One of the most fabulous sweet, spicy and sour sauce I have ever tasted. One morning, we went to our local market. There was a food stall that sells extremely delicious varieties of dishes. We saw fish dish cooked with bright chili red sauce, with sliced chilies and lemongrass. According to the seller, it is “Ikan Acar” – or pickled fish, which is basically deep fried fish with red-colored sauce.
The “Ikan Acar” is not the same as the ones known in Peranakan cuisine. This is equally great though. Master the sauce and you can substitute the fish with any other kind of seafood. As usual, the fish is deep-fried till crunchy. It is really really good. We gobbled up the last drop of sauce with steamed rice.
Great vegetable salad, from Javanese cuisine. It uses freshly grated coconut simmered with spices paste till the coconut soaked up the rich paste. Chilies and turmeric give the coconut that rich color. This dish is known as “Urap Sayur“ – urap refers to shredded coconut cooked with spices and sayur refers to vegetables.
The accompanying vegetables are usually blanched. For nice colors and presentation, use vegetables of all textures and colors. Leafy vegetables for greens, cucumbers and beansprouts for whites, carrots for orange. The other common condiments served are hard boiled eggs and tapioca-based white and red crackers.
If the coconut is thoroughly cooked for more than 15 minutes, the salad can last for more than one day, refrigerated. If not, it is meant to be consumed on the same day. It is advisable to not mix the vegetables and coconut before serving.
There are two most popular way to cook Silver Pomfret (ikan bawal) in Indonesian household, one is to steam with ginger, garlic and sesame oil. The other one is to cook it with soy sauce and chili or ikan kecap (ikan for fish, kecap for soy sauce). Fried fish with soy sauce is common dish in both Indonesian and Chinese restaurants.
The Indonesian-style fried fish soy sauce has to use Kecap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce). Other sweet soy sauce will result in different taste of sauce. Equally nice though, but not quite the same.
The sauce is cooked first, then the fried fish is added. The ingredients for the sauce are quick to prepare. This sweet, sour and spicy sauce is always a hit for children. Home cooked fish with soy is much healthier, since no additional cornstarch is added and less sugar. Serve with steamed rice.
I love anchovies. I love them deep-fried, crunchy, and extra salty. These dried mini fishes are sold in the market or Asian grocers, sometimes in vacuum-packed bag or in big bamboo baskets where you can pick the type you want and get them as much as you need.
Shopping for dried anchovies (ikan teri in Indonesian or ikan bilis in Malaysian) in traditional market in Asia is really a smelly deal. I am not a huge fan. If I have to do it myself, I will pick them up from the supermarket shelves. But the view of neatly arranged varieties of dried and salted anchovies and fish and seafood is amazing.
One of the most common way to cook dried anchovies in Indonesian cuisine is to deep fry them with peanuts. The deep fried anchovies and peanuts are then coated with chili paste. This is known as “sambal teri kacang” and is part of rijjstaffel side dishes to be served with steamed rice.
This recipe is using small size dried anchovies, or Teri Medan. The type of sugar used is palm sugar (gula merah/gula melaka). If castor sugar is used, the color will be considerably lighter. It is important to keep it crunchy, and the key to make perfect and crunchy sambal teri kacang is to let the chili paste cool down slightly and stir in anchovies with peanuts and mix them quickly before the paste completely cool off.
Serve this with your fragrant coconut milk rice (nasi lemak, recipe here), it will sure be a hit!
Just like rice, South East Asians are very specific about the type of sambal belacan (sambal balacan), or shrimp paste chili dip they enjoy. Different ways of preparing can affect the way it taste. My family sneered at my sambal belacan made using electric blender – lack of character, they said. Pounding using mortar and pestle is really good exercise for your arm. After a few try, I am grateful I am not selling authentic sambal belacan for a living.
We serve our sambal belacan with fresh vegetables such as lettuce and cucumbers or boiled vegetables such as long beans and carrots. This is called lalap, vegetables served with sambal belacan. We have lalap as our version of fresh salad. Sambal belacan to us is what olive oil and balsamic vinegar to Italians.
If you would like to keep your kitchen pungent-free, try the shrimp paste-free sambal belacan.