Saturday, July 10, 2010


Indonesia was an after thought on the itinery for our four months of travelling through South East Asia. Landing in Kuta, Bali we had one week booked at a beautiful resort - a gift from my parents and a welcomed relief from sleeping on over night trains and back packing through India. We decided to spend a week exploring Bali island with a rental car and then head east experiencing more of rural Indonesia. I was enchanted the moment I arrived. Little grass woven offering baskets with burning incense and cerise pink flowers were place before all the entrances to buildings, including the airport. Airport staff eating from triangular folded paper bowls with throw away chop sticks…I was fascinated and excited to learn more about the Indonesian culture. Indonesians have simple eateries where a variety of prepared dishes (including chicken and fish) are displayed in the shop front window for everyone to see what’s on offer. You simply pay for the size of your plate and choose what you’d like to eat. I had to quickly over come my fear of the term cross- contamination, staphylococcus and his friends, and realise that if I was going to worry about getting food poisoning, I’d most definitely starve. A few hours later we were sipping on ‘Matzo’, a clear broth with what I think was pork meatballs, we had bought from a vendor on the side of the road. I had read about ‘the best authentic Indonesian restaurant’ in our Lonely Planet and I think my husband resigned himself to the fact that this was definitely on the itinery for the week. Driving there, along the narrow windy roads on Bali, was another adventure in itself… Colourful fruit stands line the roads with the most fascinating fruit I’d ever seen- huge jack fruit (the biggest fruit in the world), white mango’s, sweet little banana and red, spiky leechies.

We were relieved when we finally stumbled across the restaurant we were looking for and were welcomed with huge glasses of ice tea with mint and lemon grass. We did have the most memorable meal and were able to sample all the delicacies Indonesian cooking is famous for like satays, wilted water spinach, and tofu. Travelling east across Lombok island, we had another memorable food experience… We bought little banana leaf parcels that are made by compressing sticky rice around a young sweet banana wrapping and them tightly with a banana leaf. These little sweet delights are then kept for a few days until the banana infuses with the rice, and sold on the side of the road to hungry school children passing by. Looking back, Indonesia was definitely a highlight of our adventure. We fell in love with the beautiful nature of the people and the delicious fresh, simple food. Here are few easy recipes to try at home.
Nelleke’s Tips
  • When stir-frying large quantities, do it in batches to avoid ’stewing’ the food in it‘s own juices.
  • Maintain the high temperature of the wok to ensure the food is sealed, trapping all the flavour and juices inside.
  • Drain marinated food thoroughly before adding it to the wok.
  • When cooking noodle soups, cook the noodles before adding them to the broth. If the noodles are cooked in the soup, they will release starch and make the soup cloudy.

Nelleke’s Terms

- Also known as bean curd, tofu is made from fermented yellow soya beans and pressed into blocks. There are a few different varieties. Silken tofu has a smooth texture and is usually added to soups. Firm tofu is soft and tender and suitable for steaming and frying.

Pak choi (bok choy) - Also known as Chinese chard, this member of the cabbage family has white , fleshy stems and green leaves. The whole vegetable can be used thickly slices in soups or stir-fries, or steamed gently until tender.

Jasmine rice
- Also known as fragrant rice, this medium grain rice is widely used in Thai and South-east Asian cooking. The grains become slightly sticky when cooked
and make an excellent accompaniment.

Jewelled Vegetable Rice with crispy fried eggs (serves 4)

Inspired by the traditional Indonesian dish, Nasi Goreng, this vibrant, colourful stir-fry make a tasty light meal. Alternatively serve it with grilled meat of fish.
Ingredients 2 tbsp sunflower oil 4 red Asian shallots (can be replaced with 1 red onion) 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 small red chilli, finely sliced 90g carrots cut into thin match sticks 90g fine green beans 90g fresh corn kernels 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 cm dice 90g baby button mushrooms 500g cooked, cooled long grain rice 3 tbsp of light soy sauce 2 tsp of green Thai curry paste 4 crispy fried eggs, to serve Fresh coriander and lime leaves to garnish Method:
  • Heat the sunflower oil in a wok over a high heat. When hot, add the shallots, garlic and chilli. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, green beans, corn, red pepper and mushrooms and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the cooked, cooled rice and stir-fry for further 5 minutes.
  • Mix together the light soy sauce and the curry paste and add this to the wok. Toss to mix well and stir until piping hot. Dish the rice into four bowls, top with fried eggs and freshly chopped coriander. Serve with wedges of lime to squeeze over.
Tip: When making this dish, it is better to use cold cooked rice, rather than hot freshly cooked rice. Hot boiled rice tends to clump together, whereas the grains of cooled rice will remain separate.

Sesame and Banana Fritter
(serves 4)

Deep-fried banana’s are popular all over South-east Asia, and this version coated in coconut and sesame seeds is particularly good!
Ingredients: 50g desiccated coconut 50g castor sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp baking powder 1 cup rice flour 2 tbsp sesame seeds 600ml / 2 ½ cups cups coconut milk 6 baby bananas or 4 big bananas cut into half Sunflower oil for frying Icing sugar to dust Vanilla ice cream to serve Method:
  • Place the coconut, castor sugar, baking powder, rice flour, sesame seeds, cinnamon and coconut milk in a large mixing bowl. Whisk thoroughly to form a smooth batter.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for one hour.
  • When ready, peel the bananas and carefully slice them lengthways and into halves if using big bananas.
  • Fill a wok 1/3 with sunflower oil and heat to 180 degrees. Working in batches, dip the halved bananas into the batter, drain off any access and gently lower into the oil. Deep-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Remove the bananas using a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen towel. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream and dusted with icing sugar.

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