A quick post for this yummy salsa dip, Indonesian style! Featuring the infamous Sweet Soy Sauce.

Indonesian dishes are often enriched by sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), which is basically soy sauce sweetened by palm sugar. The main ingredients are palm sugar, water, salt, soya bean, wheat, sodium benzoate (0.01%).

This soy sauce is used for marinades, condiment and substitute for any stir-frying dishes needs any sweet kick. Very dark in color and as thick as molasses, it gives dishes the caramelized color.

You can substitute it with equal parts of soy sauce and brown sugar stirred together till the sugar melts completely. Not as good, of course, but it will do!

For the dunking partner, try fried beancurd, cucumber and celery sticks, chips, or french fries! Go dip and dunk with this easy recipe for exotic condiment!

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I have always thought clams are slightly too “fishy” so there is only one way that I can truly enjoy this funny type of shellfish. Stir fry them with rich spices and mask it up with ginger or galangal. The only thing I would like to retain from the original clams-related flavor is the giddying texture of the clam meat and the enjoyment of sucking the shell loudly, even after the meat is all gone. Ha.

Nik picked up a couple of kilos of clams from the wet market yesterday and showed me how to make this. The real twist is the fermented bean paste used. I think it will never be the same if it is prepared without our precious yet smelly taoco. As I always said, two stinkies equal one tasty dish.

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Indonesian fried noodle

Another safe favorite of Indonesian one-dish meal is stir-fried noodle. The noodles used are fresh round and thick egg noodles, which can easily be substituted with instant ramen noodles. This is stir-fried quickly with spice paste and green vegetables. The main difference with other type of fried noodles are the generous use of chili and thick sweet soy sauce.

When sold in traditional eateries, the take-away noodles will be wrapped in a couple of banana leaves and fastened by toothpick or rubber band. This cheaper version is sold with pickled shallots and onion and a couple of shrimp crackers. It can certainly satisfy your midnight cravings for oily food. In fancier spots, mi goreng is served with shredded omelette or fried eggs sunny side up, a piece of fried chicken and crackers.

The secret for nice mie goreng is that as soon as the vegetables are added into the hot wok, the egg noodles are added and seasoned with sweet soy sauce as fast as you can, and quickly mixed them well with one spatula in one hand and a big ladle / fork in the other. The noodles  The faster you remove the noodles from the heat, the better it would turn out to be. Overcooked noodles is soggy and easily broken into short and lumpy.

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Ever been to traditional market on a hot and humid day, trying to pick out some dried salted fish? I have. Not the most cherished moment of daily grocery shopping. Trays and trays of dried salted seafood perfectly displayed on the counter, with some strange looking fishes and other sea creatures dangling on over your head. Each one of these items give up different level of pungent smelt that peaks up during hot and humid summer days. The shopping trip would almost be a torture for those who is not familiar with it.

You may be put off by the idea of its intense saltines and pungent aroma, but once you acquired the taste for fish sauce and shrimp paste, you will develop the taste for dried seafood. Like western luxury food items such as truffle and caviar, dried seafood is often act as flavor booster. A bit will go a long way.

Chinese and South East Asian love salting and sun-drying their seafood. It has very concentrated flavor and the aromas are so overwhelming, even for us who grew up eating it. Plenty supply of fish has prompted this practice, and the inexpensive nature of this source of protein has made dried fish humble dish for any families.

Our grandmother had a signature dish that is well loved by all her grandchildren. She steamed the fish with pieces of pork belly with shallots and chili. One big pot can feed the whole family when served with steamed rice or porridge. Dried salted fish that is used should be from big fish, such as barramundi (ikan asin kakap), instead of smaller fish like sardines, mackerel or anchovies. This way it would not fall apart from long period of cooking time.

The fatty part of pork belly will infuse both the meat and the salted fish and create something less than extraordinary, again, which you can appreciate once you acquired the taste.
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Steamed Yam Cake

Yam cake is savory steamed snacks made from taro cubes mixed together with rice flour and then served with fried shallots, scallions and other condiments such as dried shrimps or chopped chili. Yam cake (also known as taro cake) is slightly denser than radish cake which is made from shredded radish and rice flour.

In our city, yam cake is enjoyed in the morning as part of assorted savory cakes served with coffee as well as afternoon snacks served with tea. This is sold in old-style bakery or street side cake vendors. The street side vendors in particular, have wide variety of savory and sweet cakes, and I really wonder how they manage to make them fresh everyday, that must be a lot of work! It has always been a pleasant trip to shop for cakes in those stalls.

My mother makes the best yam cake (don’t we all think the same way about our mothers). She steamed them in high heat for one hour until they solidify into gelatinous mass. The secret for fresh and beautiful yam cake is to “ensemble” them right before serving. The yam cake base is steamed for a while together with the toppings. This way the greens will still be fresh and yet cooked. If it is prepared hours before serving the toppings would be unsightly, soggy and wilting.

They are a lot of work, I have to admit. But they do make the most beautiful hors d’oeuvre, don’t they? Exotic and colorful indeed. They have all the textures you would seek in a bite of cake – smooth (gelatinous rice flour), chewy (yam cubes), crunchy (from fried shallots), nutty (from sesame seeds), spicy (from chopped chili) and wonderfully pungent (from dried shrimps).

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