Indonesian Cooking Methods

Indonesian cooking methods

Indonesian cooking methods are similar to those used in any other Asian or Western kitchen especially the basics such as blanching, broiling, steaming, frying and deep frying.  However, there one important basic that you need to know how to prepare.  It is how to prepare what is called the basic spice paste.   There are varieties of basic spice pastes and they are called basic because they are the seasoning bases of almost all Indonesian dishes.

Indonesian Granite Mortar and PestleIn Indonesia, a saucer-shape granite grinding stone (mortar) and pestle are used.  Ingredients are peeled as necessary and sometimes chopped or sliced into small pieces so they would be easier to grind.  The pestle is used with a backwards and forwards motion across the mortar until the ingredients are blended together into a smooth paste.  If you are using a blender or a food processor, the order of processing the spices is much the same as using a mortar, but in some cases you might need to add some liquid to keep the blades of the machine turning during the blending process. The liquid could be oil if the spice paste needs to be fried or either coconut milk, stock or water if the spice paste is to be simmered.

The order to be followed when grinding spice paste ingredients is the hard items first although at most times I like to grind garlic and shallots first.  The hard items are dried spices, nuts and tough fibrous rhizomes such as galangal, lemongrass.  When all of these ingredients are fine, add softer rhizomes, such as turmeric, ginger and fresh soaked dried chilies.  Once all of these are quite smooth, then add ingredients that are full of moisture, such as shallots and garlic.  Finally, you add shrimp paste and tamarind juice or any other kind of juices and process to mix well.

This spice paste often then needs to be fried or simmered depending on the recipes.  If it needs to be fried, just use a little bit of oil over low to moderate heat and stir fry it until it starts to smell fragrant.   This usually takes only 2-3 minutes.  Sometimes, pieces of meat and poultry are added to the paste and stir fried until these are well coated and the color has changed.

Another process that you might need to know since Indonesian cooking often use banana leaves to wrap its dishes is how to correctly wrap them.  Most of them are the ones that need steaming such as seafood dishes.  Another type of dishes that use lots of banana leaves for wrapping is the desserts.

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