Indonesian Independence Day Celebration

Instagram Post 8/16/2018

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Indonesian Independence Day is August 17 and you can catch the local celebration (Bazaar Kemerdekaan) Saturday the 18th on Whitney Avenue near Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens (11am-5pm). There’ll be fun and entertaining cultural activities and, of course, an assortment of delicious authentic food. I’ve posted numerous photos of Indonesian dishes lately, but not many desserts, and the cuisine has plenty of them to satisfy your sweet tooth. Three of my favorites from Masjid al-Hikmah’s approximately monthly bazaar (48-01 31st Ave, next scheduled event to be announced) are…

[1] Martabak Manis. The pancake has a radically different texture than savory martabak, more like a soft crumpet, actually. It’s folded around chocolate, peanuts, grated fresh cheese, coconut and sweetened condensed milk.
[2] Kue Singkong. These dense cassava cakes can be found steamed or baked in fanciful shapes and sizes. This one, sprinkled with coconut, obviates the need to decide between plain and chocolate.
[3] Wajik. This kue (bite-sized sweet snack) is made from glutinous sticky rice, palm sugar and coconut milk; it’s usually diamond-shaped (wajik is the Indonesian word that describes a diamond or rhombus shape). So good!
 
 

Awang Kitchen – Part 3

Instagram Post 8/15/2018

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Just one more (for the time being 😉) from Awang Kitchen, the top-notch Indonesian restaurant at 84-05 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst.

[1] Ketoprak. A vegetarian dish featuring tofu, vegetables and rice vermicelli served in peanut sauce with kerupuk (deep fried chips) on the side.
[2] Fried Cow’s Tongue in Green Chili Sauce. Exactly what it says. And don’t be squeamish – it’s spicy, delicious, and tastes better than it looks!
[3] Mie Goreng Tek-Tek. Sautéed noodles are in the spotlight here; tek-tek is the onomatopoeic word for the sound the wok chan (spatula) makes as the chef taps it against the wok while preparing this dish!
[4] Grilled Pompano, done to a turn – totally turnt and excellent!
 
 

Awang Kitchen – Part 2

Instagram Post 8/14/2018

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More delicious Indonesian cuisine from Awang Kitchen, 84-05 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, Queens. This sampling includes…

[1] Bakso Cobek. Bakso are meatballs made from finely ground (pulverized, actually) beef accompanied here by tomatoes, tempe, and tofu; cobek is the stoneware in which it’s served.
[2] Ayam Goreng Kalasan. Coconut (kalasan) fried (goreng) chicken (ayam). Crispy and delicious.
[3] Nasi Goreng Ikan Asin. Salty (asin) fish (ikan) fried rice (nasi goring) with a fried egg on top (of course) and kerupuk (deep fried chips) on the side.
[4] Pempek Kulit. Fishcake (pempek) made with the addition of mackerel skin (kulit) served with kuah cuka, a sweet and sour vinegar sauce. Chewy goodness!

Stay tuned for more from Awang Kitchen….
 
 

Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James’ Parish House

Instagram Post 8/10/2018

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Indonesian cuisine is as varied as it is delicious and Queens is home to two monthly warm weather events (but not during Ramadan) that present an opportunity to try it, one bite at a time. Each offers a panoply of homemade dishes, a little sweet, a little spicy, from Indonesian fried chicken and skewers of sate to more challenging, but equally delectable, fare, so there’s sure to be something to please every palate. This weekend, head to the Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James’ Parish House, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, on Saturday, August 11th; arrive early (the event begins at 11am) to ensure the greatest selection. I suggest you go with a group so that everyone gets to sample a bit of a wide variety of dishes but take-home is always an option. Here are a few recent photos, mostly of less familiar items.

[1] Siomay Goreng (fried siomay dumplings) that tasted as good as they looked

[2] Mie Goreng – stir fried noodles in a flavorful sauce with lamb and veggies, deep fried krupuk (crispy garlicky crackers) on the side

[3] Martabak – savory omelet/pancake folded around an assortment of ingredients (a must-do)

[4] Bebek (fried duck), gudeg (green jackfruit stew), two chunks of bacem (sweet tempe), egg, krecek (cow skin), all over rice

[5] Kikil (beef tendon – yellow), rice, cumi (squid – purple) in back, paru (cow lungs – brown) cooked in green chili in front. That green bean is petai or sator (unfortunately called stink bean over here, but not really that stinky IMO)

Note also that every time I attend one of these, there’s always something different to try. I’ll write about the other event, the Indonesian Bazaar at Masjid al-Hikmah in Astoria, in the coming weeks.
 
 

Awang Kitchen – Part 1

Instagram Post 8/2/2018

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Indonesian cuisine is one of my favorites and among all the Indonesian restaurants clustered together in Elmhurst, Queens, I’ve found that Awang Kitchen never fails to delight. Owner/Chef Awang, a native of Jakarta, opened his restaurant at 84-05 Queens Boulevard a little over a year ago and continues to tinker with and improve upon his already wonderful menu; that menu is fine, but the ever-changing Specials Board is the way to go here. Dishes we enjoyed included…

[1] Cumi Goreng with sauce Telur Asin. Fried squid with salty egg sauce; a favorite among our group.

[2] Gudeg Komplit. Gudeg is unripe jackfruit stewed in coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar. Komplit very loosely translates as “with all the fixin’s”….

[3] The aforementioned fixin’s: Cow Skin and Tofu.

[4] Sate Kerang. Sate is seasoned (sometimes marinated) delicious bits, sometimes meat, sometimes not, skewered and grilled; in this case, it’s clam (kerang) with white cubes of lontong (pressed rice) on the side.

More to come….
 
 

Durian’s Best Kept Secret

Back in the seventies (ahem), Saturday Night Live did a sketch about Scotch Boutique, a store that sold nothing but Scotch Tape. They carried a variety of widths and lengths to be sure, but that was it. Just Scotch Tape.

MK Durian Group at 5806 6th Ave in Sunset Park, Brooklyn sells nothing but durian. They carry a variety of cultivars and variations to be sure, but that’s it. Just durian.

And the durian they carry is wonderful.

You’ve probably heard the oft-quoted aphorism about it, “Tastes like heaven, smells like hell” (some would have the order of the phrases swapped but you get the idea), so much so that the fruit is banned from hotels, airlines and mass transit in some parts of the world. (And yes, I’ve been known to smuggle some well-wrapped samples home on the subway.) If you’ve never tasted durian, you might discover that you actually like it; a number of folks I’ve introduced it to on ethnojunkets have experienced that epiphany. There are gateway durian goodies too, like sweet durian pizza (yes, really), durian ice cream, candies, and freeze dried snacks and they’re all acceptable entry points as far as I’m concerned.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what durian smells like. The scent appears to defy description; I’ve encountered dozens of conflicting sardonic similes, but suffice it to say that most people find it downright unpleasant. Although I have a pretty keen sniffer, somehow its powerful essence doesn’t offend me although I am acutely aware of it – just lucky I guess, or perhaps I’m inured to it – because this greatly maligned, sweet, tropical, custardy fruit is truly delicious. So I was thrilled to learn about MK Durian Group (aka MK International Group) from Dave Cook (Eating In Translation) whom I accompanied on a visit there.

Often called the King of Fruits (perhaps because you’d want to think twice about staging an uprising against its thorny mass and pungent aroma), it comes by its reputation honestly but with a footnote. The divine-to-demonic ratio varies depending upon the cultivar and, if I understand correctly, a window of opportunity when certain cultivars are sweet and nearly odorless simultaneously. This, I believe, is durian’s best kept secret. But more about that in a moment. (Click on any photo to view it in high resolution.)

MK Durian Group works directly with plantations in Malaysia and is a wholesaler and distributor to restaurants and retailers in addition to catering to walk-in customers. We entered the commodious space with its many tables, all unoccupied at the time. Chinese-captioned signs showing photos of fifteen cultivars and another seven in English decked the walls along with a menu that, in addition to a price list for the fruit itself, included durian pancakes, mochi, and a variety of cakes, buns, and biscuits, a concession to the timid, perhaps. Durian cultivars are typically known by a common name and a code number starting with the letter “D”, so you might see Sultan (D24) or Musang King (D197), but sometimes you’ll find just the code numbers or sometimes just names like XO or Kim Hong. Scientists continue to work on hybrids to maximize flavor and minimize unpleasant smell.
Fion, without whom I would have been at a complete loss, urged us to get the Musang King, often regarded as the king of the King of Fruits. She selected one from the freezer case and microwaved it for a few minutes to thaw it but not warm it up. Our four pounder, stripped of seeds and rind, ultimately produced about one pound of (expensive but) delicious fruit.Using an apparatus that looked a little like some sort of medieval torture device to crack the husk, she then adeptly removed the yellow pods; each pod contains a single seed that can be used in cooking like those of jackfruit. We took our treasure to one of the tables where boxes of plastic poly gloves were as ubiquitous as bottles of ketchup would be on tables at a diner.

That Musang King was perhaps the best durian I had ever tasted, so much so that my new personal aphorism is “Durian: The fruit that makes its own custard.”

You may have seen durian in Chinatown in yellow plastic mesh bags where the fruit is often sold by the container and you don’t have to buy a whole one; you might conceivably experiment with whatever is available. But these were a cut above. As we left, I realized that something about the experience had been unusual: I asked Dave if he had noticed any of the customary malodourous bouquet. He replied no, but he thought perhaps he was a little congested that morning. I knew I wasn’t congested that morning. There had been no unpleasant smell to contend with. Had we stumbled upon that elusive golden window of odorless but sweet opportunity? Was that particular Musang King odor free? Or perhaps all of them in that lot? Did it have something to do with the fact that it had been frozen and thawed? We were beyond the point of going back and asking Fion, but I think it’s worth a return visit to get some answers!
 
 

Wok Wok – Part 2

Instagram Post 3/29/2018

Part Two of my review of Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, Manhattan with its dizzying array of Southeast Asian fare. Check out yesterday’s post below to see four more photos of their great cuisine.
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Spicy Sambal Seafood – plump and juicy jumbo shrimp sautéed in spicy Malaysian belacan sambal with onions and peppers was delicious – best enjoyed over rice.

Malaysian Salt & Pepper Pork Chop had a tiny bit of sweet and sour sauce gracing it. We’ve tasted versions of this dish that were crisper and thinner and unadorned by any manner of sauce. Not bad at all, but not what we were expecting from the name.

Four of a Kind Belacan – to me, the only thing these four vegetables have in common is that they’re all green! Beyond that, the flavors, textures, and even the shapes differ radically – and that’s a good thing in my opinion. String beans, eggplant, okra (not at all slimy), and sato are united by the medium spicy belacan sambal; the combo of stink bean and belacan work well together and are a singularly Malaysian flavor profile.

Stir Fry Pearl Noodle featured eggs, bell pepper, Spanish onion, scallion, and bean sprouts with pork. This is actually one of my favorite dishes and not all that easy to find. Pearl noodles, sometimes known as silver noodles, silver needles, and other fanciful names, are chewy rice noodles that are thick at one end and then taper to a point at the other (look closely at the little tail at the bottom of the photo). These are generally stir-fried to pick up a little browning and a lot of “wok hay”, that ineffable taste/aroma that can only be achieved by ferocious cooking over incendiary heat. Not at all spicy, this one is always a favorite.

Due to a communications mix-up, a couple of dishes came out that weren’t what we ordered. Everything we tasted that day was very good, but I want to make sure that you don’t end up with two or three similar dishes – one belacan and/or sato offering is plenty for the table, you see – because I want you to experience a broad range of flavors, and Wok Wok is most assuredly up to the task. Choose a wide variety of disparate dishes, perhaps even from different parts of Southeast Asia, and you’ll go home happy and satisfied!
 
 

Wok Wok – Part 1

Instagram Post 3/28/2018

Ever been up for Southeast Asian food but couldn’t decide which cuisine would best tickle your tastebuds? Then Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, Manhattan, has your answer. They cover a lot of territory serving up dishes from Malaysia 🇲🇾, Thailand 🇹🇭, Indonesia 🇮🇩, Vietnam 🇻🇳, Philippines 🇵🇭, India 🇮🇳, Singapore 🇸🇬, and various regions of China 🇨🇳, and perusing their colorful menu is like taking a survey course in popular street food of the region.

Part One…. (Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

We started with Original Roti, a dish you may know as roti canai, consisting of Indian style flatbread with a chicken and potato curry sauce for dipping. Properly crispy outside and fluffy within, it was the perfect medium for savoring the luscious sauce.

Roti Murtabak, another crepe folded around a spiced chicken and egg mixture also accompanied by the potato chicken curry, had a pleasantly spicy little kick to it. A cut above what we’ve had elsewhere.


Our soup course was Hakka Mushroom Pan Mee, a study in contrasts. Springy handmade noodles topped with silvery crispy dried anchovies, earthy mushrooms, chewy bits of minced pork, and tender greens in a clear broth that was richer than I anticipated.

Spicy Minced Chicken, Shrimp and Sato. Ground chicken and chunks of shrimp with sato cooked in a belacan based sauce. Sato, also known as petai and sometimes stink bean, is a little bitter, a little smelly perhaps, but quite delicious. Belacan is fermented fish paste; most Southeast Asian cuisines have their own spin on this pungent condiment, and it’s particularly characteristic of Malaysian food. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I think this dish is delicious.

Stay tuned. More to come tomorrow….
 
 

Indonesian Tempe Day

Instagram Post 12/17/2017

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I recently attended Indonesian Tempe Day sponsored by the Consulate General of Indonesia at New York. 🇮🇩 The founder of the Indonesian Tempe Movement, Amadeus Driando Ahnan, created and presented an impressive slide show and video session highlighting the nutritional and worldwide economic advantages of this remarkable superfood. Made from fermented soybeans, the versatile Indonesian staple was featured in about a dozen dishes for us to sample, each one different from the next, and all delicious.

Shown here are a few of my favorites including a Tempe Salad, Sambal Goreng Tempe Cabe Hijau, Taoge Goreng Bogor, served over beansprouts and noodles, and Oseng-oseng Tauco Tempe.
 
 

Judging an Indonesian Cooking Competition

Instagram Post 12/11/2017

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I just had the privilege of being one of the judges for the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar’s vendor competition sponsored by the Consulate General of Indonesia at New York. 🇮🇩 We sampled six bowls of Aneka Bakso (soup with Indonesian meat paste balls) – Warung Solo led the pack, photo 3 – and three plates of Gudeg Komplit (a delicious stew featuring unripe jackfruit made with palm sugar and coconut milk accompanied by chicken, eggs, tofu/tempeh, beef skin, and rice, of course) – Pecel Ndeso emerged victorious in this competition, photo 7. Judging was based on flavor, creativity, and presentation. Props to all the contestants!