Sunday, 27 October 2013

Ayam Paniki - Sulawesi Style Spicy Coconut Chicken

Whilst doing the research for this recipe, I discovered that the word paniki means bats...  I thought it was a region or a city where the ayam or chicken dish originates from.  So yes, this dish was traditionally cooked using bat meat... Even though, they are still relatively easy to find here in Indonesia, I am sticking to the more popular version using chicken.

The thought about cooking this dish the traditional way did occur in mind... something for Halloween... but when I look at bats, they look just like rats with wings... don't they?

The bumbu for ayam paniki is pretty simple... at least for my version and you should be able to find all the ingredients at most supermarkets these days.  And the cooking process is also easy which is always nice to know.  You start by gently frying the finely chopped shallots, finely sliced red chillies and minced ginger in a little vegetable oil until softened.  Add a pinch of salt to prevent them from burning.  There are versions of ayam paniki to which ground turmeric is added for extra golden-ness, but it's entirely up to you. 

For this dish, you can use a whole chicken, cut into pieces but I prefer using all chicken thighs... they have more flavour compare to breast meat and also cheaper :)  Season the chicken with salt and white pepper then add them to the pan and cook until golden brown.  

Now add the chopped garlic and the lightly bruised lemongrass stalk.  I add the garlic last because if you add them too early in the cooking, they might burn and become bitter. Definitely don't want that and continue stirring for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and coconut milk, just enough to cover the chicken.  For one whole chicken or 8 pieces of chicken thighs, I used 400 ml of chicken stock and 100 ml of coconut milk.  To balance the heat from the chillies, add a couple teaspoons of crushed palm sugar or use dark muscovado sugar.  Let this comes to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced. Stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Sprinkle with more fresh red chillies if you want and enjoy with a big pile of white rice. Yum.

Question of the day: Has anyone ever eaten bat meat? If yes, what did it taste like? chicken? If no, do you fancy trying it?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Babi Panggang Manado - Roast Pork Belly, Manado Style

I'm sure roast pork belly is not one of the first things that comes to mind when talking about Indonesian cuisine.  The majority of the population are Muslim and therefore do not eat pork, but you can still find pork throughout Indonesia.  Many Chinese and western restaurants serve pork dishes, and also it depends on where you are in Indonesia.  For example, on the island of Bali where the majority of the population are Hindu, you'll find pork in many of its traditional dishes.  Also where I live in Medan, north Sumatra, pork dishes can easily be found.  

But today I want to take you to the city of Manado in northern Sulawesi where there is a relatively large number of Christians which explains the consumption of pork. I've never been to Manado but it is on my list of places to visit.  Bunaken National Park in Manado is a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.  But what I'm more interested in, is the food.   

One of the main characteristics of traditional Manado dishes is spiciness.  Not just hot, but I mean like crazy-fire-in-your-mouth hot... which is why I used the seeds and all when making the bumbu or the marinade for the pork belly. But of course you can de-seed if you want the flavour to be milder.  Though actually the final result wasn't that spicy... I don't know if that's because of the chillies that I used weren't that spicy in the first place; or I've been here long enough that my heat tolerance level has gone up. Probably both.

With the red chillies, other ingredients include shallots, garlic and tamarind water.  If you're using a pestle and mortar to make the marinade, I suggest adding a little salt which will aid the crushing and grinding process. But you can as easily use a blender... 

To the pork belly, make sure you score the rind... you can ask your butcher to do this or use a small kitchen cutter.  This little slashes will help the marinade to penetrate into meat.  I admit, the crackling won't be as crunchy because of the wet marinade, but it's still gonna be good.  Rub the bumbu all over the pork belly and let it marinade for at least a couple of hours or even better, overnight in the fridge.

Take the pork belly out from the fridge about an hour before you roast it so that it gets back to room temperature.  And preheat your oven to the hottest temperature... make sure the oven is clean, otherwise it'll smoke like crazy.  In Manado, I believe the pork is cooked over charcoal, but I think an oven is more accessible, for me anyway.  Drizzle the pork belly with a little olive oil and season with salt (I only put a little salt when making the marinade, so it'll definitely need more).  Roast in the oven for half an hour (skin side up) to get the colour going and to render some of the fat.

After thirty minutes, turn the heat down to 150 C.  Carefully get rid of the fat and add into the tray, 500 ml of chicken stock and continue cooking for another couple of hours. Do check after an hour... if the colour gets too dark, cover it with foil.  When the pork belly is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it rest before cutting into generous slices. 

I'm sure in Manado, they eat the pork belly with other side dishes, but whenever I roast a pork belly, I must have it with braised red cabbage with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar.  I just love the acidity from the vinegar that cuts through the I richness of fatty pork belly... and my family loves it too, so as long as everyone's happy, it's all good!

Last but not least I want to say thank you to everyone for the messages and kind birthday wishes last week. You guys are awesome! I ate lots of cake which actually is no difference to any other day, but yeah... I had a nice day. Thanks again.

Have a great week ahead! x

Monday, 14 October 2013

Semur Ayam - Chicken Stewed in Sweet Soy Sauce

The past few months, I have been having a lot of fun building my culinary repertoire of Indonesian dishes. I mean even though I was born and I grew up here for the first fifteen years of my life... back then, all I did was mostly the eating... if you've seen pictures from my childhood, you'll understand.  I have burned most of them, but I know there are still one or two around somewhere... 

But anyway, now that I am also very much interested in not just the eating, but also the cooking... it's been a pleasurable experience which I want to share with you.  It's fair to say that my cooking is Italian-French-British influenced as seen by the many recipes featured in this blog.  But my purpose of starting this blog is I want to be a better cook, and the great thing about cooking is it's a constant learning experience...

I have sampled many dishes... truly hard work, I know... (the time I spent on that cross-trainer) but I'm not complaining... it's just one of the things I'd happily do for you all; I've done my research; extracted recipes from my mom's brain (now, that's the challenge) and I played around in the kitchen trying to replicate the dishes I tried.

So, over the next few posts, I want to share with you some of my favourite Indonesian dishes and ingredients.  Some are old favourites and a few are new discoveries.  I hope you are excited... because I am! 

I want to start with a dish that is simple and homey, like semur ayam or chicken stewed in sweet soy sauce. This chicken stew can be found pretty much everywhere in Indonesia.  But depending on the region where it's cooked, the stew may varies.  I have seen other variants using plenty of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, coriander and cumin; also other ingredients such as potatoes and hard-boiled eggs may be added too to the stew. But I am keeping mine to the basic and this is how we often cook it at home.

The word semur itself derives from the Dutch word smoor meaning smothered.  Indonesia was colonised by the Dutch for over three centuries, so there are many Dutch-derived words in Bahasa Indonesia.  The chicken stew here is smothered in sweet soy sauce which later gives the distinctive dark colour.     

Sweet soy sauce or known by the locals as kecap manis is perhaps the most commonly used and well-loved Indonesian food condiment.  I certainly love it.  Give me a bowl of plain white rice, fried egg and kecap manis, and I am all set (see, I am easily pleased).  I was going to say sambal is the most popular food condiment, but to many Indonesians, sambal is another pretty much another food group, not just a condiment.  I'll talk about sambal more in the upcoming posts.

When you see 'kecap' in Indonesian recipes, or when someone asks for 'kecap' in Indonesia, they will always mean kecap manis.  It is made by cooking the fermented soy liquid with palm sugar and spices.  The sugar makes the sauce syrup-like.  The sauce can be found easily in Asian grocery store.  But UK readers, I'm sure I've seen it sold at M&S with the old Indonesian spelling of 'ketjap manis'.  However, if you can't find sweet soy sauce anywhere, I suggest using the regular soy sauce and then add some palm sugar or dark muscovado sugar.

Whilst we're on the subject, if you're interested, the regular Chinese or Japanese soy sauce is known as kecap asin (salty soy sauce), but this will often be specified... as well as kecap ikan (fish sauce) or kecap Inggris (English sauce/Worcestershire sauce).

Have a great Monday everyone!

P.S. It's my birthday and I don't have a plan just yet... but I'm sure there will be a cake at some point today. I'll keep you posted via twitter and instagram. 

Semur Ayam - Chicken Stewed in Sweet Soy Sauce
Recipe by Me

1 chicken, jointed and cut into small pieces
Vegetable oil for frying
4 small shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce / kecap manis
400 ml chicken stock
Salt and white pepper

Heat up a generous layer of oil in a pan or wok of your choice over a medium heat.  Season the chicken pieces with salt and white pepper and fry until they are nicely brown on all sides.  Depending on the size of the pan/wok you're using, you might need to do this in batches.  Overcrowding the pan will cause the chicken to braise and they'll not colour properly.  If you've done this before, you know that the oil will splatter, so please be careful... and if you haven't done this before, this is your warning :) When the chickens are browned, drain on paper towel and set aside.

Using the same pan, gently cook the shallots, garlic and ginger until they are beginning to soften and become fragrant.  Then add the tomato ketchup, sweet soy sauce, chicken stock and the chickens.  Let it comes to a boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the liquid boil down to a thick, glossy, dark syrup and the chicken pieces are very tender.  Give it a stir from time to time. 

Taste and adjust the seasonings, and serve over noodles or plain boiled rice.