Category Archives: Lunch

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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Icy Chicken and Dirty Rice

When he woke up this morning, I asked the birthday boy what does he want for lunch. Without hesitating, he said “icy chicken and dirty rice”. It took me awhile to understand what he meant, then I realized he meant Hainanese chicken rice.

Icy chicken, why you ask? Because he saw me dunk the cooked chicken pieces into bowl of iced water. This step is crucial to us, because we like how the skin turn gelatinous after. It gives a cartilage-y crunch to it. Dirty rice, well, the rice is cooked with the water used to boil the chicken. I still find it super cute, the way he named this dish.

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Brussels Sprout at its Best

Although I love heavily spiced food, sometimes I crave for something simple. Something that won’t overwork my taste-bud. While I prefer to cook meat and poultry in strong spices, I prefer not to tinker too much with vegetables. One of my favorite ways to serve vegetables is to cook them until they’re tender, then just sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.

Plus, now I have another child, simple food that doesn’t require long hours of cooking means I get to spend more time with the kids (although to be honest, I kind of miss spending long hours in my kitchen). 

I was lucky enough to find decent Brussels sprout over the weekend. Sometimes I think Brussels sprout is so unpopular, whenever I see them at the Asian grocery store I frequented, they’re so old and sad looking. Their leaves always look wilted. They rarely stock it, hence my assuming it’s unpopular. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found beautiful looking Brussels sprout!

And of course, that’s what we had for lunch today, along with some chicken and dong gua (winter gourd) cooked in Chinese herbal soup for my cold-ridden son. Didn’t get to take the picture of the soup though. I’m so thankful that he still has great appetite despite him being sick.