Monday, October 8, 2012

Rengginang--Fried Rice Crackers

When I made some sambal serai--lemongrass sambal--a few weeks back, I thought it needed something other than some grilled food to accompany it.  The sambal is great with a meal, but I wanted to be able to enjoy it as a snack.  Rengginang--which are a kind of rice cracker made from sticky rice--make a perfect accompaniment.  They are light and savory, easy to make, and store well.

Rengginang are nothing like the tasteless puffed rice crackers that were popular with dieters many years ago.  Who knows, maybe they are still popular.  Nutritionally, they were equivalent to eating styrofoam. Unfortunately, styrofoam probably tastes better.  Rengginang taste like toasted rice with a hint of garlic and shrimp.  In Indonesia you can also get a sweetened version, but I've always been partial to the savory ones.  While they are usually about 3 inches in diameter, you can find platter-sized ones that are 10 inches or more across. 

Making these is a multi-step process, but it is not difficult.  Soak, steam, mix, steam, dry, and fry.  There's also a little grinding of garlic, but those are the basic steps.  While I like a little sambal with mine, you could really use them with almost any dip, especially salsas.  The dried disks can be stored until you are ready to fry them.  The fried rengginang will keep for at least a week in an airtight container. 

Rengginang--Fried Rice Crackers

1 kilo glutinous rice (approximately 5 cups)
6--8 cloves of garlic, peeled, and pounded to a paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp terasi (optional)
2 TBS ebi (dried shrimp) soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, drained, and pounded to a paste (optional)
400 ml (1 3/4 cups) water

Soak the rice in water for two to four hours.  Drain, then steam the rice for 15 minutes.  Remove the rice to a large bowl.

In a mortar, pound the garlic, salt, terasi, and ebi (if using) into a smooth paste. Stir this paste into the 400 ml of water.  Pour this into the partially steamed rice and mix well.  Allow the rice to absorb the seasoned water.

After 15 to 20 minutes, when the rice has absorbed the added liquid, return the rice to the steamer and steam for another 30 minutes.  Remove the rice from the steamer and form into disks about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick (.5 cm to 1 cm). 

If you live in a warm, sunny climate, place the disks in a single layer on some sort of rack or porous surface and allow them to dry.  This may take several days.  I hurried the process by putting them into an oven which I turned on to the lowest possible setting.  I meant to turn the oven off after five minutes, but forgot, so I dried them a little faster and at a higher temperature than was ideal.  Still, they fried up fine.  If you have a dehydrator, I would think that would be ideal for drying these.

Once dried, they are ready to be fried.  Heat oil in a wok or other pan to around 385º, maybe a little hotter.  Slide a disk into the hot oil.  It will sink to the bottom, but should rise almost immediately.  Cook in small batches.  Each only takes twenty seconds or less to cook.  The important thing is to have the oil hot enough so that the disks will rise to the surface almost immediately.  If the oil is too cool, the disks will remain on the bottom and you will have a hard, unpleasant cracker.

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