Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce, Pecel

I find myself very difficult to keep my head over water these days. With the expansion that is going on at work, people are finding it hard to keep their temper intact. When things are new and those who are working are looking for their comfort zone, everything can be as far away from the zone as you can never imagine. I wish I can bake muffins everyday and distribute them to everybody at work to bring up smiles, but I couldn’t. Smile is really a rare commodity these days. I find comfort in reading some of my favorite foodblogs between meetings and yellings. Ipad is my little genie.

A couple of months ago I purchased a plot of land without considering much, just like how I do things all this time. It is a wonder how I got this far. Long story short, I now own a piece of empty land up in the mountain, two hours drive away from my work. That thought really makes me want to scream. But every time I visit the place, it gives me the feeling of warm inside. It is a beautiful place to live at. The construction is planned to start next month and again, it is almost a miracle that I got this far without buying any home furnishing or kitchenware. I often wake up with bad dreams, how I have spent all my money in home decor and ultimately ended up with a house with no walls. But with really nice and tasteful leather sofa. So far it seems like I will have a nice house with no furniture. We will see how it goes.

My head is everywhere, back and forth between work, sales deadline, production deadline, and tiles, curtains, timber floorings, and all the kitchen stuff I would love to have. It is a real torture. In the mean time, I devour a lot of design websites. They hurt my eyes with their pretty space and interior photography, but I am hooked. Skonahem is one of my favorite. I think I have fallen in love with Emma too. It is a mystery how these Scandinavian folks got such great taste in designing and how I wish I understand the language. Also, I am thankful for Zinio for the amazing e-subscription of magazines. It is simply wonderful to be able to check out all the design and architectural magazines a fraction of their cost.
With all these going on, and guests from our last China trip last weekend, I hardly find time to cook these days. So one of those really old backposts is chosen. This is one of my father’s favorite Indonesian-style salad. As with other salad, it is literally soaked with peanut sauce. The peanut sauce is quite unique and have very distinctive smell from the use of lesser galangal, or kencur. Unfortunately, this rather strange looking root herbs is not substitutable. The intensity of the nutty taste of kencur is just so overwhelming. This salad dish is usually served as main course, with fried vermicelli as side dish (recipe here). The green vegetables prepared with the sauce is blanched. Some crackers, especially the red-and-white rice crackers is a must. This street
food is found everywhere in the country and famously known as pecel.

Spices for the sauce are red chilies, Thai bird’s eye chilies, shallots, garlic and kencur (lesser galangal). And some kaffir lime leaves, which seems to be missing from the plate.

Gula merah (gula melaka/ palm sugar), tamarind pulp and shrimp paste.

Of course, some fresh peanuts. Roasted peanuts can also be used. These peanuts are to be deep-fried with skin intact.

The important colorful rice cracker in red and white. These transparent sheets are to be deep-fried with hot oil, they will fluff into beautiful and light crackers.

Some fresh tofu, to be deep-fried and cut into smaller cubes.

Spinach, to be blanched.

Beansprouts, to be blanched and cucumber to be cut and sliced into thin slices.

Long beans and cassava leaves, to be blanched.

Tempeh (soybean cake), cut into slices and then deep fried. The deep-fried slices are then sliced thinly into strips.

The deep-fried items on display. Does this make the healthy twin in you wanna click away? My evil twin always makes me stay.

Fry chilies, shallot and garlic in hot oil till wilted. Set aside.

We use this giant wooden mortar and pestle to grind the fried peanuts. The skin gives it texture. It is just not the same without the skin on.

At the end of thumping. I always love my paste with big chunks of peanuts, so I don’t overdo grinding them.

Remove the peanuts from the bowl. Throw in kencur (lesser galangal).

Grinding them till fine paste.

Combine the rest of the ingredients for sauce, chilies, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime leaves.

Work on them till resemble coarse paste. Add gula merah (gula melaka or palm sugar) and tamarind pulp.

Continue grinding until all mixed well and thick and gooey paste has formed.

Toss in ground peanuts and mix well. They are ready to be used. If you are not using the paste right away, it refrigerates quite well, although the peanuts might be slightly soggy if not used right away. I love it nonetheless.

When it is ready to be served, combine one cup of pecal sauce paste and add two cups of warm water in a bowl.

Dilute the paste.

It is ready to be used!

In a separate bowl, combine all the vegetables used, including tempeh and fried tofu and pour the sauce on top of everything.

Mix everything together and serve with steamed rice or fried vermicelli (recipe here)

Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce, Pecel

Makes 6-8 servings

For Peanut Sauce
2 shallots
1 garlic
25 g red chilies
10 g Thai bird's eye chili
5 kaffir lime leaves
20 g kencur (or lesser galangal)
10 g tamarind pulp
1 g shrimp paste
120 g gula merah (palm sugar or gula melaka)
300 g peanuts, deep-fried
1 tsp salt
Oil for deep-frying

For Vegetable Salad
100 g red and white rice crackers, fried till fluffy
150 g tempeh, deep-fried and sliced thinly
150 g tofu, deep-fried and cut into cubes
150 g beansprouts, blanched
1 cucumber, quartered and sliced thinly
150 g long beans, cut into 3 cm length
150 g cassava leaves, boiled
Oil for deep-frying


Heat oil in a wok. Deep-fry peanuts till golden. Grind till coarse. Set aside.
Deep-fry chilies, shallots and garlic till wilted, about 2 min
Combine kaffir lime leaves, salt, kencur, chilies, shallots and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Grind to coarse paste.
Add tamarind pulp, palm sugar and shrimp paste in the mortar and pound till fine.
Add the peanuts. Mix well.
Remove the paste and keep in airtight container till serving.
To serve, add 1 cup of warm water to dilute 1 cup of peanut paste in a bowl. Pour on top of vegetables.


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