This Christmas I play host to VERY SPECIAL guests: my dear friends Evelyn, Chris, Sophia and Lily. Prior to them visiting me all the way from the eastern part of the US, I asked them if they wanted traditional American-style Christmas dinner with all the trimmings or the Indonesian rice table. They opted for the latter. So here goes.
Figure 1. Clockwise from the top: coconut milk sambal, prawn crackers, soy sauce tofu/tempeh/potatoes, and fried rice noodle sticks surrounding a cup of coconut milk rice
Rice with coconut milk and all the trimmings have several different versions. In Malaysia, this method of cooking rice is called "nasi lemak" (lit. fatty rice). However, the difference between the Malaysian version and the Indonesian version is the addition of screwpine leaves vs. lemongrass stalks. I love both version. The Malaysian version with its ultra delicious curry-sambal type side dishes is to die for (and my mouth is watering as I type this) while the Indonesian version is... what can I say, it's home, y'know?
In Indonesia this menu set is actually a poor man's meal. We used to be able to walk towards the end of the street and cross the main street to get a "box" of this rice to eat as... 1-2 meals for mere 10 cents. This is also versatile in the sense that everyone can modify their meal as they wish. This particular version comes from the hometown where my family comes from, Tangerang.
There are four main components of the dish: the rice (virtually tasteless) which provides the "base" with its rich coconut-milk flavor and lemon grass fragrant; the fried rice noodle which lends "saltiness" and texture to the soft, fluffy rice; the sweet soy-sauce cooked tempeh, tofu and potatoes which lends, what else?, "sweetness" to the dish; and lastly the sambal which of course adds the "spicy/sour" flavor to the dish. These dishes stand alone on their own. However, together they made one heck of a happy Indonesian gal!
For the recipe to the coconut milk rice, please refer to this.
Fried rice noodle sticks
1-2 garlic clove, minced
1 tbs oil
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cabbage
2 cups of softened rice sticks (soften the rice stick by soaking under running hot water. DO NOT boil the rice sticks, it'll be all mushy)
3 tbs sweet soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat wok and oil and fry the garlic.
2. Add carrot and cabbage and stir fry until slightly soft.
3. Reduce heat to low and add rice sticks and soy sauce. Mix thoroughly until the color is uniform.
4. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.
5. When taste is adjusted, turn the heat up to high and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes.
Soy sauce tempeh, tofu, and potatoes
1 block tempeh (8 oz.), diced about 1/2 in. x 1/2 in.
1 block extra firm tofu (14 oz), diced about 1/2 in. x 1/2 in.
1-2 potatoes, diced
1/3 cup sweet soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar (brown sugar, if possible)
1/2-3/4 cup water (until about 1/2 of the depth of the ingredients)
2 tbs coconut milk
1/3 of lemongrass stalk, bruised
Oil to fry tofu
salt to taste
1. Fry tofu until skin form (about 4 mins per side), drain.
2. Add diced tempeh, diced potatoes, sweet soy sauce, water, coconut milk, lemongrass stalk, sugar.
3. Mix evenly and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Adjust the taste by adding salt. The flavor profile should be mainly sweet with soy sauce flavor and a hint of saltiness.
5. Continue cooking until potatoes are cooked and the liquid is reduced to about 1/2-1/3 of the initial volume.
Coconut milk sambal
1 tomatoes, diced
1 tsp of oil
1 lemongrass stalk, divided into 3, bruised
1/2 cup coconut milk (or half a can will do)
(Optional) 1 habanero peppers, sliced
1. Heat wok and oil.
2. Add shrimp and tomatoes and stir fry for about 1 minute.
3. Add lemongrass and coconut milk.
4. Continue cooking until tomatoes are tender and the liquid change color to pale orange/red.
5. Adjust taste using salt.
1. For the rice noodle, add meat (lapcheong sausage), sesame oil and more vegetables to make it its own meal.
2. I added fish sauce to the fried rice noodle because I love the smell of it, however, this is not crucial.
3. Any ingredients can be omitted from the tempeh, tofu, and potatoes. Neither tempeh, tofu or potatoes add to the flavor.
4. Add sliced Italian sweet pepper or serrano or cherry pepper to the soy sauce tempeh, tofu, and potatoes (I need to write better name for this...) to make it its own dish and eat this with just plain white rice.
5. Add more tomatoes if you want more sour sambal. Add more habanero or any chili paste to make it spicier. I never try with dried chili, but it should work so long as it's pre-soaked.
6. When I made this as a meal set, I use 1/2 of can to cook the rice (I know the rice recipe calls for 1/3 cup, but again, this is just mere ballpark), 2 tbs to add to the soy sauce tempeh, tofu, and potatoes, and the rest to make the sambal.
7. There's no strict guidelines as to how to serve this. Everyone gets to adjust how spicy/sweet/salty their plate should be. My favorite way of eating this is by mixing all 4 components together (the kind of mixing that will give someone that has problem with their food touching each other a heart attack), crumbling shrimp crackers (just fry it yourself, it's easy, I promise), and adding about 1 tbs sweet soy sauce. I like my shrimp cracker a bit soggy after mixing.
8. You can also serve more side dishes by making this chicken dish: chicken two-ways