A shamefully long time ago now, I made a bunch of Indonesian food. It was a rare nice day in February, I had been reading the Barbecue Bible, and it just seemed a shame to waste the opportunity. Indonesian food is typically fresh and heavily spiced, as well as quite diverse. Sates, or small kebabs, are the most common street food. I made three of them: two beef and one chicken, as well as a fresh relish/salad and dessert. Overall, the meal looked gorgeous on a plate. And it was enjoyable. I'd say it was the most exotic meal I've cooked so far, with the most unfamiliar flavors and combinations. The highlight was the coconut lemongrass caramel sauce from dessert; I could actually have done without the caramelized banana it was served over. The chicken sates were my favorite. I finished the leftover relish, but for me it was more interesting than enjoyable, especially after the first couple of bites. It was very strong.
Beef Sates with Coriander (Sage Age from Central Java)
1 pound lean ground beef
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
2/3 cup sweet soy sauce, or 1/3 cup each regular soy sauce and molasses
Combine everything except the soy sauce and half the coriander, mixing well or food processing until well blended. Mold the mixture onto popsicle sticks or flat wooden craft sticks, into flat sausages about 3 inches long, 3/4 inch wide, and 1/2 inch thick. Prepare a glaze with the sweet soy sauce and remaining coriander; set aside. Grill the sates 2 minutes per side. Roll them in the glaze until lightly coated, then grill until well browned and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Serve at once.
Flying Fox Sates (Sate Kalong from northwestern Java)
(these are not made out of flying fox. they're just served at the time of day when the flying foxes come out)
12 oz ground beef
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
1/2 tsp pepper
Combine all ingredients until thoroughly blended. Divide the mixture into 16 sections, molding each onto a long, thin wooden skewer into a strip about 5 inches long, 1/2 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate 1-2 hours. Grill over high heat until brown and cooked through, 1-2 minutes per side. Serve at once.
Chicken Sates (Sate Ayam from Jakarta)
1 lb boneless chicken breasts or thighs, skin if desired
4 oz chicken livers (optional. I did not use them. See South Africa.)
6 tbsp sweet soy sauce, or 1/3 cup each regular soy sauce and molasses
3/4 cup peanut sauce (see below)
3 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp rendered chicken fat or unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp chile paste or hot sauce, for serving
Rinse and dry the chicken with paper towels. Cut it and livers and skin into 1/2 inch squares, threading onto long thin skewers. Combine 4 tbsp sweet soy sauce, 1/4 cup peanut sauce, onion and lime juice in a shallow dish and stir. Roll the sates in marinade to coat thoroughly.Grill the skewers, turning with tongs, until lightly browned and cooked through, 1-3 minutes per side (2-6 total). Brush the sates once or twice with butter or fat as they cook. Serve immediately, accompanied by a bowl of peanut sauce with sweet soy sauce and hot sauce on top.
Thai Peanut Sauce
2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
hot pepper or chile paste to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and minced
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and mix well, then simmer over low heat, uncovered until richly flavored, about 5-10 minutes. Sauce should be thick but pourable. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Mixed Vegetable Achar (from Bali)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
3 carrots, peeled
1 medium red and green bell pepper, cored and seeded
4 shallots, peeled
1 1/3 cups distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
5 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 slices peeled fresh ginger, smashed
Combine marinade ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat until mixture is richly flavored. Chop vegetables into thin strips or slices. Strain warm marinade over vegetables and let sit in the fridge for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally. Can be refrigerated for up to a week.
Balinese Grilled Bananas in Coconut Milk Caramel (Bali)
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 can coconut milk (2 cups)
1 cinnamon stick
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and lightly flattened with the side of a cleaver
2 tsp cornstarch
6 ripe firm bananas
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup granulated sugar
To make the caramel sauce, place the sugar in a large, deep, heavy nonstick saucepan and melt it over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 2-3 minutes. Continue cooking the sugar until it begins to turn brown, 3-5 minutes longer. You're looking for a rich brown color, but lighter than chocolate. Do not overcook the sugar! Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the coconut milk (be careful, it will spatter. Also, the sugar may harden. Not a big deal). Return the pan to the heat and bring the coconut milk to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon and lemongrass and let the sauce simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tbsp water, then stir into the sauce. Let simmer for one minute to let the sauce thicken further. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature, removing the cinnamon and lemongrass. Refrigerate the sauce until cold.
To prepare the bananas, peel and cut them into quarters on the diagonal. Place the 1 cup of coconut milk and granulated sugar in separate bowls by the grill. Brush and oil the grill grate. Dip the pieces of banana in coconut milk, then sugar, and place them on the grill over high heat. Grill, turning with tongs, until they are nicely browned all over, about 6-8 minutes. Serve with ice cream and caramel sauce at once.