Category Archives: Indonesian

Ghetto Soto Ayam

Seattle’s weather has been so beautiful lately. The sun is out, which makes me want to go out more often (this is so rare.. I’m usually a homebody). Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling under the weather. Stuffy nose, clogged up ears, and sore throat. Hell no. So instead of taking a walk to playground, today we made soto ayam. It’s Indonesian clear chicken broth (well, slightly yellow to be exact).

While they do sell the instant spice sachets, I find it superfluous to use. It’s not that hard. If you own a mortar and pestle, you can make any Indonesian dishes (and of course you need a pantry full of Indonesian spices). Heck, I don’t own mortar and pestle, but magic bullet could also doubled as spice grinder.

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Spicy Fried Tempeh, and How I Miss My Mom

I haven’t written for quite awhile. Had a moment where I find it hard to process my thoughts into words. I miss having my mom around, so there’s an adult to talk to during the day when my husband is at work. Ironically, I didn’t have a good relationship with my mom as a child. We rarely talked, except when I was talking back. I didn’t know why she was so.. bitter and unloving. I’m not going to elaborate, but I discovered something when I was 16. She’s been holding so much burden by hiding someone else’s secrets just so we, her children, won’t lose respect for that “someone”. To make long story short, since then, I see her in different light.

Funny how my mom lives thousand miles away from me, but her voice is always in my head. Making comments. Sometimes it’s a nice one, sometimes it’s mocking me. When I was playing puzzles with my son, her voice in my head said “Start with the sides first, then you just fill in the middle parts“. After how many years, the memories just flooded back. Like that one time she told me how God would punish me in the future, by making me marry the boy I socked in kindergarten “so watch out, don’t hurt people“.

While driving to my grandmother’s house, we would pass a river. A really dirty one. There were people brushing their teeth there, taking a dump, taking a bath, using the water to cook their meals. I was (and still am) grateful that we have proper plumbing, so using the dirty water wasn;t necessary. Then I saw something else, I’m sure they’ve been there forever, but didn’t notice til that day. There were two men, in their underpants and wifebeaters, stomping something inside a barrel with their sweats dripping down. Undoubtedly using the dirty water, too. My mom noticed me looking at them, said nonchalantly “Oh, they’re just stomping on the soy beans that they’ll turn into tempeh“. My 8-year-old self, who love tempeh so very much, got so disgusted and wouldn’t touch it for the next 5 years. While my mom swore she never said that, I’m sure it was her selective memories playing tricks on her. Continue reading

Collard Greens, The Indonesian Way

Yesterday, I experienced an impulsive longing for home. Yes, even after 7 years of living here in Seattle, the home to my guts is still Indonesia. I miss street vendors selling snacks, while it might be unhygienic, it was cheap and satisfying. My dad used to say, whatever food that is sold in a kaki lima, it’s gotta be good. It’s like the fast food of Indonesia, minus the trans fat.

I especially miss Padang food, where they’d take out several dishes at once upon your arrival. So you just pick which dishes you want. You don’t even have to wait to order. There’s a saying, hit the ground running. This is “hit the chair eating”. Or if you decide to get a take-out, they’ll wrap your food in banana leaves. Hot food + banana leaves = heaven. I think the hot food helps permeate its fragrance.

I usually like their rendang, cooked brains and cassava leaves in coconut broth. But since it was an impromptu lunch, and I didn’t have cassava leaves in hands, I tried using collard green. It has the pleasant bitterness that cassava leaves offer, I didn’t expect it to work this well. Served over hot rice, it felt almost like home.

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Chicken Noodles, Comfort Me Please?

It was a drizzly, cold morning when I was waiting for the bus. As crazy as it sounds, for the past five years, I rarely go out by myself, without my kid(s). It feels liberating, yet nerve-wrecking. When I left the house, the kids were still sleeping, the boy tucked next to his dad and the girl slept soundly, the only noise was their snore.

I was going to an open house for a culinary school. About 6 years ago, I applied to this same school but due to financial and immigration problem, I had no choice but to back out. Now the latter is settled, so we decided it’s time to go back. Despite my worry about being socially inept, I made small talks without turning red (major improvement, I dare say). And heck, I like this school. There was another school that I was considering but it doesn’t fit my needs and it’s quite a distance from where I live, while this one is just a 10-min drive away.

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Pandan Cake: No, It’s Not Kryptonite

As a rule of thumb, when there is a choice, I won’t consume food that’s artificially colored. Ironically, my number one weakness is chiffon pandan cake. To my defense, it’s a quite difficult task to find fresh pandan leaves (otherwise known as screwpine leaves) here in Seattle. Awhile back I found fresh pandan leaves at the Asian grocery store I frequent, but the next week I was shit out of luck. It’s so much easier to stock up on pandan extract. I have 2 kinds; one without added coloring and the other one looks like it’s loaded with kryptonite. Guess which one I ended up using?

No matter what I tell my husband, he refuses to eat it (perhaps he secretly thinks he’s Superman) but my son loves this green cake. I craved for this certain cake during my last pregnancy, it’s a quite surprise my daughter didn’t come out smelling like pandan or having green complexion like Incredible Hulk. Last year, 8 out of 12 months, I made this cake. Hence the abstinence of this cake since October of 2010. While this cake is a Southeast Asian thing (I believe Indonesian and Malaysian), I don’t see why we can’t have it to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And try telling Clark Kent there’s no kryptonite involved in making this cake. Continue reading