Putri Mandi

Instagram Post 10/24/2018

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As long as I’m on a sweet roll, here’s one more from the monthly NY Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens: a thick, creamy cloud of coconut pudding, not too sweet (why does everybody I know insist that’s somehow a good thing?) with a glutinous rice flour pandan-fortified spheroid floating atop.

The second photo shows the bisected ball revealing its grated coconut/palm sugar core. The orb was hard before I warmed it up after which it surrendered into a more palatable chewiness that worked nicely with the bed of coconut fluff.

It’s called Putri Mandi which means Bathing Princess.

I didn’t ask.
 
 

Serabi vs Cucur: Battle of the Indonesian Kue

Instagram Post 10/23/2018

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So many kue, so little time, but I was determined to get to the bottom of the puzzle. On a recent visit to the monthly NY Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens, I had purchased some kue (diminutive Indonesian sweets/snacks) from Pecel Ndeso’s booth, but I misidentified them in an earlier post. So I returned, and thanks to extensive discussion with the vendor and then another vendor who sold the same snack under a different name and my Indonesian friends @nigelsie (aka @hellomoonman), @fefeang (owner of the Taste of Surabaya booth at the bazaar), but especially to @erm718 for her detailed descriptions, I think I’ve got it now, to wit:

The first photo is serabi. @erm718 writes, “Serabi making is very similar to American pancake making, where the batter is spread onto a lightly oiled pan, but not flipped.” (See the browned bottom of the kue in the lower right of the photo.) “Traditionally clay pans are used for serabi, but now metal pans are also used.” Holes bubble up on top as the serabi cooks. Variations exist distinguished by the thickness of the kue and the toppings; the one in this photo, serabi basah (basah means wet), came accompanied by a bag of coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar. Thicker than a typical pancake and with a light, fluffy, almost fine-crumb cakey texture, the flavor was enhanced by the addition of a little pandan essence (that’s where the green tinge comes from). Warm, anointed by the sweet coconut milk, the taste intensified; definitely a treat.

The kue shaped like a flying saucer is cucur. @erm718 writes, “Cucur’s batter is poured into lots of hot oil and deep fried; cucur is eaten as is.” There’s a bit of a chewy quality to it, its puffy, airy interior adding to the sensory pleasure; it benefitted from a little warming as well.

Thanks for your help, Elika!

Lots more to come from the bazaar….
 
 

Acar

Instagram Post 10/22/2018

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Acar (pronounced achar, and you might see acar manis: manis = sweet), stumbled upon at the monthly NY Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens, is a pickled condiment; this tangy version comes from Kantin Rica-Rica’s booth. It’s sweet and sour, spicy and bright, made from shredded cucumber, carrot, cabbage, shallot, mango, and chilies, laden with chopped peanuts, and so good you could just pour some over rice and make a meal of it. It’s found throughout Southeast Asia camouflaged in slightly differing spellings and recipes (swap in pineapple for the mango, for example). Lots of top notch good eats to be found at this warung (stall/stand); I’ll post more soon!
 
 

Pecel Ndeso’s Indonesian Kue

Instagram Post 9/29/2018

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Here’s the first in a series from another visit to the monthly NY Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens. These are kue (diminutive Indonesian sweets/snacks) from Pecel Ndeso’s booth; the disk-shaped twosome are serabi solo. There are many regional variants on serabi; most are made with rice flour but some use wheat flour, and most call for coconut milk. Green almost always implies pandan flavor, while brown indicates palm sugar. The cutaway view reveals the puffy, airy interior.

One of my all-time favorite snacks is anything that involves sticky rice pressed and sweetened with coconut milk. The Indonesian fulfillment of this wish is wajik, which I posted about on 8/16. Usually diamond-shaped (wajik is the Indonesian word that describes a diamond or rhombus shape), this sweet, green blocky rendition is infused with pandan and contains bits of jackfruit, another weakness of mine.

More to come from the bazaar….
 
 

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!