Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Soto Mie

Soto is found in numerous forms throughout Indonesia.  Soto ayam, chicken soto, which has numerous varieties itself, is my favorite soto.  The very best soto I've ever had comes, of course, from Rumah Makan Murni in Cepu.  In my two years of living in Cepu, I probably had soto ayam at RM Murni at least three times a week.  I've had good soto elsewhere in Indonesia, but none better than what is served in Cepu.

This past summer we visited my wife's brother's family in Jakarta.  While I am about as fond of Jakarta as I am of Los Angeles, one of Jakarta's attractions is its culinary mix from groups throughout the archipelago who come to the capital in search of livelihoods.  The massive influx of citizens from throughout Indonesia has created pockets of distinct cultures and hawkers selling their foods.  Unfortunately, traffic is so horrendous in Jakarta that this pockets are about as accessible as the interior of Kalimantan.

Like many folk living in Jakarta, my in-laws generally eat out at least once a day.  Cooking in a cramped kitchen over a two-burner propane stove is not just wearisome, it is hellish in a house without AC.  A quick stir-fry, boiled eggs, fried chicken,  or soups might be prepared early in the day to be enjoyed by the family later, but no meal is prepared to be eaten just after being cooked.  And when guests impose themselves on the family, there is little choice but to go out to eat.

As an air conditioner sales representative, installer, and service technician, my brother-in-law, Ming, knows Jakarta and the surrounding areas well.  He is without a doubt the best driver I've ever ridden with and seemingly knows all the back alleys and short cuts throughout Jakarta.  In the course of learning all the arteries of the city, Ming has also discovered remarkable warungs and restaurants.  One day he told us he had a job that he had to check on outside of the city, a new housing development on the ever expanding outskirts of the megalopolis.  If we wanted to come, he said, there was a rumah makan that sold excellent soto mie.  

Soto mie is an interesting soup.  Consisting of a spicy beef broth with noodles, cabbage, seledri (Asian celery), and sliced risoles that have been filled with rice vermicelli and fried, it's a dish anyone trying to stretch a rupiah might enjoy, the risoles being cheap yet flavorful while adding some additional body to the soup.  It's also a dish that suits the cooler clime of Bogor where it is said to have originated.  Although I still much prefer soto ayam, soto mie will definite get some play during the fall and winter months here in northern California.

The recipe is adapted from 668 Resep Masakan Khas Nusantara dari 33 Provinsi by Yullia T and Astuti Utomo.  (PT Agromedia Pustaka, 2008)

Soup base
150 grams shallots, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp black pepper
6 kemiri (candlenuts)  dry roasted, unsalted macadamia nuts may be substituted
2 salam leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut in half and lightly crushed
1 2-inch piece of ginger, crushed
2 quarts beef broth made from the beef ribs
salt to taste

11/2 lbs beef back ribs
12 oz fresh noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 head of cabbage, thick core removed, finely sliced
6 risols, sliced into 1 1/2 slices
3 stalks of seledri, finely sliced
1 green onion, finely sliced
emping goreng (fried melinjo crackers--these may be found, unfried, in Asian markets)

In a 4 to 6 quart pan, brown ribs on all sides.  Add 3 quarts water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for several hours until meat can be easily pulled from the bones.  Remove fat from the broth.  Cut meat into small, bite-sized pieces.

In food processor or blender, puree shallots, garlic, pepper and kemiri.  Fry this paste along with lemongrass, salam leaves and ginger until softened and fragrant.  Add beef both, bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer while preparing risols.

Once risols have been filled and fried, assemble the soup.  Place some noodles, cabbage, beef, and tomato slices in individual bowls.  Add simmering broth, sliced risoles and a scattering of seledri and green onion.  Serve with emping and sambal.

Risole filling
80 grams rice vermicelli, softened in hot water, drained
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant chicken broth (optional)
1/4 cup water
risol wrappers/eggroll skins
oil for shallow frying

Risole skins
1 cup flour
11/2 cups water
1 egg
1 TBS oil
1/2 tsp baking powder

Beat all the ingredients for the risole skins together.  You want a thin batter.  Add more water if necessary to thin the batter.  Fry like crepes in non-stick frying pan or crepe pan.  

To make the filling, briefly fry the garlic until softened and fragrant.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until the water has been absorbed/evaporated.
Place a couple tablespoons of filling into a risole skin. Roll like eggroll/burrito/cha gio and shallow fry filled rolls (several rolls can be fried at a time) until golden brown on all sides. 

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