Sunday, January 30, 2011

Indonesian Pepes Ikan Tacos with Mango Salsa

Ikan pepes is a traditional method of preparing fish throughout Indonesia.  The fish may be whole or  filleted, covered with a spice paste, wrapped in banana leaf and then steamed or grilled.  The paste keeps the fish moist and gives it a wonderful flavor.  Although banana leaves are used to wrap the fish in Indonesia, foil can be used if you don't have a Hispanic or Asian market from which to purchase frozen banana leaves in the US.

I decided to adapt a pepes ikan recipe for a twist on fish tacos.  The spice and heat of the pepes ikan makes perfect sense in a fish taco, and the mango salsa with jicama and daun laksa is one that could easily be made in Indonesia.  A drizzle of sambal kecap might have been an interesting addition; I'll try it with that next time I make these.

Unfortunately, today was a cold, rainy day more suited to a bowl of pozole than fish tacos.  They tasted good, but I was cold and wet from the grill, dreaming of white sand beaches while my feet were as cold as the coldest beer in Bali.  Fitting, perhaps, for a recipe entered in the Alaska fish taco contest.

1 12 oz package of Alaskan cod
6 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
2 slices of laos (galingal) about the size of quarters, peeled and chopped
2 slices of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped, using only lower third, tough outer layers removed
2 tsp sambal oelek (Indonesian chili paste)
4 kemiri (candle nuts)
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vegetable oil
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
banana leaves (or aluminum foil) for wrapping the fish

mango salsa
1 cup of mango, preferably fresh, diced
1 shallot,  small dice
1 to 2 red chilies, seeded and cut in small dice
1/2 small jicama, diced
1/4 cup of laksa leaves (Vietnamese rau ram) finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lime

red cabbage, finely sliced
avocado, sliced


Add the shallots, garlic, laos, ginger and lemongrass to a food processor with a metal blade and chop fine.  Add sambal, kemiri, turmeric, brown sugar, salt and lemon juice, blending to a fine paste.  Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the spice paste for several minutes until fragrant, but take care not to brown it. Remove the paste to a bowl and allow to cool.

On an 8 x 12 inch banana leaf (or aluminum foil) lay one fillet of cod.  Spread the fish with some of the cooled spice paste.  Turn it over and spread the other side.  Top the fillet with some of the sliced tomatoes.  Fold the banana leaf into a packet, using toothpicks to seal the folds. (If using banana leaves, it may be necessary to use two leaves to ensure your packet doesn't leak.) Follow the same procedure for the remaining fillets.

Grill on a medium-hot grill for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the packet over  halfway through the cooking time. 

While the packets are being grilled, prepare the other elements.  Make the salsa by mixing together the ingredients in a bowl.  Add more lime juice if necessary.

To serve, slice open the grilled packets.  Slice off some fish from a packet and add it along with some slices of cherry tomatoes to a warmed tortilla.  Add some of the red cabbage and slices of avocado.  Top with some of the mango salsa.  Enjoy with Bir Bintang or a crisp lager.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted Carrot Cumin Dip

For the longest time, while the princess was living with us, I got away from cooking with carrots.  Perhaps influenced by her aunt, the duck--who also has an almost deathly aversion to the root--the princess refused any food with carrots.  Although we had carrots in for my wife and I to snack on, they were rarely included on the menu.  Now that the princess has returned to Indonesia, we are free once again to enjoy carrots.

Epicurious is a site I often go to when looking for an idea for something to cook.  The recipes are usually clearly written and there's a wealth of them.  I generally have an idea if I'll like the recipe or not based on the ingredients used.  If I have bought something I want to cook but haven't decided what to do with it yet, I'll search the database for ideas.  This dip is one that evolved from one I discovered from one such search.

The original dip at the Epicurious site is actually easier and equally delicious.  It uses raw carrots and doesn't include cumin.  It takes about five minutes to make and tastes wonderful, if you like carrots and ginger.

Cumin and carrots seem to have a natural affinity.  One of the dishes that appears at almost every class potluck in which at least one student is from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, or Kyrgyzstan is plov.  A rice dish which includes beef and carrots, it is usually generously spiced with cumin.  The combination of the braised carrots and cumin in the plov is always satisfying.  This dip attempts to capture the essence of that combination.  Roasting the carrots before pureeing them gives the dip an added depth.  The dip resembles hummus in texture and can be served with crudities, chips, or crackers.

Roasted Carrot Cumin Dip

5 medium carrots (about 600 gr)
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup +/- mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped peeled ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted in a pan, cooled, and then ground
salt, to taste

Coat the carrots with the olive oil and place in a baking pan.  Cover with foil and bake in a 400º oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove the foil, stir the carrots and bake another 15 minutes or so.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 

In a food processor or blender, puree ginger and carrots.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until you have a relatively smooth dip.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Soto Madura

Outside of the Indonesian spiced coffee cake recipe that I posted last month, I realize I haven't posted many Indonesian recipes lately.  I could blame it on the season--winter in Northern California just doesn't put one in an Indonesian frame of mind--but it's more likely the result of laziness.  Cooking for just the two of us, I don't feel the urge to cook up a dish that I know I will be eating for several days in a row.  Winter is also the time Tjing finds her way to the kitchen, cooking up large quantities of noodles and pigs feet in soy sauce.  We cook one or two nights and eat leftovers for lunch and dinner the rest of the week.  However, this week I decided to try out a recipe for soto Madura.

Just as Indonesia has numerous versions of sate (satay), so too does it have countless variations of soto, a soup that can be found throughout the archipelago.  In fact, the cookbook that this recipe comes from--668 Indonesian Recipes from 33 Provinces  (668 Resep Masakan Khas Nusantara dari 33 Provinsi)--features 23 recipes for soto and only 11 for sate.  Soto is a perfect dish for rumah makans because the bowls can be assembled per order with the ingredients the customer requests and then filled with the hot broth.

I am particularly fond of Soto Ayam Ambengan (which may lay claim to being the most popular soto in Indonesia), but like other versions as well.  As with Vietnamese pho, the key to any good soto is the broth.  Although you could make a quick version using canned chicken broth, it will be a far cry from a soto made with homemade chicken stock. 

Madura, an island off Surabaya that is now connected to Java by an impressive bridge, is included in the province of East Java.  Javanese generally consider the Madurese to be coarse folk easily angered.  Then again, many Javanese describe almost all non-Javanese this way.  With a slightly drier climate and less fertile soil than Java has, Madura has developed a cuisine with some differences from Java.  Bull racing (kerapan sapi) draws adventurous tourists to the island, and the bulls also feature prominently in traditional dishes, most famously in rujak cingur and soto daging.  This soto ayam Madura may have evolved from the popularity of chicken soto in nearby Java.

As I mentioned, the recipe is adapted from 668 Resep Masakan Khas Nusantara dari 33 Provinis by Yulia T and Astuti Utomo; Agromedia Pustaka; 2008.  

Soto Ayam Madura

1 small chicken, preferably free range, about 3 pounds
1 TBS salt
3 quarts filtered water

12 shallots (smallish ones, shallots in Indonesia tend to be the size of large garlic cloves)
9 cloves of garlic
2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh laos (galingal) peeled and coarsely chopped
7 kemiri (candlenuts) unsalted macadamia nuts may be substituted
1 1/2 tsp sugar

2 cups bean sprouts, blanched by pouring boiling water over and drained
1 pound potatoes, boiled, sliced and fried
4 to 6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, and sliced in half (or as you like)
6 stalks seledri (a leafy celery that you can find in Asian supermarkets), finely sliced
6 TBS fried shallots
2 limes, sliced

In a sufficiently large pot, place the chicken with the water and salt.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until done, skimming any foam from the surface.  Remove the chicken, allowing it to cool before shredding the meat with your fingers.  Skim or separate the fat from the broth.

In a food processor, puree the spices until you have a relatively smooth paste.  Add a little broth if needed to make the process easier.  Stir the paste into the pot with the broth.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so.

Prepare bowls by adding some shredded chicken, bean sprouts, sliced potatoes, half an egg, and sliced seledri.  Ladle in the simmering broth.  Top with fried shallots.  Serve with sambal, kecap manis, and sliced limes, allowing diners to adjust the seasonings to their taste.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vietnamese Crispy Fried Shrimp with Kumquat Salsa

Com dep, pounded glutinous rice flakes, make a wonderful covering for fried shrimp.  Paired with a kumquat salsa, they are a great appetizer.  Using Andrea Nguyen's Crispy Shrimp Coated with Green Rice as a jumping off point, this recipe is an amalgamation of ingredients and techniques.  It takes very little effort or time to pull together.

Andrea Nguyen has a nice description and history of com here.  For people interested in Vietnamese cooking, her cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, is one of the best.

Vietnamese Crispy Fried Shrimp with Kumquat Salsa

12 large prawn, peeled (leaving on the tail and last segment) and deveined
1/2 cup of ginger, peeled
4 TBS water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
5 TBS tapioca starch
1 large egg
1 tsp fish sauce
com dep--green, glutinous rice flakes (available in Vietnamese supermarkets) 
oil for deep frying

6 kumquats, seeded, chopped
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 shallot, peeled and minced
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce

In a blender, puree the ginger and water.  Press through a sieve, reserving liquid. Mix in the salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.  Marinate the shrimp in this mixture for half an hour or so.  Drain the shrimp.

Mix the tapioca starch, egg and fish sauce in bowl until smooth.  Place a quarter cup or so of the rice flakes on a plate.  Heat  1 to 2 inches of oil in a wok or pan to 350º F.

Dip shrimp into the egg batter and let excess batter drip off before rolling gently in the rice flakes.  Fry several shrimp at a time for a minute or two in the oil, flipping them so both sides are evenly cooked.  Drain on paper towels.  The cooking causes some of the flakes to brown slightly, but most of the covering will remain green.

To make the salsa (which is really more of a kumquat nuoc cham), stir together the fish sauce, vinegar and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Mix in the other ingredients.

Serve the fried shrimp with the kumquat salsa as an appetizer, or along with rice and vegetables for dinner.

I am submitting this to Delicious Vietnam #9, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese food.  Founded by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey, and Kim and Hong of Ravenous Couple, Delicious Vietnam welcomes submissions from bloggers around the world.  To learn how you might participate, click here.  The roundup for Delicious Vietnam #9 will be hosted by Pepy of Indonesia-Eats.  Check out the roundup to find the details on who will be hosting Delicious Vietnam #10.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chinese Fried Turnip Cake--Lor Bok Goh Dzin

I and the rest of my family have to credit my wife for introducing us to the pleasure of lor bok goh dzin.  Although we had long been fond of going out for dim sum, these had never appealed to us, primarily because of their English name.  Turnips just don't have much appeal, at least in my family.  How these acquired their English name is a mystery, for they contain no turnip.  Their primary ingredient is daikon, a large, mild white radish.

The best lor bok goh are almost pudding-like in their consistency, firm enough to cut into rectangles to be fried, but still soft and gelatinous.  When fried, there is the contrast between the crisp crust and the silky interior.  We prefer to eat these with a generous amount of crushed chili in oil and soy sauce.

Erring on the side of caution, I steamed these a little too long, which produced a firm cake that was easy to slice and fry, but lacked the suppleness I was aiming for.  Next time I will cut back on the steaming time, removing the pan just when the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the sides.
The recipe is adapted from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's The Dim Sum Book.

Lor Bok Goh Dzin

21 ounces (about four cups) fresh daikon radish, washed, peeled, and coarsely grated
25 ounced cold water
1 quarter-inch-thick slice of ginger, peeled and mashed
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 TBS Shaoxing rice wine
pinch of white pepper

1 pound of rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
2 cups cold water
2 TBS dried shrimp, soaked in water to soften, then diced
2/3 cup Chinese bacon (lop yuk), diced
3 dried shitakes, soaked to soften and diced
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 TBS salt
1/2 cup liquefied fork fat (or vegetable oil)

2 TBS dry-roasted sesame seeds
4 green onions, finely sliced
1 TBS cilantro, finely minced

Placed the grated radish, ginger, garlic, wine, pepper and water in a large pot.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Discard garlic and ginger, drain.

Mix together flour and water in large mixing bowl.  Add shrimp, bacon, mushrooms, pepper, salt, and oil.  Stir to mix well.  Add the drained daikon and stir until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Pour into a greased 9-inch-square cake pan and steam until cooked, about 1 hour.  I would recommend steaming until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan but the center is still slightly jiggly.

The cake can be served warm, cooled slightly after removing from the steamer and then sliced.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, green onions and cilantro.

To fry, refrigerate the cooled cake overnight and slice into 1/3-inch-thick rectangular slices.  Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of peanut oil.  When it is almost smoking, plan fry the slices for about 3 minutes on one side until browned, then turn and brown on the other side.  Sprinkle with the garnishes and serve hot.