Monday, December 31, 2012

Indonesian foodslutting

I first tasted Indonesian food in my early teens. A nasi goreng cooked up by mum or dad in Singleton, in the Hunter Valley of Australia, it would have been from a recipe in Women's Day or Women's Weekly or may have been one of those packet mixes of dehydrated stock/vegetables and flavourings that were then and distressingly still are added to rice in home kitchens, it may even have been a Rice a Riso packet flavouring. I don't recall what meat we had with it, probably beef, and I recall we did have strips of omelette mixed through.

I think my next taste would have been a satay in my Uni days from one of the many cheap Asian restaurants that were opening up in Chinatown in Sydney and later at Kensington as Asian students began to live there while attending the University of New South Wales. It may well not have been at an Indonesian restaurant but at some place like the Malaya, which used to be on George Street and was a haunt of a coterie of Malaysian students with whom close friends of mine socialised. At the same time I would have had my first taste of gado gado and blachan.

Since then I've eaten at several Indonesian restaurants in Sydney and a few in Bali when I holidayed there briefly with my daughter, Mary when she was just pre-teen, though I think we mainly ate in the hotel that time and probably stuck with what I was used to and I thought Mary would handle. That I can't remember is probably a good measure of the quality.

It's never ranked especially high on my South East Asian cuisines list, but when I went in search of Komodo dragons on my 60th birthday, with days spent idling in Bali either side of a two-day boat trip in the Komodo National Park off the coast of the island of Flores, I was determined to explore the cuisine further, particularly its warung (the small family-business cafes where most eating out of home happens) and street food. Hereunder a few of my finds.

A rice packet in Ubud: white steamed rice, sambal, tempeh, chicken, mee, with the traditional wrapping of banana leaf reduced to a small plate size, the whole then wrapped in a waxed brown paper into a conical packet. The bugger of Ubud is that there is no place to sit and relax outside of the Monkey Temple grounds or a cage/restaurant, or, as I did, on the low parapet running around the very sad park in the middle of town.

A meal at Saleko, a warung at Jalan Nakula 4, just down from the corner with Jalan Legian, Legian:, specialising in Sumatran dishes:fish curry (turmeric and coconut gravy), steamed kankun, a piece of fried tuna dredged through a fresh red chili sambol, and a fresh green chili sambol.  

This was perhaps the find of the trip for me. I went walkabout  at the  Jimbaran market post a visit to the Jimbaran fish market. On the corner outside was Ms Bukadeh at her street stall mixing up coconut and seaweed salad to order. This one has two types of green seaweed, coconut, galangal, whole kaffir lime and a red chili all grated separately them mixed with a vinegar and chili souse and bagged up for take-away. A terrific combo of salty, sharp flavours.

I had a lot of meals at the Warung Padma behind my hotel, only frequented by  locals, the Aussie tourists thronging the streets being too busy heading for the cafes and restaurants with modified Indonesian/ pizza/ burgers/ beer crowd pullers. Me, I liked the simplicity of Padma's: this is steamed rice topped with some fried onions, one slice of tomato, one of cucumber, fresh blachan, and ayam battetu (chicken in a light curry).

Avocado in Sri Lanka when I was growing up there was never a salad option, It was served either as a sweet dessert (mashed and mixed with jaggery (palm sugar) or condensed milk) or a drink. I had missed this before in both Malaysia and Indonesia but was thrilled when I boarded my dragon cruise boat to see a glass of avocado shake waiting for me: avocado mushed up, mixed with a little milk, sugar syrup and in this case poured into a glass that has a light coating of chocolate syrup.

On my last night as I strolled home there was a street vendor serving up something to security guards outside a cafe. Turned out to be an excellent chicken ball soup with bean sprouts and glass noodles. I took it back to the hotel and for want of anything else poured it into a cup and used a teaspoon to sup.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Green Mango Pickling

My mango tree has for no reason I can fathom chosen this year out of the 20 odd for which it has stood in my front garden to produce lots of fruit. The tree is tall and wide and the fruit is damnably thronged at the very crown. It having been and  continuing to be quite dry here in Sydney this summer I figured it likely the fruit would fall before they ripened and have been keeping a watch out daily for them to get to a size that was     suitable for green mango pickling - fat enough to have a good amount of flesh, but still have the soft white early seed and be green enough for the sharpness the pickle needs.

I was planning  on going harvesting with the extended clan, well, the tall ones among them anyway, post Christmas lunch. Of course, it rained and blew a gale all Christmas day so that put paid to that. However, being a determined urban hunter gatherer I went out next day and as I had hoped there had been some windfall which I gathered and put up  - a small quantity.

I have been checking everyday now for more windfall, grateful for not having to climb into the tree or up a step ladder of dubious stability to pick the rest. I have no hope that any will stay atop the tree long enough to ripen before the local bird population, already somewhat alerted, descends in its usual screeching flocks bent on their own foraging.

I now have enough for a small amount of pickle. Here's what I will do with them.

I will dice them up, skin and all, removing the white flesh of the seed which at this stage will easily slip out of it's fleshy cup. I will then liberally sprinkle the cut pieces with rock or sea salt and leave them to desiccate for a few days, draining of the water and re-salting each day.

Then I will take the fruit and wash them, mix it up with some chili powder, a little sugar, a coating of sesame (gingelly) oil, and pack them into jars. I will then top up the jars with vinegar and let the pickle pickle for three or four months away from direct sunlight. At that time I will test the pickle for softness of the skin and intensity of the flavour of the flesh.

When done, it will be consumed avidly either as an accompaniment with a rice and curry meal, or as a snack on bread or dry biscuits.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

50 years of van Reyk dining and drinking in Australia

50 years ago, on November 10th 1962, my parents, Gerry and Celia, brought their three children, Chris, Geoff and Paul, to Australia. To commemorate the event, we turned our annual Christmas get together into a celebration of 50 years of family and friends dining and drinking (we held it earlier than usual hence this early posting).

The brief was for all those contributing to bring a dish and or beverage that signified a decade in that 50 year period. It was excessive, but then that's us. Here's the menu for the curious.

The Great Big van Reyk Extended Family 2012 Boxing Day Do
Celebrating 50 Years of van Reyk Drinking and Dining in Oz

Christmas Trees - Jatz, Cheese, Cocktail Onions
Corn Chips, Salsa and Guacamole
Prawn Cocktails

Beetroot Salad
Goats Cheese, Beetroot and Caramelised Onion Tart
Ice Berg Lettuce and Cucumber Salad
The Mothership Somato Salad
Tomato and Mustard Tart
Sweet Potatoes with Cumin, Lime and Chilli
Wasabi Potato Salad

Coconut Prawns
Curried Sausages
Lucknow Leg of Lamb
Spam Sushi Hawaiian
Tandoori Chicken & Pita
Thai Beef Salad
Sri Lankan Festive Rice

Christmas Pudding
Coconut Ice
Salted Caramel Fudge
Shortbread Christmas Tree
Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite
Espresso Coffee Martinis
Hibiscus Tea
Lemon Cordial
Mateus Rose
Mineral Water
Passion Pop