Some days of the month, we only prepare vegetarian dishes at home. Most of the dishes are nice and easy to cook. Some only takes less than 15 minutes from preparation to ready to be served on dining table.
SInce I learned cooking, leek and tofu stir fry is my favorite dish since it is so simple and yet so pretty. The spices used is galangal and ginger, which gave the seemingly boring ingredients a special twist.
Papaya buds (flower buds from papaya tree, bunga pepaya) is notorious for their bitter taste. When treated right, they are very quite alright. Indonesians have well developed taste buds for this itsy bitsy bitter baby flowers.
I am not sure if other cuisine in the region use this part of the plants for cooking, but this is quite popular in Indonesian restaurants.
The papaya buds is blanched with hot water to remove the bitterness. They are practically cooked when blanched, so the cooking time itself is very short. Mainly only to get the rest of the ingredients cooked. It is quite important not to overcook. Once the papaya buds is thrown in, only another minute is needed to mix everything together. If overcooked, the dish will be soggy and weird.
I really had fun cooking this. I find the cooking process quite interesting, how all other ingredients are processed by mortar and pestle / food processor.
How can I describe the taste .. it has slightly bitter taste still – which is the main characteristic of the flower. The eggplant gives it interesting texture – a squishy quality. The chili – something to burn your tongue and throat with. The fermented soy sauce gives it a good kick. The best part of all is the fragrant wild ginger flower bud. It is all mashed up together with the rest, really brings everything together.
Another fish dish using round scad. As I mentioned before, round scad is very cheap and readily available in any wet market. A good source of protein in affordable price. Very important variables in grocery shopping bible these days huh. I am very fond of them – except one minor drawback, that they always need to be deep-fried. It also has very interesting texture when deep fried – the meat is a bit tough and chewy, but nobody ever seem to mind.
My mother loves to deep-fry them till the skin is crunchy, and then prepares the chili paste separately. When ready, the fish is then tossed in to the wok with paste and mixed well.
The crunchiness of the fish and the tanginess of the chili paste are great combination. As usual, the only missing element is the warm steamed rice.
The base chili paste (sambal goreng in local dialect) with stinky beans can be used with any kind of dish. Chicken, squid, any type of seawater fish, even tofu for vegetarian style sambal goreng.
One of the most popular condiments in Indonesian cooking is fried shallot flakes. A bit tedious to make, but you can make them in big batches and store them in airtight containers. These can last for one week in room temperatures or two weeks in refrigerator. We love to sprinkle some on top of soup dishes, fried noodles or fried rice.
These crispy shallot flakes are sold in packages, but it is not difficult to make it yourself. It is important to slice the shallots as evenly as possible. If thicker flakes are preferred, the whole batch should be of the same thickness. A mandoline would be extremely helpful, but to get the kick of it, I sliced them all myself. Took an hour, roughly, and yes, I was that slow. I don’t own mandoline myself. I wonder whether I can use a slicer? Anyway, that’s for future experiment
My mother loves to cook sweet and sour prawn. She would like to think this is her signature dish. I love it too. Anything with sweet and sour sauce is always pretty special, isn’t it? It normally serves as one plate dish, since prawn is always something fancy. No idea why they are expensive here.
Other substitutes like fish cutlets, whole fried fish, chicken breast can also be used with the sauce. She loves doing everything from scratch. If it were up to me, I would have definitely used instant sweet and sour sauce straight from the jar.
She always leaves the shell on and deep fry the prawns before cooking. I personally like to shell the prawn, cut out the vein and slit the back so they open up like butterflies. Then tossing them straight into the hot wok.
I am so loving this dish.
Another note on food photography, I had been not careful these days. Most shots were over-exposed. Will keep in mind next time to use polarizer filter or difuse light with something. Plus I was not feeling particularly creative. Need something to booze up the creative juice. Enough with the white background(!) It’s boring (!)