Indonesian


I love curry of all kinds: Indian, Thai, red, green, yellow, seafood, veggies, meat- I don’t discriminate.  That’s why when I stumbled on this recipe for an Indonesian curry I was intrigued.  This recipe is also from the The Complete Asian Cookbook, but it is much simpler to prepare than my previous adventure in Indonesian cooking (tahu goreng kacang).  Just shove a bunch of spices, pineapple, and coconut milk in a pot and 15 minutes later you’re good to go!  Overall, the curry was mild and could have used more spiciness.  Perhaps if I made it again I would add a fresh chili pepper instead of the dried chili powder.   One preparation note: to bruise the cardamom pods, place them on a hard surface and hit them with the flat side of the knife.  Hit them hard enough to crack the surface of the pod, but not hard enough so that the seeds fall out.  

Pacari (Pineapple Curry)

Ingredients   Cost
1 small pineapple   $2.99
1 T. oil     pantry
1 small onion, finely chopped $0.15
1 large garlic clove, minced $0.05
small cinnamon stick pantry
3 whole cloves   pantry
3 cardamom pods, bruised pantry
3 tsp. ground coriander pantry
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin pantry
1/2 tsp. chili powder pantry
1 tsp. salt     pantry
1 c. coconut milk   $1.50
1 tsp. palm sugar   pantry
Rice for accompaniment $0.84
    Total cost (4 servings) $5.53
    Cost per serving $1.38

Peel pineapple and cut into 1-inch chunks.  Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté onion, garlic, and whole spices over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is soft.  Add coriander, cumin, chili powder, and salt and stir for a few minutes until spices are browned.  Add pineapple and stir well to coat with the spice mixture.  Add coconut milk and sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until pineapple is just tender.

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I’ll admit, I love all types of Asian food but am a little intimidated by cooking it in my own kitchen.  The extent of my Asian cooking up until yesterday had been dumbed-down versions of pad thai, and a stir fry here and there.  Thanks to my boyfriend’s Christmas presents to me, however, I am now beginning my foray into cooking more authentic and varied Asian recipes.  The first dish I decided to try was an Indonesian recipe, Tahu Goreng Kacang (fried bean curd with peanuts) from The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon.  Preparing this dish was a decidedly intense experience lasting almost two hours, but it was a good learning experience.  I got to open several of my Christmas presents: shrimp paste, sambal ulek, palm sugar, and tamarind.  In case you’ve never used tamarind before, here’s what you do:

  1. Bring half a cup of water to boil in a saucepan
  2. Add a walnut-sized piece of tamarind and soak (with the burner off) for 5-10 minutes
  3. Squeeze the tamarind and strain the liquid to remove fibers and seeds (I bought seedless tamarind so I didn’t do this step)
  4. Measure out the amount of liquid that the recipe calls for
  5. Store the leftover unused tamarind block in a sealed baggie or container in the crisper of the fridge.

I’ll refrain from describing in detail what the tamarind and its liquid look like, but just a hint: it’s brown.  Never fear, though, it doesn’t smell half bad.  Anyways, the dish was pretty cheap, as you can see from the recipe and cost information below.  The flavors of the sauce were interesting: a little sweet, a little salty, and a slight spiciness that hits you after a while.  The cabbage and the peanuts gave a nice texture contrast with the tofu.  All in all, this was good recipe for learning how to use some key Asian ingredients, and for learning something else: I really don’t like tofu as much as I thought I did. 

Tahu Goreng Kacang (bean curd with peanuts)

Ingredients     Cost
1 14-oz container hard tofu   $2.99
peanut oil     pantry
1 c. roasted peanuts, divided     $1.23
1 large garlic glove, minced   $0.05
½ tsp. dried shrimp paste (trasi) pantry
2 T. soy sauce   pantry
3 T. tamarind liquid     pantry
½ tsp. sambal ulek         pantry
1 tsp. palm sugar         pantry
½ c. coconut milk         $0.50
1 c. cabbage, chopped       $0.47
      Total cost (4 servings) $5.24
      Cost per serving $1.31
                 

Wipe tofu thorougly on paper towels and then dice it.  Heat peanut oil in a frying pan and stir fry the tofu, being careful not to break the tofu, until it is golden brown.  Drain the tofu on paper towels.  In the same oil fry 1/2 c. of the peanuts for 3 or 4 minutes, being careful not to burn them.  Drain the peanuts on paper towels and set aside.

Stir fry the garlic and shrimp paste in 1 T. oil over low heat, stirring constantly.  Add 1/2 c. crushed peanuts, soy sauce, tamarind liquid, sambal, and palm sugar.  Stir until well-mixed.  Remove from heat and add coconut milk.

To serve, place tofu on a plate and top with cabbage, sauce, and garnish with fried peanuts.  You can also garnish with bean sprouts and scallions, but I chose not to (bean sprouts were expensive at my grocery store and scallions were temporarily not available).