People often ask me if I miss Singapore. My answer typically starts with “not really, though I miss my family and friends, and also the food…” before I launch into a discussion about the absence of hawker centre and kopi tiam (coffee shop) in Europe and the lack of no frills, quality, reasonably priced Asian eating places in Brussels.
Last month, AB and I went to the Netherlands for a short trip. This was my first visit to the Netherlands and I was quite excited to try some authentic Indonesian food. Mmm, all the spices, chili, sauces and grilled meats! We dined at two Indonesian restaurants when in Amsterdam.
The first was Kantjil en de Tijger @ 291-293 Spuistraat. I like that the portion of food from the a-la-carte menu was reasonably small and the prices were around 5-6€ per dish. We ordered five items to share between the two of us. The food was not bad though nothing particularly outstanding to my Singaporean taste buds. I thought that the pork satay lacked the caramelized taste from grilling, but I quite enjoyed the chicken and gado gado salad.
Clockwise from the top left corner:
Lontong – steamed rice cakes
Sate pork - grilled pork on sticks with peanut sauce
Pangsit goreng - fried dumplings with prawn filling
Ajam pangang ketjap pedis - grilled chicken in spicy soya sauce
Gado gado - Indonesian vegetable salad with peanut sauce
The next night, we made our way to Kartika @ 68 Overtoom. My first impression was quite positive as the friendly people working in there were Indonesians and the overall ambience felt like a family-run restaurant. We ordered the smallest Indonesian rijsttafel on the menu: Ramayana, which came with 12 items including chicken satay, beef rendang and sambal prawns. What a spread it was and we were utterly stuffed by the time we finished everything. Almost everything we had was good!
“Rijsttafel” means “rice table” in Dutch and was created by the Dutch during the colonial days in Indonesia and often presented as a feast to showcase the diverse cultures and ethnicities across the archipelago. In Singapore, there are some Indonesian restaurants that serve Indonesian Rijsttafel, a convenient dining option for groups of 4 to 20 people where everyone can share food across the same (long) table.
Anyway, following our Indonesian culinary sampling in Amsterdam, we decided to prepare some of the food at home.
Chicken satay and peanut sauce
I found a recipe for chicken satay and peanut sauce on RasaMalaysia.com that I thought looked quite authentic and looked similar to what I would get in Singapore. While the chicken turned out to be really tender, I thought that it could do with a little more sugar (to get a stronger caramelized taste) and less of the lemon grass shavings. Shall have to look around more no the internet for other recipes.
On the other hand, the peanut sauce turned out to be quite close to what I was hoping for after some slight changes to the recipe. Making peanut sauce from scratch is quite time-consuming, considering that I had to shell the peanuts and remove the skin on them before crushing them. Next time I want to try making it using Calvé Pindakaas (crunchy peanut butter by Calvé)!
1½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely ground
1½ cup water
1-1½ tbsp kecap manis – ABC and Bango brands are strongly recommended by netizens!
2½-3 tbsp sugar
⅛ tsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
1½ tbsp tamarind pulp – soak in ¼ cup water for 15 minutes, squeeze the tamarind pulp for juice and discard the pulp
8-10 dried red chillies, deseeded and soaked in warm water
3 garlic cloves
1 lemon grass – white part only
1 inch ginger or galangal – preferably the latter
1. Chop and blend spice mix ingredients till fine. Heat oil and fry the spice mix till it becomes aromatic.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir throughly. Once the mixture starts to boil, lower the heat and let it simmer while continuing to stir for 3-5 minutes until the sauce becomes smooth. If needed, add a little more water gradually to get the desired consistency.
Keeps for around a week in the fridge.
Kecap manis chicken wings
6 chicken wings (12 joints)
1 small onion
1 red chilli, deseeded
1 clove garlic
1 cm ginger
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup kecap manis
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt & pepper to taste
1. Chop the onion, shallot, red chilli, garlic and ginger. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add lemon juice and kecap manis. Mix well.
3. Marinate chicken in the mix for at least 30 minutes.
4. Heat oil and pan fry the chicken wings (and set aside most of the marinate) until lightly brown or slightly caramelized. Remove from pan.
5. Lower heat and add the marinate sauce to the pan. Let simmer until the sauce thickens. Pour over the chicken and serve.
This is essentially a vegetable salad served with peanut sauce + fried shallots + keropok (prawn crackers). It often includes boiled cabbage and eggs, fried tofu and tempeh (made from fermented soy beans), blanched green beans and raw bean sprouts.
I used boiled potatoes, fried tofu cubes, blanched green beans, boiled eggs and cucumber for the gado gado that I made today’s lunch, drizzled some DIY satay peanut sauce over the mix and topped it off with some fried shallots. I like that it was light (boiled veggies, eggs and fried tofu) yet tasty (spicy peanut sauce).
It was delicious, or as we would say in Malay, sedap!