Granted, this isn’t a cuisine that the majority of the British public will be familiar with but this should, on analysis, be one of the next big Asian food trends. It offers all the elements we need to feel that we have had a thoroughly exotic but not outlandish dining experience. It has the hint of spice that many of us crave along with some familiar flavours to ensure that we are not over-anxious about a new culinary adventure.
Indonesia holds a rather unique accolade. It can boast cultural credentials from its own geographic location as well as those of China, India, Arabia and Europe. Those influences are reflected in its food. The dishes have good taste and harmony, and how much better the world would be if we could all embrace those traits. Perhaps that could be a world New Year’s Resolution – to live life like an Indonesian Rice Table (Rijsttafel). An array of delicious foods, all different but forming a vibrant and balanced whole.
The Real Taste of Indonesia is a marvellous introduction to the spices, fresh ingredients and cooking methods from the kingdom of a thousand islands. There is plenty of basic information and most of what you’ll need can be found in your local stores, with the occasional visit to an Asian supermarket. There are more and more Indonesian and Malaysian products available, as the cuisine becomes better-known throughout Europe.
There are 100 or so recipes in this well-illustrated volume. Every recipe has its photograph and those pictures alone are enough to encourage you to dust off your wok – or more accurately your Indonesian Wajan – and start cooking. There is nothing much to frighten even a novice cook.
Ayam Paniki is spicy coconut chicken Sulawesi style. This is a rich and creamy dish that was originally made with bats. Tescburyrose in your high street doesn’t often stock them but the substitute chicken works just as well and there is more meat on the legs.
Satay is now a popular dish on many pan-Asian menus. Indonesians have many versions including not only the ever-popular chicken but also beef, pork, lamb, goat, fish, prawn, squid, tripe and liver. They each have their individual marinades and accompanying sauces. The common element is the basic concept of small pieces of something on skewers grilled over a charcoal fire. A Sate party could be in order for the summer – an interesting take on the traditional barbecue. I have a couple of favourites from this book: Satay Manis (sweet beef satay) which needs no dipping sauce and Sate Kambling (skewered goat or lamb) which is served with Kecap sauce rather than the usual peanut-based condiment.
Klepon (sticky rice dumplings with melted palm sugar) make a delicious and authentic dessert, or a treat for afternoon tea. They have a unique spongy, marshmellowy texture which is addictive. Pandan essence gives these sweets a vibrant green colour and distinctive aroma.
The Real Taste of Indonesia is a delightful book filled with simple must-try recipes. Take a trip to your nearest Malaysian restaurant to get a taste of the style of food and then you’ll understand my enthusiasm. This is an amazingly good value cookbook that will soon have pages stained with Sambal and sweet soy sauce.
The Real Taste of Indonesia – A culinary journey – 100 unique family recipes
Published by: Hardie Grant Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018