Friday, November 20, 2015

Week 34 - Indonesian

I'm not really sure where to buy Indonesian ingredients around here. Probably somewhere in Queens, but I didn't know where exactly and didn't have time to go searching for stuff when Indonesian week rolled around. (Sounds like the same issue I had last year during Week 34!) That made choosing what to make for the Indonesian challenge a little bit more difficult, but eventually I decided on nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), a dish we frequently have at Indonesian restaurants and enjoy, using this recipe from as a starting point.

I picked that recipe as a starting point mostly because I had most of the ingredients. The one thing I didn't have, and which I found in lots of Indonesian recipes, was ketjap manis, Indonesian soy sauce. Although I could have substituted dark soy sauce, I decided to go all-in on the challenge and actually try to get the flavor of ketjap manis instead. Based on this ketjap manis recipe on, we made a small batch of sauce to use in the nasi goreng. I don't remember exactly how much we made, or how much we used of what we made (made this months ago), so I'm not going to price out the cost of this dinner in the interests of accuracy. But the ingredients were brown sugar (I didn't have dark brown sugar, just regular brown sugar), water, soy sauce, molasses, minced ginger, ground coriander, and ground black pepper. A helped me out by making the sauce while I tried to tackle a lot of the other prep work.

For our version of nasi goreng, I used:

- 2 cups (uncooked) brown rice
- 2 eggs, beaten
- a few tsp of sesame oil
- a pinch of salt
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 head of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp dried shrimp paste
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp chili bean sauce (plus more to taste)
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce (plus more to taste)
- 1 tbsp (or so, didn't measure) of ketjap manis (plus more to taste)
- a few green onions, chopped
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

The original recipe used shrimp, but I chose to make this just with (white meat) chicken. I also swapped the white rice for brown rice to make it a little bit healthier. I made the rice the night before in the rice cooker and then stuck it in the fridge overnight. I don't always make fried rice with day-old rice like they recommend, but this time, since I knew the challenge meal was coming up, the timing worked out.

I mostly followed along with the recipe for the steps to make the nasi goreng with some help from A so that we could get things done more quickly. First, I combined the egg with sesame oil and salt, and then put them aside. In the wok, we heated up the canola oil, and then added the onions, ginger, shrimp paste, garlic, and black pepper. At this point, you were supposed to squash the shrimp paste while everything was cooking. We certainly tried. This was the first time either of us had ever worked with shrimp paste and judging by the finished product, that stuff didn't break up that well by squashing it in the wok. Is there a better way? Anyone experienced with using shrimp paste have any suggestions for us? I bought it some time ago intending to make Malaysian vegetable dishes, but we didn't open it until we made this. As a side note, it certainly stunk up the pantry afterwards, despite being in 3 layers of bags. (We now have it in 3 layers of bags inside a jar.)

Next we added the chicken and stir-fried it until it was mostly cooked. Then we added the rice and cooked it some more. After a few minutes of stir-frying the rice, we added the chili bean sauce, oyster sauce, and ketjap manis, and kept stir-frying. Last up, we added the egg mixture and stir-fried it into the rice mixture.

If I remember correctly, we tasted it a bit at this point. In addition to not tasting like any nasi goreng we had previously had, it didn't seem especially flavorful as a general matter. I think we added more of the chili bean sauce, oyster sauce, and ketjap manis, but I just don't remember how much. When it was almost time to take the nasi goreng off the heat, we stirred in the chopped scallions and cilantro. We stirred everything around some more and then took it off the heat.

This fried rice was okay, but it didn't taste like the nasi goreng that we had had at Indonesian restaurants before. Maybe this is what nasi goreng tastes like in other parts of Indonesia, but it wasn't what we were expecting. It's also entirely possible that I did something wrong or off in the cooking process or ingredient choices, but if I did, I can't pinpoint the misstep. It's not that the dish was bad. It wasn't. It was fine, but really just tasted like fried rice with funky shrimp paste flavor. I was hoping it would taste like some of the nasi goreng we'd had before so I could replicate that at home, but it looks like I'm going to have to keep searching.

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