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|by Wonona Wong and Irving Beilin Chang
Chinese Food in Asia (but not China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan)
Summer Volume: 1997 Issue: 4(2) page(s): 15, 19, and 21
After the famous Eunuch Tseng Ho made his first voyage to Southeast Asia in the early fifteenth century, people from China began to travel to Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. Initially, most of the Chinese who made this trip were young single men. There were very few Chinese women in Southeast Asia at that time. Therefore, many men married local women, stayed, and started to raise their families. A cooking style developed representing both man and wife; it blended Chinese cooking techniques, materials, and ideas with local spices and local foods. This style of cooking is now known around the world as 'Nonya Cuisine.'
Indonesia is known as the world's most populous island nation. Actually, its territory consists of about three thousand islands and the surrounding sea. Because these islands are located between five degrees above to twelve degrees below the equator, plenty of rainfall makes then unique for growing spices such as pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. They also grow many fruits such as rambutan, jackfruit, durian, mango, and others to say nothing of a the greatest variety of vegetables you can think of.
These islands also have a wealth of mineral deposits, much rubber, and lots of trees for lumber. Thus, in the last thousand or so years, they have held special interest for Spain, Portugal, England, and Holland. Taking advantage of all this wealth is a multi-ethnic middle class, predominantly Chinese, they control much of the island finances.
The merging influences of this diversity of people living in Indonesia has resulted in a unique style of Chinese food. It combines Chinese cooking techniques of stir-frying and rapid steaming with ingredients such as but not limited to soybean sauces, dofu, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. The Indonesian influences are the spices including curry, cumin, coriander, and dry hot red peppers in combination with cream of coconut, lime or lemon juice. Some of the sauces used for their main dishes, called sates as are some of the dishes themselves, are based upon ground peanuts and red pepper. These combinations make for fragrant, exotic, and unique dishes famous whether in a food bazaar in the city of Medan, Sumatra where Wonona was raised or in any other Southeast Asian city.
A famous Chinese da si fu (meaning a chief chef) in a restaurant or a housewife who is serious about good food, tirelessly tries to create perfect dishes. A good presentation of any one of them can, after one whiff, make a person's mouth water. It might even side track the Jade Emperor from his daily chores or make Buddha jump over the wall for a taste. In both Fujian in China and in Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur there is a famous restaurant called: Buddha Jumps Over The Wall. Picture Buddha who is a vegetarian: After one whiff of a dish whose temptation he can not resist, jumping over the wall to taste it even though it might be off limits to his religious-dietary considerations.
Just as did Buddha, you can always smell Chinese, Indonesian, or Indian restaurant cookery miles away because of the aroma of the ingredients and spices they use. These ingredients might be garlic, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon, anise pepper, star anise, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, or lime juice. Differences in each style of cooking depends upon the dominant flavor that the particular cook chooses to emphasize.
In Indonesia, pickled cucumbers and other vegetables are often side dishes. Three tempting ones follow for you to try with a super sate our family adores. When we celebrated Chang parent wedding anniversaries, no matter where we lived, we would grill beef sate with onions, peppers, and tomatoes on skewers over a charcoal grill. The blend of Indonesian spices, soy sauce, and lime juice mixed with the smokey charcoal flavor was just perfect for steak made in this manner. This recipe, served with Indonesian and Chinese pickles became favorites not only of our family, but also all our friends. Prepare tham and become then and become Flavor and Fortune culinary family friends.
|Atya Atya are Indonesian Pickles|
2 large cucumbers or a head of cauliflower 2 to 3 cloves garlic
2 scallions, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1. Peel cucumber, removes its seeds, and cut into half inch slices. If cauliflower is used, cut it into bite-sized pieces and blanch for one minute.
2. Combine garlic, scallions, fresh ginger, turmeric, salt and one-third cup water. Bring this to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer for twenty minutes. While hot, add the vinegar and sugar, and mix well.
3. Pour this hot mixture over the vegetables, then refrigerate overnight.
|Chinese Sweet and Sour Pickles|
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
3 to 4 red hot peppers
4 Tablespoons vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1. Cut the cucumbers into two-inch long pieces. Then cut each of these into four pieces the long way, and sprinkle them with salt.
2. Heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add red peppers and stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the vinegar and the sugar and mix well. Pour this over the cucumbers and refrigerate for one to two days before serving.
|Chinese Sweet and Sour Radishes|
1 bunch small red radishes (about 30)
1/4 cup vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1. Remove tip and root of each radish and wash them well. Lightly crush the side of each of them with the side of a cleaver.
2.Add salt and let stand for one hour.
3. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour this over the radishes; cover and put in the refrigerator overnight or for half a day; then serve.
|Sate Beef (Indonesian Barbecue Beef)|
2 pounds boneless flank or sirloin steak, cut into one-inch cubes.
1 small onion, minced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lime, juiced
2 medium onions
2 to 3 firm tomatoes, each cut into six pieces
2 green peppers, each cut into twelve pieces
1. Combine all except the steak cubes, onions, tomatoes, and peppers, and mix well.
2. Arrange steak, onions, tomatoes, and green peppers alternately of skewers. Grill over charcoal until done. Remove from the skewers and place on a warmed platter with the peanut sauce (whose recipe follows) on the side.
|Peanut Sauce for Beef or Vegetable Sate|
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespons minced onions
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oil in a saucepan and brown the onions and the garlic.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Then simmer one to two minutes before removing to a deep dish.