Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CSA week two - Sayur manis bayam dan jagung muda

Roughly translated from Indonesian, that's stewed spinach and sweet corn. Less roughly, bayam--usually translated as "Indonesian spinach"--is amaranth, or, around here, callaloo.

Technique-wise, this recipe is very simple and pretty similar to a standard Islands preparation, but the inclusion of a lot of typical Indonesian flavors makes it distinctive. I found it at, but it's on most of the big recipe websites so there's no knowing where it came from originally.

a little cooking oil
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, julienned (my ginger was too dried out to slice so I just threw it in whole and fished it out later)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
hot peppers to taste (I chopped one and left another whole)
1 small shallot, sliced (the original recipe says onion, but shallot goes nicely with the other aromatics)
1 stalk lemongrass, cored and crushed
1 thumb-sized knob of galangal, sliced (I only have dried so I put in a big chunk)
1 salam leaf
1 cup chicken stock (the original recipe calls for vegetable stock, which might be fine if you wanted to go vegan, but I'd be concerned that the particular mix of vegetables wouldn't go well with Indonesian flavors.)
7 ounces (by weight) sweet young corn (the original recipe calls for "baby corn" but those little cobs would be pretty odd to use here so I'm pretty sure that's not what they mean)
2 bunchs callaloo, thick stems removed (around 10 ounces total)
1 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the fresh aromatics (garlic, peppers and shallot in my case). Cook briefly until aromatic. Add the dried or otherwise inedible aromatics (ginger, lemongrass, galangal and salam for me). Cook a little longer until even more aromatic.

2. Add the stock and corn. Season with a little salt and pepper. Return to a boil. Add half the callaloo. Stir to wilt until there's room for the rest. Add the rest and stir a little more. Cover, turn heat down to a simmer and cook seven minutes. Stir in coconut milk, recover and cook five minutes more.

3. Remove inedibles, adjust seasonings and serve over rice.

Callaloo and coconut milk are, of course, a classic combination. Corn less so, but cornbread is a common accompaniment so corn isn't a big leap. So that's all pretty accessible. The overlay of the floral citrusy Indonesian flavors is something else entirely, at least if you've got some expectation of Caribbean flavors. But, if you set aside your preconceptions, I think they do counterpoint against the callaloo's distinctive flavor. I know you guys don't have the galangal or salam leaf, but try using the lemongrass when you cook up your callaloo. It's not bad at all.

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