Jun 8 2010

Recipe: Indonesian Bami (Fried Noodles)

June 8th, 2010 at 9:50 am (AST) by Jake Richter

One of the benefits of living on a small Dutch island is the rich culinary history of past Dutch possessions that has become part of modern day culture. In particular, the Dutch once controlled large swaths of Indonesia, and people from Indonesia emigrated to Holland and to Dutch Guyana, which, about 50 years ago, became Suriname. And here on Bonaire, the Surinamese have a thriving local community, bringing with them Indonesian cuisine, modified by the availability of local ingredients.

On the menus of most of the snacks (small eateries) you’ll find dishes like Nasi Goreng or Bami Goreng, for example, and the super markets always carry Indonesian-style dried spices, sambal, and Ketsap (also known as Ketjap or Kecap).

One of our favorite localized Indonesian dishes before we moved more towards a low-carb life style was “Bami”, which are seasoned fried noodles, similar to lo mein, but with a distinctly Indonesian style.

Without further ado, below is my localized recipe for Indonesian-style Bami, in honor of our friend Dara who is visiting with us at the moment, and who also requested this dish for dinner tonight. Special thanks go to Rudolph from Suriname, who pointed me in the right direction for this recipe.

Indonesian-style Bami

(Ingredient measurement are approximate – experiment to find the right flavor for your taste)

Ingredients:

  • Mie noodles or spaghetti (2 lbs for the size portion I made)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of vegetable or peanut oil
  • 5-10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large white onion, finely sliced
  • 4-8 Chicken bouillon cubes (can use vegetable bouillon cubes too) this adds salt to the recipe
  • 1-2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of Ketsap Manis (a very sweet soy sauce – can use regular soy sauce and increase amount of brown sugar instead)
  • 1 cup of finely chopped Selderie leaf (leaves look a bit like cilantro but taste and odor is very much like celery, since it’s a leafy version of celery – means you can also just use regular celery leaf if that’s all you can find)
  • (optional) 1 cup of thinly sliced scallions
  • (optional) Peanut sauce (as used with Satay)

Directions:

  1. Cook 2lbs of mie or spaghetti al dente, rinse with cold water to stop it from cooking and to remove excess starch. Set aside.
  2. In a wok, add oil, cook the garlic and onion until the onion turns glassy but before the garlic starts to get really brown
  3. After the garlic & onions start cooking, but before they reach the end phase in the above paragraph, add the bouillon cubes, mash them down to help them dissolve in the oil
  4. Add brown sugar, stir
  5. As soon as the resulting mixture starts to bubble brown (means that caramelization is imminent), add the Ketsap Manis, stir
  6. Immediately add the spaghetti, and use two long forks (BBQ forks work well for this) to start stirring/tossing the spaghetti to both heat it up as well as distribute the mixture thoroughly throughout the noodles, which should become evenly colored – a nice brown color.
  7. Continue this mixing/tossing until the noodles are nice and hot and then add the scallions if you want them. Stir some more and then add the selderie leaf.
  8. Remove from heat and serve with optional peanut sauce and grilled oriental style (soy-based marinade or teriyaki) chicken, and perhaps some sambal (spicy pepper relish, also Indonesian).

Dec 1 2009

Spicy Green Beans

December 1st, 2009 at 4:18 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

I’ve always had a special place in my heart (or is it my stomach?) for Asian foods, whether it be Korean BBQ, Thai curries, Japanese sashimi and Shabu-Shabu, Taiwanese pork intestines, or most anything from the Hunan or Szechuan provinces of China.

Since moving to Bonaire over 12 years ago, I’ve also discovered foods and ingredients with an Indonesian background. That’s because Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, and Indonesians have become an integral part of Dutch society, including the Dutch Antilles, which is where Bonaire fits into the Dutch Kingdom.

Among my favorite Indonesian ingredients to cook with are Ketjap Manis and Sambal Oelek.

Ketjap, also known as Kecap or Ketsap, refers to a sauce used for cooking or as a condiment. You may note the similarity to the English word Ketchup (or “Catsup”, as it was originally known). Indonesian Ketjap is soy-based, with Ketjap Asin (Asian Ketchup) being what we know as regular soy sauce, and Ketjap Manis being a sweet, thicker soy sauce. “Manis” means sweet in Indonesian.

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Thus, Ketjap Manis is a sweet soy sauce. You can simulate ketjap manis using regular soy sauce and cooking it with brown sugar and molasses as well, although I find authentic Ketjap Manis to still be better (and easier) to use than concocting something similar out of regular soy sauce. There’s a certain texture and flavor that Ketjap Manis imparts to foods that is tough to match.

Sambal refers to a family of condiments which contain spicy chili peppers. Sambal Manis, for example, is a pepper relish which is sweet and spicy. I have also tried Sambal Badjak, Sambal Brandal, and Sambal Oelek. Some sambals are made with fish paste or vinegar or tomatoes. The one I tend to see in greatest quantity, however, is Sambal Oelek (also spelled Ulek), which is spicier and has a bit of extra saltiness (at least the brand I use).

Sambal Oelek from Conimex

Sambal Oelek from Conimex

I’ve always been a fan of spice, and discovering sambals in all forms and flavors was a real treat.

All this brings me to the fact that if you combine sambal oelek and ketjap manis, you get a great spicy-sweet soy-based sauce which is great as a marinade or even a cooking sauce. (Note: It makes a great rib marinade!)

And that in turn brings me to today’s incredibly easy recipe (providing you have a source for ketjap manis and sambal oelek) – spicy green beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1/2 cup of ketjap manis
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • Nip off the hard end bits of the green beans and put the resulting green beans aside (and throw out the hard end bits, of course).
  • Heat the peanut oil (or use another nut oil like sunflower or canola) in a large sauce pan on medium high heat – the purpose of this oil it merely to lubricate the pan and beans a bit.
  • Add the green beans and let sizzle for a minute or two.
  • Add the water – this will help cook the beans a little more thoroughly via steam. The water should ultimately all boil off.
  • Once the water is mostly gone, add the garlic and sambal oelek and stir them to thoroughly mix them with the green beans.
  • Add the ketjap manis and stir some more.
  • Cook until the ketjap manis starts to bubble and caramelize.
  • At this point your green beans should still be cooked but not mushy. If you like mushy green beans, turn down the heat and cook longer (perhaps adding a bit more water).
  • Remove from heat and serve.

To make more spicy add more sambal oelek. To make less spicy, add less.

Serve hot either as a main dish or as a side dish with other Asian-themed food. If you like the flavor of soy as well as that of spicy peppers you should truly enjoy this dish. The sweetness of the ketjap manis provides a great counterpoint to the salty-spice of the rest of the dish, and slightly crisp green beans enhance the dish further with their texture


Nov 11 2009

Hot Spicy Buttered Almonds

November 11th, 2009 at 3:24 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

I’m a crunchy nuts sort of guy. Not much into chewy, soggy, or stale nuts. So when I discovered last week that I had a bag of stale almonds sitting around, I decided to tried and pep them up. First thing I did was try and dry roast them in a non-stick pan. That helped a bit, but not enough. I then thought of Julia Child and added butter to the pan. And then I added some creole seasoning (which adds salt as well as spice) and for good measure, some spicy Sriracha sauce. I let that saute for a while on medium-low heat until the butter/spice mixture was sizzling nicely and all the almonds were well cooked and then took it off the stove to let cool. The result was excellent. Addictively so. We finished the whole batch that night.

Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning and Sriracha sauce

Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning and Sriracha sauce

To recreate the result, here’s a recipe I developed. Note that I typically eye ball ingredient amounts and then supplement if needed. As such all measurements here are merely suggestions, not hard and fast rules.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of Butter
  • 1 tablespoon of Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (or equivalent)
  • 1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce (or you can try an Indonesian sambal, like sambal brandal or sambal manis)
  • 1 cup of unsalted almonds

Cooking:

Whole natural almonds, although unsalted roasted can be used too

Whole natural almonds, although unsalted roasted can be used too

If the almonds you have are natural almonds (as pictured above) you will want to dry roast them for a while. The easiest way I have found to do that is by putting the almonds in a non-stick pan and cooking them at low heat, stirring them regularly until they brown up a bit. If you’re starting with unsalted roasted almonds, just warm them up.

Add the creole seasoning to the hot almonds and distribute well. If you add it after the butter, it tends to clump up.

Add the butter to the pan with the almonds and turn up the temperature a bit – perhaps to halfway between low and medium, and let melt and sizzle for a bit. Don’t let the butter get too hot and start to brown or burn though.

Add the sriracha sauce evenly while stirring the pan. Let it cook for a few minutes until you get that nice spicy hot fragrance filling your kitchen. The bottom of the pan should turn a bit pasty and dark reddish brown. Take the pan off the heat, stir one last time, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve into a bowl and enjoy!

Hot spicy buttered almonds - the end result

Hot spicy buttered almonds - the end result