sharing vegetables. Almost every Sunday during summer, people at church bring their bounty of harvest to share. Those veggies are either from their backyard or from their friend's overflowing garden. A lady at work also often brings her garden yield to be shared with her colleagues. Still at work, the secretary of a department at my university once in a while send email to the mailing list I join, when there is extra green bean or other vegetables from the university's trial garden.
I love being in the middle of sharing communities, especially ones that share fresh produce. The spirit of giving is contagious and could demolish wall of hatred and prejudice. I know that many things can be shared, but I hope someday I can also share my harvest. When I have space to plant, of course! Eventhough watching plants grow and harvesting the plants are pleasant distractions, gardening is also labor intensive. So I believe that sharing garden produce means sharing of love.
My friend, one of the church people that brings vegetable to share, knows that I like hot chilli peppers. Since there's no one likes hot peppers, he usually hands the peppers directly to me. I love to get those peppers so I don't have to buy from an Asian grocery store. The store only has pre-packaged chilli peppers on a styrofoam tray. One pack is too much for me as they get moldy so quickly -which show the age of the produce.
Having a lot of tomatoes and hot peppers, I made balado sauce. Usually people use about 2 tomatoes for amount of onion and garlic that I used, but I used 8 or more tomatoes. I made a jar of sauce and saved it in refrigerator. When I don't have time to cook, I scoop spoons of the sauce to a skillet and add eggs, vegetables, or meat then cook it just to blend them together.
I didn't follow a certain recipe to make this. I cooked this sauce several weeks ago, and my bad for not jotting down the recipe right away. So please take the composition of the ingredients lightly. The list of ingredients and the steps should be fine.
Balado Sauce Ingredients: 1 red onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, sliced
5 or more red or green chilli peppers
3 kaffir lime leaves, discard the veins
1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
In a pan, sauté onion and garlic until fragrant.
Using a food processor, purée tomatoes, peppers, candlenuts, lime leaves, and sauteed onion mixture.
Pour pureed tomato mixture into a skillet. Add sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until the sauce is thick. Add vegetable oil to prevent sticking. When the sauce is almost ready, add in the belacan.
*Sambal Balado (Balado hot sauce) is a traditional Indonesian food from Minangkabau, an area in West Sumatra.
Our friends and us discussed about how we appreciated our traditional food more after we moved abroad. Now we realize more that Indonesian food is very elaborate. That's the food we used to take for granted because it was everywhere and inexpensive. Food originated from foreign countries including those from chain fast food restaurants is "cooler", which successfully steals Indonesian market. I used to prefer that kind of food too eventhough it put a hole in my pocket because the price could be five times as expensive as Indonesian food from a warung adjacent to my boarding house.
Living far away from our home country has 'forced' me to learn cooking food I grew up with. Sometimes my cooking tastes similar to the one traditional one, yet sometimes it isn't. Some food is too complicated and is time and energy consuming. Unfortunately I often don't have patience so most of the time, I prefer simple and quick food.
The good news is, living far from our hometown and family, hubby and I become less picky about Indonesian food. We even are grateful enough if we could have traditional Indonesian food wannabe! This food that I made, empek-empek is one of it. My cooking would not taste as good if I cooked it back home because getting much better one is just a motorcycle away. Haha...
So, what alteration and mistake did I make to my cooking this time? I used tilapia fish instead of mackerel. I also baked the boiled empek-empek instead of frying them. From making this food, I learned that making empek-empek kapal selam was so difficult. I couldn't make the dough to hold the egg. During the boiling process, the egg burst out.
Despite it's imperfection, it was a perfect dinner for our perfect Sunday evening. As hubby always says, "the secret of happiness is low expectation". Happy Thursday!
*Empek-empek/pempek is a traditional Indonesian food from Palembang, capital city of South Sumatra province.