One of the most fun and important things that you can do in life, if you ask me, is try new stuff. Keep the mind open and flexible, you know? Mostly just little things suffice – you can go see a new city in your area, or meet new people, or see a band that you’ve never heard before. But sometimes, it’s nice to do something big. When I can afford it, I try to go and see a new country. The trick is to choose countries that are cheap to stay in, even if the flight might be pricey, so that you can stay longer after the initial investment. This year I can afford it, more or less, so next month I’m heading to Indonesia.
I’m really curious about Indonesia. I’ve been to the South-Eastern corner of Asia before, but I have a feeling that Indonesia is going to be completely different. Being Dutch and all, and seeing that the Dutch have a colonial past in Indonesia, it almost seems like I already know the country a little bit, although I actually have no idea of what it’s going to be like. Indonesia is present in the Netherlands, and their culture has influenced ours quite a bit, not just the other way around. For example, I grew up with a lot of Indonesian dishes being regulars on our dinner table. This is one of the things I’m most curious to find out: will the food there be anything like what I ate growing up with Dutch parents who cooked Dutch Indonesian food?
It’s kind of like Indian food in Britain – it’s all completely normal and unexotic, part of the local culture at this point, but is it actually anything like the food people eat in India? Not really, most of the time. I suppose most foreign dishes in just about any country are adapted to fit the available products on one hand, and the taste of the local population on the other.
So what’s all this Indonesian food going to be like? I’m dying to find out. Once I know, I’ll put it all up here. But until that time, let’s try some of the dishes I know from when I was younger. Until I head to the Emerald of the Equator in the first week of August, this is what we’ll do: four weeks of Dutch Indonesian food as my mum makes it. Then the blog and I are going on holiday for the entirety of August, after which I’ll be back, hopefully with a whole bunch of amazing, new, actual Indonesian recipes.
We’ll start with a super simple one: chicken sate. A staple of the nineties, these are skewers of marinated chicken (or any meat, really), in the Netherlands invariably served with peanut sauce.
For a good number of sates (like, I don’t know, 12), use:
- a pound of chicken breast
- 12 skewers (or however many you want to make, really)
- juice of one (small) lemon
- half a cup of ketjap manis – this is a sweet, Indonesian soy sauce. try your local Chinese shop, they have everything.
- 1 tsp of ginger powder
- 0.5 tsp of ground cumin
- a good pinch of black pepper
For the sauce:
- the marinade that you used for the chicken
- a small onion, chopped
- 1 full tsp of sambal terasi – an Indonesian chili paste
- 4 good scoops of peanut butter
- some more delicious, delicious ketjap manis
First of all, soak your skewers in some water. Then, chop your chicken into fairly fine, thin bits. Squeeze the juice of your small lemon into a bowl, then mix in the ketjap, the cumin, the ginger, and the pepper. Chuck in the chicken and marinade for at least half an hour.
Half an hour’s up? Start impaling your chicken bits on the skewers. Then stick them under the grill for about 15 minutes, and don’t forget to turn them about halfway through.
Whilst your chicken cooks, make your peanut sauce. Gently fry your chopped onion in some oil, add the sambal and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the marinade that you used for the chicken and then the meanut butter. If it’s very thick, add a little bit of water. If it’s not quite salty enough, add some ketjap. If it’s just too bloody overwhelming, add some lemon juice. (Add some lemon juice in any case, it’s delicious.)
Serve your sates with the peanut sauce, some white rice and some fresh cucumber salad.