How To : Fry Shallot Flakes

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

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Sweet Sour Prawn

sweet sour prawn

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 (!)

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How To : Prepare Shrimp Paste

If you are a fan of South East Asian cuisine, you would know that shrimp paste (terasi in Indonesian or Belachan in Malaysian) is an essential ingredient to spice up any kind of cooking. It has a funky smell – kind of unbearable by its own. But if it is married with the right ingredients, nothing less than harmonious taste would develop and it can be quite addictive!

I just found out a rather interesting way of preparing it the right way – or so I have been told. So this is the way it is done in IndoChine Kitchen. The type we use is not really paste, but rather shrimp paste in form of hard pressed cakes. There are many commercially sold shrimp paste now, prepared in individually wrapped plastics, just like candy. In fact, our housecook mistakenly thought they were candies. The ones featured below is from ABC Terasi, about 5 gr per pack. Enough for one serving of dish.

Step 1

Unwrapped the package (obviously) or cut the blocks of terasi / belachan into small pieces. About 2 tablespoons or 5 grams would be enough for anything prepared for 4 to 6 people.

Step 2

Turn on the stove – under medium heat and place the shrimp paste in the middle part of the burner

Step 3

Leave on for 3 minutes until some part of it is charred and started to crack in the middle part – this is the sign that it is ready

Step 4

Remove from heat and scrape off the burnt part. The shrimp paste is fully toasted and the flavor is wholly released. Ready to rock and roll with the rest of your cooking.

how to prepare shrimp paste

Toasting in stove burner

how to prepare shrimp paste

Nicely toasted and ready to be used

Would love to know how others prepare their shrimp paste. Please do share.

stewed banana compote

Also known as Kolak Pisang – is an everyday dessert that can be found in every street corner in the country. Very economical and cheap to make, this can be served cold or warm. The sweetness is a great pick-me-up for a slow day at work. Most favorite snack for open-fasting at Ramadhan, this is eaten all year long. 

The main ingredients are ripe cooking banana (saba / plantain), coconut milk, pandan leaves and palm sugar (also known as red sugar / gula aren / gula melaka – sold in round blocks). A whole lot of others can also be added, such as Kolang Kaling (fruit of sugar palm tree), jackfruit, sweet potatoes.

We only had sweet potatoes at home, even though I had a sudden urge of creative idea of dropping some canned lychees in there, I refrained from doing that. Maybe next time. Although, I absolutely believe that crunchy lychee and longan would give the most interesting texture to the dessert. 

The most important part of the cooking process is the constant boiling and constant stirring. Not easy, I might add. But the caramel flavor developed by the boiling coconut milk, pandan leaves and palm sugar was my main motivation. 

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fermented soybean stir fry with eggplants and beancurd

Fermented soybean paste (“Taoco” in Indonesian) is a traditional cooking condiment used in varieties of stir-fry dishes. Made from soybean, it is washed and soaked in water for 24 hours. It was peeled, boiled and fermented for two to three days. Rice flour is then added, sun-dried for two to five days, salt is then added. The final fermentation takes 1 to 2 weeks. Additional spices and flavorings are added and boiled for one last time and packed in small jars or plastic bags. 

Medan – where I live now, is one of the major producers for fermented soy bean paste. The paste from this area has slightly saltier taste compared to other parts of the country, where more sugar is added. 

The following dish is a very popular dish – mainly in rural area where people have parties at home to celebrate certain events or highlights, such as birthdays, coming of age, marriage. Such parties will involve willing family members, relatives and neighbors to come and cook for the festivities. This is always present because it can be cooked in big batches, this is also really cheap to make.  Sometimes this is prepared with slight variation of the ingredients but the essence of spices and cooking style are mainly the same. 

This time I used round and small eggplant, sized of big grapes (anybody knows what this variety of eggplant called?) and beancurd skin. This is what Pai always makes at her house for her home parties. My father commented that it was not spicy enough – it really wasn’t until you chewed on one of the chili slices, of course.

Anyway, fermented soy bean paste always has a very interesting umami taste to it, I think all dish using this will always be savory and delicious. 

Click below for the ingredients, instructions and how-to shoots on prepping dried beancurd skin for this tasty dish.

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