Aubergine balado (aubergine in red caramelised sambal)
This West Sumatran classic is a home-cooking favourite, and no wonder – there’s just something about the dark aubergine skin against the thick, red sambal; it also gives me flashbacks of devouring this at the local warteg, or food stall. The sambal doubles up as a condiment or dip for any fritter; if you prefer, swap the aubergine for your fried protein of choice, from chicken or beef to tempeh, tofu or seitan.
Prep 15 min
Salt 30 min
Cook 30 min
2 aubergines (350g)
Neutral oil, for frying
Plain rice, to serve
For the sambal
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
4 banana shallots (or 8 small Asian shallots), peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 red chillies (seeds and pith removed if you prefer less heat), roughly chopped
1-3 birds eye chillies, or to taste (optional), roughly chopped
4-5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tbsp caster sugar
Cut the aubergine into bite-sized chunks, put in a colander set over a bowl, sprinkle with salt and set aside for about half an hour. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water, then drain and dry.
Heat about 2½cm oil in a large, deep-sided pan; when the handle of a wooden spoon or chopstick bubbles when dipped in, the oil is ready for cooking. Fry the aubergine chunks, in batches if need be, for three to five minutes, until slightly browned and crisp, then lift out and drain on a rack set over an oven tray lined with baking paper or a plate lined with kitchen paper, to remove excess oil. Alternatively, roast the aubergines: toss the chunks in a little neutral oil, put them in a single layer on an oven tray lined with foil and bake in a 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 oven for 15 minutes, tossing once halfway, until the tender and slightly browned.
For the sambal, put the garlic, shallots, chillies and tomatoes in a blender and blitz to a rough paste. Put two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan or wok on a medium-high heat, add the chilli paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Add the sugar and half a teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring now and then, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sambal reduces and thickens and the oil starts to separate.
Taste and adjust for salt and sugar as necessary, then add the aubergines to the sambal and stir-fry just to warm through. Serve at once with plain rice.
Bakwan jagung (corn fritters)
Bakwan are crisp, crunchy fritters bursting with sweetcorn kernels that are a staple of the Indonesian street snack scene, and sold by roadside vendors day and night. A word of warning, though: they are very moreish.
Prep 15 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 4 (makes 10-15 fritters)
100g plain flour
50g rice flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
260g drained tinned sweetcorn (ie from about 1½ x 200g tins), or 260g frozen sweetcorn kernels, defrosted
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 banana shallots (or 6 small Asian shallots), peeled and thinly sliced
1 stick celery, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 spring onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
Heat about 2½cm oil in a large, deep-sided pan; once the handle of a wooden spoon or chopstick bubbles when dipped in, the oil is ready for cooking.
Meanwhile, mix the flours, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then gradually beat in enough cold water to make a smooth, thick batter – you’ll need about 180ml water in total.Drop all the vegetables into the batter, mix thoroughly, then, working in batches, drop small dollops of batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a rack placed on a lined baking tray to drain, and keep warm in a low oven. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve hot just as they are, or dipped in your choice of sambal or peanut sauce.
Sate jamur maranggi (king oyster mushroom sate)
Misconception abounds around the word “satay”. First, it’s a misspelling. Second, many a western “satay rice bowl” or “satay sauce” seems based on the idea that it means peanut sauce, when it actually means “skewer”, and covers a wealth of nut and non-nut dishes alike. The East Javanese island of Madura’s chicken sate, which is indeed drenched in a creamy, peanut sauce, has become dominant in the west, but it is just one in the vast universe of Indonesian sate. Sate jamur maranggi is one of the lesser known and most underrated. Commonly made with beef, it is a Sundanese sate in which the marination unlocks deep, sweet and spicy flavours. It is beautifully complemented by the accompanying sambal kecap, and there’s not a nut in sight.
Prep 15 min
Marinate 1 hr+
Cook 30 min
450g king oyster mushrooms, stalks cut off
2 tbsp neutral oil, plus extra for greasing
For the marinade
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 banana shallots (or 4 small Asian shallots), peeled
2½cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp palm sugar (ideally Indonesian, and shaved), or coconut sugar
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp kecap manis (or 2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with ½ tbsp sugar or agave syrup)
For the sambal kecap
1 tomato, diced
3-5 bird’s eye chillies, to taste, thinly sliced
1 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
5 tbsp kecap manis (or 5 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1 tbsp sugar or agave syrup)
Toss the mushrooms and oil in a bowlto coat. Lay the mushrooms in a large, heavy-based pan on a medium-high heat, then put another heavy pan on top to press the mushrooms down. Pour 50ml water into the pan, so it flows around the mushrooms, and leave to cook for three to five minutes. As they steam, the mushrooms will begin to soften and flatten.
Remove the top pan, flip over the mushrooms, then weigh down again. Add another 50ml water, cook for three to five minutes more, until the mushrooms are tender, then take off the heat.
Meanwhile, put all the marinade ingredients in a food processor, blend smooth, then scrape into a large bowl.
Once the mushrooms have cooled down, cut them into 1cm-thick strips, toss in the marinade, then put in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour, and ideally overnight.
Thread the marinated mushroom strips on to soaked bamboo skewers. Make the sambal kecap by mixing everything in a bowl, then set aside.
Now to cook the sate. Set a griddle pan on a medium-high heat, and brush both sides of each mushroom skewer with oil. Grill the skewers, in batches if need be, turning regularly and basting with the excess marinade, for five minutes on each side, until browned all over (if you prefer, you can instead cook them on a barbecue).
Plate the skewers, drizzle generously with sambal kecap and serve at once.
Rahel Stephanie is a cook, food writer and founder of Spoons, an Indonesian supper club in London