Many years ago, I lived in Holland–a few months as an exchange student with a family, and the remaining time on my own. When I arrived in the country, I was an avowed picky eater. But that changed during my stay. I got brave, and tried new dishes. I ate foods that I had long-distained. My palate woke up. It is odd to think about now, as Dutch food is not renowned for bold flavors or innovative cuisine. It is earthy, hearty, and basic in many ways.
But that is not to say that the Dutch prefer bland food. One of the more exciting and exotic experiences can be had at the Indonesian restaurants that are dotted throughout the country. Have you heard of “Rijsttafel” or Rice Table? It is a spicy and sumptuous spread of vegetables, meats, condiments and rice brought from the culinary traditions of various Indonesian islands, once part of the Dutch East Indies.
Just as loved are the Indonesian take-out dishes. My Dutch mother was an accomplished cook, but every now and then, she would hang up her apron for an evening and let us get take-out from one of the local Indonesian cafes. Of course, we were all very thrilled whenever she made this decision. Getting takeout was considered a real once-in-a-while treat, not the constant it is in Western culture today.
I recall trying the different Satays (chicken or beef skewers) cloaked in peanut sauce, Bakso, a “mystery” meatball soup, Nasi Goreng, a savory fried rice dish flecked with pork, chicken, egg, and veggies, and Bami Goreng, its sister dish, only made with fried noodles. Nasi and Bami were my favorites.
I haven’t eaten Indonesian cuisine in a long time, let alone prepare it. My friend Teresa and her partner Wouter, a Dutchman, have talked with me about recreating a Rijsttafel—but it requires a lot of planning. All those side dishes! Someday, we’ll take the plunge.
In the meantime, I can satisfy the desire for those tastes by making my own Bami Goreng. I found the recipe in Cooking Light’s latest cookbook offering: GLOBAL KITCHEN. Written by best-selling author David Joachim, it is a vibrant assembly of the world’s tastes, ingredients, recipes, and flavor profiles that travel the globe: Toasted Guajillo and Pork Posole from South America, Vegetable Sui Mai from Canton China, Ukranian Borscht, North African Lamb and Chick Pea Tagine, Punjabi Butter Chicken with cashews, sweet coconut Lamingtons from Australia.
The photographs are gorgeous. The recipes are designed for the home cook. There’s so much to inspire your cooking and spark a weary palate.
Like most stir-frys, Bami Goreng is easy to make. What sets the dish apart is the Kecap Manis (pronounced Ket-chup, Mah-nees) seasoning the noodles, meats, and vegetables. It is thick sweet soy sauce that gets extra pizzazz from garlic and ground anise. Sometimes it is called Indonesian Ketchup. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. it couldn’t be easier to make. I’ve included that recipe below.
With its foundation of pasta, wealth of proteins, crunch of veggies, and umami taste imparted by the Kecap Manis, this simple stir-fry makes a terrific one pot meal. I relished it not for its taste alone. It conjured memories of a fun time for a young woman with a novice palate, when her Dutch mother spread out the dining table with an Indonesian take-out feast.
BAMI GORENG (INDONESIAN STIR-FRIED NOODLES)
adapted from COOKING LIGHT GLOBAL KITCHEN
3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 ounces linguine
6 ounces boneless chicken breast or thigh, thinly sliced
4 ounces boneless pork loin chop, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
1 bundle green onions, green and white parts chopped
4 celery ribs, sliced (use leafy green tops as well)
3 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons kecap manis (recipe below)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add one tablespoon peanut oil and swirl to coat the pan. Pour in beaten eggs and swirl to form a thin omelet. Cook for 1 minute, then flip and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat. Roll or fold the omelet and cut into strips. Set aside.
Cook linguine according to package directions in lightly salted boiling water. Drain and rinse and set aside.
Heat a wok or large deep skillet over high heat. Add remaining peanut oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan. Add chicken, pork, and garlic; stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add napa, green onions, and celery. Stir-fry for another minute. Stir in broth, kecap manis, and soy sauce.
Add the noodles and continue to stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes, allowing the noodles to get coated and lightly brown. Fold in sliced omelet pieces. Sprinkle for a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve.
Makes 4 servings
INDONESIAN KECAP MANIS (sweet soy sauce, Indonesian “Ketchup”)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 clove finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat, and cook the mixture, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.
Cooking Light has kindly furnished me with a copy of COOKING LIGHT GLOBAL KITCHEN to give to someone. I’ve never hosted a giveaway before–but this one merits it! (And, with my own cookbook soon to be released, [ June 17th!] another giveaway could ensue!)
It’s simple–Just leave a comment below. Share a favorite global kitchen dish, if you like, or a global taste that sparks your palate.
In ten days, I’ll pick a name at random and mail you your copy. It is a beautiful book, filled with easy and enticing recipes. Thanks!