Fish with Tom Yam Sauce

Fish with Tom Yam Sauce

This Thai-inspired dish is my mother’s favorite fish cuisine. She loves everything sweet, sour and spicy. We made use of instant tom yam paste for this dish. 

Round scad or “ikan kembong” (in local language) is the most affordable type of seawater fish in this area. For USD 2.50 a kilo, we can get 6 pieces of fish. This type of fish is mostly deep-fried or pan-fried. I am yet to see it cooked any other way. Somehow it is always fried till dry – and cooked again with some spicy or sweet sauce. The meat is always a bit tough for me, but the delicious sauce covers it up.

Fresh spices is added in spite of the instant paste. Lemongrass, wild ginger flower buds and vietnamese mint rounds up the tom yam flavor, and bring it to another level.

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Indonesian Mix-Mix Green Salad

Gado-Gado / Indonesian Mix-Mix Green Salad

We love our greens. Our greens need to be dip and dunked into something spicy. We love our spices.

This lovely salad is served with a very special sweet, sour and spicy peanut sauce. In our local dialect, the whole dish is known as Gado-Gado, which is literally “Mix-Mix” – from my very basic effort of translating the name into English. 

This is a popular dish, can be found mostly at street side food vendors who cater for take-away food. Wrapped in banana leaves, locals enjoy it as snack or quick lunch. 

There are many, many version of Gado-Gado out there. This version is how we prepared it in IndoChine Kitchen. The crucial ingredient is fresh pineapple juice – with the fiber and all. 

Any kind of vegetables can be used – steamed or fresh. The most important point is that they need to be cut julienned to roughly same sizes. When it is ready to be served, the sauce will be poured on top and tossed around with the vegetables so everything is coated evenly with the spicy sauce. My most favorite item is of course, the crackers. We use emping melinjo (fried cracker made from seeds of Gnetum Gnemon) and traditional red and white rice cracker. Any type of plain flavored crackers – such as nachos or plain unsalted potato chips would be great substitute. 

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Chinese Sweetheart Cake


Sweetheart Cake
Growing up in Medan where Chinese culture is pretty much intact, we always had traditional Chinese snacks at home and one of my most favorite was Sweetheart Cake – literal translation of Lou Pho Piang from Cantonese dialect. 

Sweetheart Cake in Medan

This is a big round Chinese pastry with winter melon, almond paste, sesame, five spice powder (Chinese spice blend of fennel seed, star anise, licorice root and cloves) and pork lard. The pastry skin is flaky and thin – literally melts in your mouth. 

There are many version of legend how this pastry has such an adorable name. Each one involves how a wife sacrificed her own freedom for the husband / family. Just how a good Chinese wife should be – selfless and put others before herself. 

These days, this sweet pastry is used as part of traditional wedding snack party favors for family and friends. In Medan there are less than a handful of shops who still sell these – they are not that popular anymore. In Hongkong and China, these are everyday snacks. 

I still enjoy them tremendously.

Fried Soybean Cake

Deep Fried Soybean Cake / Tempe

Something simple and fun. We love our soybean cake (or “tempeh” in Indonesian language). It can be sliced as thinly as potato chips, or thick chunky slices. Almost always dunked into some kind of sweet and spicy sauce.

This is prepared the same way all over the country. On street vendor’s food carts, traditional Indonesian eateries, fancy fusion restaurants.  Can be eaten as appetizers, snacks or even as part of many main course dishes.

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Coconut Jam

Coconut Jam / Srikaya

Coconut spread / coconut jam / “srikaya” /serikaya” is a well loved spread in South East Asia, mainly Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Made of only three ingredients – sugar, coconut milk and egg yolks – it is a cherished companion of bread, sticky rice and rice cake.

This takes a long time to make. The secret technique is in the slowly steaming heat. The cooking time also needs to be longer than three hours to ensure the egg yolk is thoroughly incorporated and cooked well with the rest of the ingredients.

The off-the-shelf products are easily found in any stores / bakeries / supermarkets around the country. But nothing beats making it from scratch, and it gives a rest in mind that only pure ingredients are used. The original coconut spread is thin in consistency and the color is usually light brown and glossy. Commercial types normally contain flour (to make them thicker so can be spread more easily on food surface), preservatives (for longer self-life) and coloring / flavoring (original, pandan or caramel varieties are quite common).

This particular recipe was from our grandmother. She made excellent coconut spread.

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