October 1, 2022


Simply The Best Food

With holidays on hold, these umami-packed Indonesian recipes scratched my travel itch

Two things are real for most of us at this stage in the pandemic — we’re not traveling much more than the grocery retailer, and we missing our innovative enthusiasm for cooking months ago, somewhere among whipped coffee and sourdough starter.

We may perhaps not be ready to examine the earth just yet, but we can discover about distinctive cultures by making an attempt their cuisines at house.

I talked to Lara Lee, author of “Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from My Indonesian Kitchen“, about how she dishes up a little slice of Indonesia with the recipes in her cookbook. She says that much more than 1,000 a long time of trade via Indonesia’s hundreds of islands brought various influences, spices and designs to the delicacies.

“Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from My Indonesian Kitchen” was released in 2020. Louise Hagger

Like a ton of south Asian food stuff, you get a balance of sour, salty, sweet, and at times spicy. “There’s a charming perception of savory and umami you get with each and every chunk. The layers of complexity of flavors come with all this punch and boldness,” she reported. “To another person who has not encountered Indonesian food, one particular of the matters I assume it provides to someone’s kitchen is a brightness and vibrance. It does that by means of the wonderful melody of flavors and sensations you get when you eat the cuisine.”

Lara Lee, author of “Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from My Indonesian Kitchen”.Louise Hagger

I can notify you firsthand that she’s suitable. I tried out the prawn and hen fried noodles (below). It was uncomplicated to find the components I required at my nearby grocery retail store — if you just cannot locate items like noodles and fish sauce, test the Asian or International aisle.

The meal was effortless to place together — I made it after operate on a Monday night time. The dish has a wonderful mix of flavors that are in some way acquainted, nevertheless they appear together in a way which is one of a kind and surprising. It’s impressed me to phase absent from my hen-and-potatoes pandemic program and consider a little something new a lot more typically.

Tomato Sambal

Tomato Sambal (Sambal Tomat)

Louise Hagger / Coconut & Sambal

Sambal is a popular Indonesian condiment. “Indonesians say, ‘If I have not eaten sambal, I have not eaten,’” Lee mentioned. Sambal often includes chile, and diverse versions of sambal involve other components like tomatoes, shallots, garlic, tamarind and more. “It’s an exciting condiment. It is on every Indonesian desk no subject exactly where you travel,” Lee reported.

There are sambals you can uncover during Indonesia, and other folks that you are going to obtain in selected parts. “Every location has distinct properties in its flavors and dishes,” Lee reported.

In addition to working with sambal as a condiment, Lee explained you can use it:

  • As a foundation for a stir fry
  • As a marinade — for example, you can unfold it above a full fish ahead of grilling it
  • To combine into fried rice

Lee explained that this tomato sambal would be a very good condiment to provide with possibly the sweet soy tempeh or the prawn and rooster fried noodles. She also likes to make a batch of it, freeze it, and use it on scrambled eggs, steak, or pepperoni pizza, or combined with mayonnaise as a dip for fries. “These are inauthentic, but it’s one of those condiments like sriracha that you can use with anything,” she reported.

Sweet Soy Tempeh

Sweet Soy Tempeh (Tempeh Manis)


Sweet soy tempeh is a signature dish of central Java, the biggest island in Indonesia. Lee mentioned that as you vacation throughout Indonesia, unique flavors stand out. Locations will have cuisine which is much more salty, sweet or spicy.

“In central Java there is a deep like and fondness for sugar and sweetness simply because the coconut palm tree is harvested there. Traditionally sugar has identified its way into a lot more of the food items,” she mentioned. “The salty sweetness of [sweet soy tempeh] is really addictive — you’ll come across it on a whole lot of menus in that spot. It’s heaven. The dish stands on its have with a plate of rice.”

Prawn and Rooster Fried Noodles

Prawn and Chicken Fried Noodles (Mie Goreng Udang)


“Indonesians are crazy for noodles. They consume them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the best comfort and ease meals,” Lee mentioned. “This dish presents you some concept of their really like affair with noodles.”

She explained there are 1000’s of variations of this dish, with fish or pork at times changing the prawn and hen. “Every house, just about every mom, every single grandmother has their recipe. This one particular is impressed by my very own grandmother,” she reported.

She loves how it is comforting, uncomplicated to prepare dinner and available. “You could whip it up on a weeknight and it is truly delicious. My toddler eats it,” she stated.

Prepared to give Indonesian cooking a attempt? “There’s a ton to be realized about Indonesian delicacies — if you can comply with a couple of recipes, you can transportation your kitchen to Indonesia,” Lee explained.