Another blog find, I came across Maria's blog about her cooking club and took the time to join her and her clubmates last night. I've visited Indonesia, had Indonesian friends, wasn't it time to learn how to cook some of the favorite dishes? The first few times the club has met up, they've cooked beef rendang, and seafood, last night's theme was chicken: sate with gado-gado and a beautifully yellow tumeric rice. 8 other foodies helping out makes any meal came to life a lot faster than if you do it by yourself. 16 hands helping peel, cut, fry, boil, mix, blend, all the while paying attention to Maria's instructions and her helper, Nympha's suggestions.
Gado-gado is a simple enough dish to put together. Parboil several kinds of vegetables, we had on hand carrots, sayote, string beans, kangkong and cabbage. Small potatoes were also boiled for added texture and to decorate the plate. Boiled eggs and golden fried tofu topped the large platter of vegetables. A very healthy cooked salad is what I realized it was all about. The peanut sauce was made by cooking ground peanuts, fresh coconut milk, garlic, onions, chilli sauce, and for flavoring she added the kecap manis, or sweet soy sauce. Seeing how the dish is created from scratch (we didn't even use canned coconut milk, but squeezed the milk from grated coconut) added to our collective appetites.
The other dish I enjoyed was the yellow rice. Normally, the java rice you may find in local restaurants taste like the rice was cooked in palm oil or oil that was colored with achuete or a yellow dye. Not this dish. We combined fresh coconut milk, pounded a good chunk of galangal and lemongrass, mixed in the juice of half a lemon and cooked the jasmine rice in this aromatic blend. Oh, and don't forget a tablespoon of tumeric for that beautiful yellow color. Nympha taught us that if you cook the rice in coconut milk, it's a lot heavier than cooking it in water, so balance the fluid to rice mix appropriately. Otherwise you get a rice pudding! After cooking the first batch, we snuck a few of the cracklings on the bottom of the rice cooker. It tasted like suman.
But once all the cooking was done, the best part is always the chitchat, and getting to know people. There was A, who owns a local bakery, and G, who previously worked in the kitchens of the Makati Shangri-la but now does home based catering, plus expats in the neighborhood and friends of Maria. Lovely bunch, looking forward to another dinner with them all.