Friday, July 8, 2016

An Indonesian Feast

Ramadan is a time of fasting yet after sundown it's a time of feasting. Muslims throughout Indonesia celebrate it with a variety of traditional foods. The holiday nights end with a mix of spicy and sweet, all filling after a day of prayers and austerity.

Tejal Rao wrote about this in Wednesday's New York Times Food section, traveling to Boston to interview chef Retno Pratiwi owner of the pop up restaurant Kaki Lima. She recreated the holiday fare her mother used to make for Eid al-Fitr , also known as Idul Fitri in Indonesia. She and her husband, Peter Geller who used to write for the Times, are passionate about the food of her native Jakarta. They obsess over the authenticity and minute details of their food at the restaurant , named for the food stalls. They traveled back to archipelago of islands located between southeastern Asia and Australia, visiting home chefs, and garnering more recipes from them. They went to the various islands to gather up a variety of different dishes. Recreating them here was difficult, namely in trying to get the exact ingredients. Fresh lemongrass and galangal,a type of ginger are hard to come by as are salam leaves,a variation of bay leaves.Sometimes the couple has to travel down to New York City to get another vital ingredient candle nut , a macadamia type nut. Sometimes they just order from Amazon.

Home chefs can create Chef's Pratiwi's dishes. The article includes opor ayam or Indonesian chicken curry. Some of the ingredients like the galanga root and kafir lime leaves can be hard to find.Again go to Amazon or your local Asian market and see if they have the ingredients there.The rest is attainable such as the chicken and coconut milk along with the coriander and ginger.  The chicken is cooked in the sauce for forty minutes before serving.It' is a labor intensive dish but worth it. The other recipe offered is shrimp and potatoes in sambal. This is a spicy sweet dish that gets its' heat from chile peppers along with Thai bird's eye chilis.. The recipe is a mix of different flavors and textures from the brininess of the seafood to the mildness of the tomatoes and lemon grass. The potatoes are roasted before hand for a nice crunchy texture,. The sambal or sauce is pureed and then sweetened with coconut sugar.The shrimp and potatoes are added to the sauce and cooked for ten minutes.It's served with rice.Again it's worth a trip to the local Asian grocery to stock up on the rarer ingredients such as lemongrass and galangal.

Ramadan is a holiday of fasting and prayer. Yet it is also is nights full of feasting. The Indonesians know how to celebrate with delicious foods, full of flavor and spice.

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