I mail ordered a bunch of Indonesian ingredients a couple months ago and then promptly stopped cooking anything Indonesian. But Indonesian cuisine has evolved for the sort of oppressively tropical weather we've been having so now's definitely the time to break it out.
I don't know how useful it is to you guys for me to post about dishes that require ingredients you don't have, but I suppose my conception of a food blog as a practical rather than a voyeuristic endeavor is something of a minority view. For whatever it's worth then, here's a west Javanese salad and an east Javanese tofu dish both from The Indonesian Kitchen.
1 fresh semihot chile, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 small slices dried kencur, soaked in water for 30 minutes [a.k.a. lesser galangal. I was going to use some regular galangal as I haven't been able to get kencur, but it didn't soften enough smush in the mortar. I used a little ginger instead which is a fair approximation.]
3 Tablespoons crunchy peanut butter [I've got smooth so I added some coarsely ground peanuts I keep around for garnishing.]
1 teaspoon tamarind, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup thin-sliced cucumbers
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup lettuce, broken into bite-size pieces [I have no lettuce either so I used a cup and a half of cukes and an equal amount of sprouts.]
1. Crush chile, garlic, salt, kencur and peanut butter in a mortar.
2. Strain seeds out of tamarind. Add tamarind and sugar to peanut butter mix.
3. Toss sauce with vegetables until well mixed. Served chilled or room temperature.
12 ounces tofu
1/2 cup high smoke point oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup onion, sliced
2 semihot red chiles, sliced thin diagonally
1 salam leaf
1 piece laos [a.k.a. galangal. I used the two small pieces that didn't work in the salad.]
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons tamarind, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1. Cut tofu into 1/4-inch thick slices in whatever size in the other two dimensions as you'd like. [The original recipe says 3/4-inch square, but I left mine in slabs a couple inches across and I liked the result.] Heat the oil until not quite smoking, add tofu and fry in batches for five to seven minutes until they are golden brown on the outside. Do not let them cook through or they'll become leathery. If you do it right, they'll crisp up once they're out of the oil.
2. In small bowl mix sugar, salt, strained tamarind liquid and sweet soy sauce.
Remove all but 1 Tablespoon oil. Turn heat to medium. Fry garlic, onion, chiles, salam and laos until the onions and garlic brown. Add tofu and sauce mixture. Turn the tofu pieces to ensure they're all coated with the sauce and fry for five to eight minutes more until all the liquid has evaporated (except the oil which will still be liquid. Don't be fooled!). Serve with rice or on toothpicks with cocktails before dinner.
The salad is not as good as I hoped. I used a natural peanut butter that was pretty dense and had to water down the sauce to get it thin enough to dress the vegetables. That was fine, but then the salt in the dressing made the vegetables express their own liquid and soon we're talking about peanut soup. Actually, recontextualized like that, (and with the seasoning punched back up) it's not bad. It's a little sweet, a little spicy, a little tart, and the peanut does go well with the cucumber and sprouts. On the other hand, I don't like how limp the vegetables got while waiting for me to finish cooking the tofu. Leave the dressing thick and serve immediately and it's worth doing.
The tofu is deeply savory from the browned vegetables and reduced soy sauce plus a little sweet and a little sour. The salam and laos are subtle but distinctively aromatic. It's got a surprisingly meaty chew and a little crispness around the edges. I don't think I can explain it better than that; it's rather odd and since its primary flavor is umami, there's not a lot of appropriate English vocabulary. Pretty tasty though.