Cooking in the Time of COVID – Indonesian Fried Chicken

Instagram Post 5/19/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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The seasoning packet shouted “Kentucky” in eye-catching, bright red, bold, decorative brush script underscored by a tiny legend that whispered “Fried Chicken Seasoned Flour” as if to subtly continue the thought. Beneath that, however, it was the “Tepung Bumbu Ayam Goreng” that caught my eye; I was in a Southeast Asian market in Queens (where else?) so I was hooked. Since then, it’s been perched on a pantry shelf along with so many other this’ll-keep-forever-so-there’s-no-hurry-to-use-it-right-away items, but if ever there was a time to frolic in the kitchen, it’s now.

Let’s get the first question out of the way: “Does it taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken?” Hell, Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn’t taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken anymore since they changed the recipe. The seasoning blend was modest, but not objectionable. I prepared it using dark meat chicken in a familiar nugget configuration and resisted the urge to tweak the seasoning (until the second batch).


To their credit, they got the wheat flour/tapioca flour/rice flour balance just right: the chix was crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. And since I had everything I needed to make it, that’s my own Indonesian nasi goreng (fried rice) on the side.

Which international cuisine should I fiddle with next?
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Mie Goreng

Instagram Post 5/15/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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I’ve been craving Indonesian food of late (I miss those weekend bazaars!), so when I remembered that there were fresh Chinese noodles in my freezer, I knew what I would make: mie goreng. My Indonesian friends might point out that this recipe traditionally calls for spaghetti-shaped egg noodles or even ramen rather than linguini-shaped wheat noodles, but today’s impulse came from a longing for that unique flavor profile and since I had almost everything on hand except for the proper noodz, the result was what you see here.

Chicken was the sidekick to the fried noodles. The non-noodle component consisted of shredded carrots, cabbage, red pepper, celery, baby bok choy, scallions, onions and garlic, a bit of reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and tiny dried shrimp, and the all-important ribbons of fried egg. The sauce combined ketjap manis (sweet), soy sauce (salty), oyster sauce (umami), sambal oelek (spicy), a bit of sesame oil (aromatic), and ground peanuts (yum). The garnish was a spicy coconut bumbu condiment that I had in the freezer, acquired at one of the aforementioned bazaars.

The marvelous white crisps on the right are shrimp flavored Indonesian krupuk (you might see kerupuk) and they’re positively addictive. In the package, they appear to be hard little chips, but they miraculously puff up almost instantly when subjected to hot oil; actually, they’re almost as much fun to prepare as they are to eat. Since I had already dragged out the deep fryer, I grabbed a few other examples of these crispy delights (yes, I have way too many in the pantry), some Indonesian and some Indian, in assorted colors and with varying flavors from garlic to potato to just plain salt. They come in so many varieties, I could do a post on those alone.

I still have a little of that sauce left and some terasi (shrimp paste) as well, so I see nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) in my future. 😉
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

IGA’s Kalimantan Bazaar

Instagram Post 1/22/2020

Quick post about two soups selected by my dining pals at the Indonesian Gastronomy Association’s Kalimantan Bazaar this past weekend. (Incidentally, Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, shared with Brunei and East Malaysia, and will ultimately be the new home to Indonesia’s capital.)

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Soto Banjar is a delicious Indonesian soup from Banjarmasin, the capital of West Kalimantan/Borneo, with chicken, noodles, hardboiled eggs, crispy fried shallots and (I think, because I was distracted) perkedel, potato patties.


Tekwan. Fish soup with top-notch dumplings make from ground fish and tapioca flour, served with wood ear mushrooms and veggies.

Follow IGA on Facebook or on Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule; find them at the Elmhurst Memorial Hall, 8824 43rd Ave, Queens, monthly.
 
 

The Making of Martabak

Instagram Post 1/20/2020

I’ve posted before about martabak (or martabak manis – manis means sweet), one of my favorite Southeast Asian desserts; it’s usually available at one of the three monthly Indonesian food bazaars, but this past weekend, the Indonesian Gastronomy Association (IGA) outdid itself by presenting a live demonstration revealing the way it’s made.

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Without giving away any recipe secrets, batter is added to a special lidded frying pan that cooks and steams the pancake; a leavening agent causes it to rise into its characteristic honeycomb sponge-like consistency. The green color comes from pandan (screwpine) paste; it’s my favorite variety and highly recommended.


It’s slathered with margarine (which is considerably more malleable and easier to work with on the sunny streets of Indonesia than in the chilly atmosphere of a capacious Elmhurst assembly hall).


The sweet stuff which can appear as any or all of chocolate sprinkles, cheese, nuts, and sweetened condensed milk is added over half; the plain side is folded over the top (and I do mean over-the-top) of the enhanced side…


…and cut into serving pieces.

More photos of the event to come.

Follow IGA on Facebook or Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule; find them at the Elmhurst Memorial Hall, 8824 43rd Ave, Queens, monthly.
 
 

Little House Cafe – More Savories

Instagram Post 1/8/2020

Picking up from a few days ago, here are a trio of savory dishes from the remarkable Little House Café, 90-19 Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens as promised.

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Chow Kueh Teow (you might see char kway teow) is practically a national dish in Malaysia and Singapore but is enjoyed throughout all of Maritime Southeast Asia in innumerable variations. Thick rice noodles along with rice cakes are the foundation accompanied by shrimp, squid, pork and bean sprouts in a rich, dark sauce that is the essence of this stir-fry. Good eats.


Bakwan Udang – an Indonesian treat; deep fried shrimp fritters, crispy on the outside, yielding within. And yes, those are whole shrimp on top, shells and all. (I told you they were crispy!)


Chai Kueh – steamed dumplings with dried shrimp, jicama and carrot.

And as usual, everything we tasted was great!
 
 

Upi Jaya

Instagram Post 12/2/2019

Outside of the (approximately) monthly Indonesian Food Festivals I’ve written about, Elmhurst, Queens also plays host to a number of Indonesian restaurants. Upi Jaya at 76-04 Woodside Ave has been doing an admirable job of dishing up the cuisine for locals as well as visitors (they’re a stop along my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst Ethnojunket) for 15 years. Here are four items from the Appetizers section of the menu, each a tasty starter or a snack in its own right and all with universal appeal.

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Risoles (you might see rissoles) – a snack assembled from a crepe rolled around seasoned chicken and diced vegetables (not unlike a Chinese egg roll in structure), covered with breadcrumbs and deep fried.


Lemper Ayam. Lemper is a snack made from coconut sticky rice compressed with any number of fillings, in this case ayam (chicken) that’s been lightly seasoned, rolled into a banana leaf and steamed.


Batagor: a portmanteau of bakso (a meat or fish paste), tahu (tofu), and goreng (fried), a specialty of West Java. Fried fish cake with peanut sauce; the crispy topping provides the contrast to the soft, chewy fishcake.


Arguably the best known Indonesian dish outside of Indonesia and a popular street food there, satay (or sate) is seasoned meat, skewered and grilled, often served with peanut sauce. An international favorite.

Main dishes in a future post.
 
 

Pandan Durian Crepes

Instagram Post 11/21/2019

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Durian, as you may know, is that much maligned fruit whose reputation is “Smells like hell, tastes like heaven!” But if you’ve never actually tried it, you should, and you might discover that you actually like it; a number of folks I’ve introduced it to on ethnojunkets have experienced that epiphany. Sweet and creamy, you could think of it as the fruit that makes its own custard.

These plush pillows are pandan crepes, filled with durian and cream and might well be another gateway drug to durian devotion: no unpleasant aroma, just a delicious tropical fruit flavor. (IMHO, pandan and durian have an affinity for each other.) I found these at last Sunday’s Elmhurst bazaar presented by the Indonesian Gastronomy Association.

IGA-USA is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to introduce Indonesian culture to people in the US, particularly in New York City. They stage this event which is as much about the culture as it is about the cuisine approximately monthly, so follow them on Facebook or on Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule. Maybe you’ll get to try these emerald treats too.

(And perhaps this post will satisfy those of you who complain that I don’t post enough greens! 😉)
 
 

Rendang Telur

Instagram Post 11/19/2019

One of Indonesia’s national dishes is rendang, and if you’ve ever sampled the cuisine, you’ve probably enjoyed it with beef as the main ingredient, although there are numerous variations including jackfruit, chicken, and egg. In my experience, egg rendang looks a little like a hard-boiled egg curry so I was surprised to see a package labeled Rendang Telur (telur means egg) at Sunday’s Elmhurst bazaar sponsored by the Indonesian Gastronomy Association looking exactly like a bag of well-seasoned chips.

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Crispy, crunchy, spicy, and tasting of eggs and coconut milk, they’re nearly impossible to stop eating. Trust me. I tracked down a recipe which, greatly simplified, involves making a flour and egg crepe, cutting it into chips, frying/baking the pieces to dry them out, then combining coconut milk, herbs, and spices, cooking that mixture down and adding it to the chips followed by more long cooking to achieve maximum crispitude.


Close-up shot.


The aforementioned package.

IGA-USA is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to introduce Indonesian culture to people in the US, particularly in New York City. They stage this event which is as much about the culture as it is about the cuisine approximately monthly, so follow them on Facebook or on Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule.
 
 

Indonesian Street Festival – 2019

Instagram Post 8/29/2019

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I always have high praise for the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar (IFB) not only for the innumerable menu possibilities, but for the quality of the cooking. The event happens monthly at the parish hall of St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, but if you aren’t of a mind to head Queensward, here’s a chance to sample this superb cuisine in Manhattan at this year’s Indonesian Street Festival. It takes place this Saturday, August 31, outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia, 5 East 68th Street, from noon until 5pm.

The dish pictured here was prepared by my friend Fefe, owner of Taste of Surabaya, a regular at IFB. I had two new friends with me, both vegetarians, and since the array of options was overwhelming, I asked Fefe if she would put together a plate for us. A wise choice. Taste of Surabaya will be a participating vendor at the upcoming Indonesian Street Festival where you’ll enjoy excellent food along with cultural performances, fashion, and more. Definitely check it out.
 
 

New York Indonesian Food Bazaar

Instagram Post 7/5/2019

Ever tried Indonesian cuisine? It’s one of my absolute favorites and I always recommend this event not only for the innumerable possibilities, but for the quality of the cooking. Whether you know and love the food or you’re a first-timer, I urge you to head out to Elmhurst, Queens on Saturday, July 6th, for the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar, an event that’s held monthly at the parish hall of St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway. I suggest that you arrive close to the starting time, 11am, to catch the greatest variety of options. From two of my favorite vendors:

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Kantin Rica Rica’s Ayam Rica Bumbu Manado, a signature dish from Manado, North Sulawesi: chicken with chilies, scallions, shallots, lemongrass and turmeric was delicious.

If you like your pork on the sweet side, try their Sate Garo with peanut sauce: pork shoulder, peanuts, chilies, scallions, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, galangal, and ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce).

Three treats provided by my friend (full disclosure) Fefe at Taste of Surabaya. From the top, clockwise: Dadar Gulung, a sweet coconut kue (snack) that gets its green color from pandan; Wingko Babat a Javanese coconut pancake; and a savory corn fritter – each was wonderful. Hope to see you there!