Cook a cuisine you’ve never tried before, MoFo says! I’ve been curious about Indonesian food lately because a) I really want to go there, and b) It seems like it involves all things I love, mostly peanuts and coconut! There are a few Indonesian restaurants in Berlin, but I haven’t managed to get to one yet. This means I’m going completely blind here, so we’ll see how this goes.
First, I turned to Google and asked it for some Indonesian recipes to see what I got. I ended up using this 10 Favorite Vegetarian Foods in Indonesia post for inspiration. Though not everything there was vegan, it was a good starting point.
I narrowed it down to three recipes:
Gudeg – a young jackfruit curry with tofu and tempeh
Tempeh Pedas – thinly sliced tempeh, fried in a spicy sweet sauce
Sayur Lodeh – a veganized white coconut milk soup
This vegan Indonesian coconut cake was a runner-up, but I’m already eating a lot of sweets with the approaching holidays. It’s totally on my list of recipes for next time I need to make a cake though, it has 3 types of coconut!
I decided on the Sayur Lodeh as I wasn’t convinced I could find something called a “candlenut” for the Godeg, and the Tempeh Pedas sounded great, but the color of the Sayur Lodeh got me, yum yum. Since I had never made it before, I looked for multiple recipes to get an idea of how it should work, and ended up combining the above one and this one here from Vegan About Town.
I followed the method from the second recipe the most, which was to grind a curry paste and then saute it in oil until fragrant and add the water, coconut milk and veggies. Then I added the spices from the first recipe that the second one didn’t include, notably a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, seeds from two cardamom pods and a piece of star anise. What is this, gingerbread?!
Off to an Asian market after work, I picked up some galangal (used instead of ginger), lemongrass stalks, and star anise, all things I’ve never cooked with before.
I grinded up the curry paste in my blender’s spice grinding jar, sauteed it with some oil in a saucepan, added the coconut milk and water, potato, carrot…and some chopped young jackfruit from a can. Hey, my first time cooking with jackfruit too! I threw in the aforementioned star anise, cardamon, cinnamon stick cloves and the bay leaves and simmered while frying up some tofu and tempeh and cooking white rice.
Not bad for a work night!
Anyway, here is the end result:
And the close up….
The peanuts and cilantro were not included in either recipe, so maybe not authentic, but I like peanuts and cilantro. I tried out my heart shaped rice molds I got in Düsseldorf‘s Japan town tonight too. How cute are they! Here’s an example of them: US/DE.
Okay, so the verdict. Good, but needs improvement. It was missing the umami that brought it all together. First mistake, one of the recipes called for a particular premade vegan fish sauce. I couldn’t find it and couldn’t run all over the city tonight, so I did a quick google for a recipe and ended up just throwing together mushroom powder, soy sauce, a tiny piece of wakame and some sweetner. I think this ultimately wasn’t umami enough. I’m gonna mix miso into the leftovers, but if I make it again I need to track down some sort of vegan fish sauce or shrimp paste.
Both recipes mentioned vegan belecan, which seems to be shrimp paste. This post by Messy Vegetarian Cook is specifically about vegan alternatives to fish sauce, shrimp paste and oyster sauce and is suuuper helpful. She says the Au Lac Vegan Mushroom sauce is the best. I can’t find any to buy online in Germany (US residents, you’re in luck if you want a 12 pack!), but my post to the Berlin Vegan group already has one citing of it in Berlin so there’s hope. Another recipe recommends vegan mushroom granules (US link, German Amazon doesn’t have it) to replace this belecan for umani, and I actually did see this at the Asian market tonight (the one in Prenzlauer Berg on Kopenhagenerstr. for you Berliners).
Besides that, I feel like the recipes needed to include a bit of sugar to round out the curry. I added a bit, but next time I’ll add some more raw sugar. Also, before you go ahead and dump in those 2 tablespoons chili flakes + 1 fresh chili, maybe half it and work your way back up. I’m not afraid of spice but boy did this curry clear out my respiratory system!
Anyway, not bad for my first attempt at a cuisine! So far I’ve not managed to find vegan fish sauce, but I found some really umani-y mushroom sauce so I’m gonna try that. A local Berlin vegan group said they saw the vegan fish sauce I’m looking for, just at a market across the city. I’ll take an adventure there soon. I’ve since used the rest of my lemongrass, galangal, etc. to grind up a bulk batch of curry paste I’ve freezed in ice cube trays! Coconut curry ramen is probably dinner tomorrow! Can’t wait to see what everyone else posts!
Oh, and please point me to your favorite vegan Indonesian recipes in the comments!