November 26, 2011
One night I wanted African food. That’s because I haven’t actually tasted African food in my life and I have passed Viva Afrika several times and was curious to try it, and also because I was just in the mood for (what I hope to be) spicy food.
Viva Afrika is located in a street with plenty of cool shops and cafes near Rotterdam’s China Town. From outside, it didn’t look like a big restaurants. In fact, it looked more like one of the “Coffee Shops” in the Netherlands with its colorful neon lightings and dark glass windows. However, the interior was another story. Despite retaining the colorful theme, its much cozier.
I was a bit nervous that they might not have vegetarian dishes, but although there was indeed much more meat dishes, some being unusual varieties like alligator meat or the sort, Viva Afrika actually has some vego options in the menu.
We went for what I recall as lentil curry soup with chutney, topped with cheese and chilli powder, served with buns. The chili powder was not as spicy as I hoped, but the soup served well as an opening dish.
For the main dish, there were two choices of Nay Tzom vegetarian platters. we chose the one with okra and vegetable curry. The dish was eaten with Enjera-limp African flatbread.
It was exactly the taste I was looking for. Savory, spicy and rich. The okra was especially yummy and the bread was filling. With all that goodness, Viva Afrika should definitely add more vegetarian options to its menu, right?
Nieuwe binnenweg 153 a/b , Rotterdam
November 26, 2011
So long, too long, since I have posted. And I am not even keeping my promise of adding break-fasting recipes. But it is on the list. Believe me.
So I am in the Netherlands now, in this city called Rotterdam. I am pretty sure that there is a lot of info on this “World Port, World City” in the internet, but if you would allow me to give a little description on what it’s like.
Basically, don’t expect Amsterdam here. The city was bombed almost flat during the World War II. Only a handful of old, historical buildings remain intact. and instead of the adventurous and bohemian atmosphere that is Amsterdam, expect more business-like, no-frills attitude.
So at first I was not very enthusiastic about it. But I am beginning to actually like Rotterdam. it’s like some people (Rotterdamers) said, you’d have to know the places to find the city’s hidden beauties. And indeed I have discovered some beautiful neighborhoods such as Kralingen, Oude Plantage, Delfshaven and Schiebroek. There’s the funky Witte de Witstraat, and I have heard that the Boijmans art museum is excellent.
On one of the nights we decided to went out, we had dinner in Bla bla in Historich Delfshaven. The neighborhood was a few that escaped the bombing and had a quiet, old world atmosphere. Bla-bla itself is a cute place with the waiter being very friendly and explained the menu to us in English because they didn’t have the translation.
So many to choose from! yet we decided to go with an appetizer called lumpia, which is basically spring rolls. It’s a famous “Vietnamese” treat here although my Vietnamese friend said that she had never heard of it, and if there is such a thing, it is certainly not called Lumpia. In fact, it’s the term we use in Indonesia for roughly the same thing.
But anyway, names aside, the lumpia was a nice start. You can easily get some from a street stall and I have had bigger ones before but this one definitely had more zest in it. The accompanying sweet Japanese sauce was excellent as well.
Then comes the main course. Choices choices! but we went for something that is quite Dutch: A schotel, which is basically baked pasta. This is also a popular dish in Indonesia. The one in Blabla was plain and served with fresh tomato sauce, lovely sauteed veggies in herby dressing, spinach-filled pastries and three kinds of cheese.
We were thinking of getting dessert but then I saw another tempting appetizer, which was deep fried wonton parcels filled with assorted nuts. My thing for nuts didn’t disappoint. It was a great, albeit unconventional, way to end a meal. The sweet-and-sour sauce was yummy too.
Piet Heynsplein 35, Rotterdam
September 1, 2011
A big Minal Aidin wal Faidzin to y’all. Do forgive my mistakes, misdemeanors and mishaps. Including not posting for almost a whole month (Then again, that might be considered as doing a favor for some people).
Idul Fitri this year was a fairly quiet affair, but the pleasant routine of cooking together while exchanging tales of the past thankfully prevailed.
As promised to Shaheen of Allotment2kitchen, I will give the recipe for stewed pineapple or Pajri Nanas. I first thought it was an Indian dish, but apparently a search brought up a lot of Malay results. so I guess it’s a Malay dish? yet the ones in the internet are mostly pineapple curry, while this is more like a spice-rich soup. Oh well, whatever it is, it’s a good side dish to accompany spicy entrees such as curry. Or you can nibble it on its own like I did.
The original recipe says that you should make a bundle out of some kind of sheet to wrap the cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks, but I have just discovered that that was for mere aesthetic reasons and perhaps to prevent one biting into a whole clove. I personally prefer seeing the spices, and I think it’s worth the risk of biting them.
I must apologize beforehand for the low quality of the pictures. My camera acted up and I had to use the phone’s camera. Hope they will at least give a rough description.
2 pineapples, skinned.
1 large cinnamon stick
3 cardamom seeds
6 star anises
around 150 gr sugar ( I used a bit of palm sugar as well)
remove the stalk, bottom and top of pineapple. skin the fruit using a sharp knife and remove the black bits (we call it the ‘eyes’) left. I do this by making diagonal slices akin to forming a sloping path from the top of the pineapple.
cut the fruit into six pieces, length-wise. Remove the hard parts in the center and slice the pieces into smaller ones.
place the spices at the bottom of a medium sized saucepan and put the pineapple pieces on top of them. cook in low heat. when the juice of the pineapple begins to deplete, start pouring the sugar stirring as you go and tasting it every now and then until you reached the desired sweetness.
There were plenty of ta’jil (fast breaking food) cooking during Ramadhan. Hopefully some of that recipes will make its way here as well. Happy Eid!
August 1, 2011
Hullo, it’s been a year now hasn’t it? Fasting time has descended upon us again.
I am excited as usual (to me it’s simultaneously a month of challenge and serenity), but with a touch of anxiety. The doctor diagnosed me with throat inflammation a few days ago and I am worried that I might not be too fit to fast.
But I hope for the best. Meanwhile, I am trying to cut back on fried stuff because that’s what causing these throat troubles, apparently (that and exhaustion I guess). But it can be hard considering most of the food I ran into, at home or in warungs (food stalls) are fried, or stir-fried. Yes, we Indonesians love our oily treats.
So to feed myself on a Sunday and for the sahur (pre-dawn) meal, I looked into the Yasa Boga recipe book for a recipe that doesn’t involve frying. I decided to try the Carrot Soup.
For the stock, I bought some vegetarian stock powder in the organic store near my house. It’s quite pricey (around US$3 for a small container) but apparently quite potent. I only had to use like a quarter of a teaspoon for around 750ml of water.
As for the result…I am sad to say that I prefer stir-fries or at least a version of soup that requires one to sautee the spices before adding the water. Old habits are hard to break. or maybe next time I should add more spices to my liking. perhaps some pepper and coriander.
I made some steamed tofu to go along with the soup. but I made a mistake of not marinating it long enough. Next time. next time.
Carrot clear soup
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-shape and size, roughly.
around 750 cc of veg stock
150 gr of mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used straw mushrooms)
half a nutmeg, hammered
three spring onions, cut into 3 cm slices
One teaspoon of chopped parsley leafs
Bring the stock to boil.
Add the rest of the ingredients. cook until the vegs are cooked to your liking.
And you’re done. serve with the parsley leafs.
the soup lasted two meals and it was quite filling.
July 28, 2011
Not everyone is lucky enough to have cakes to eat for their birthday. I got two.
The first one is a very special Apple Pie (so it’s not a ‘cake’, cake, but it was delicious!). The second one is a strawberry cheesecake I bought from the Cake Storage.
The last time I bought a cake was an Opera Cake, for the sake of mass appeal (in the house, I mean). But my favorite cake has always been cheesecakes. So I got my way this year.
The usual method would be to get one from the Cheesecake Factory, but I thought I’d try something new. I didn’t have to get out of my way to buy it because The Cake Storage was near the train station. Plus, it had a very convenient size option of 10×20.
I was surprised to learn that the “cheese” was also strawberry flavored. the one I a mused to is plain cheesecake with strawberries on top. So it raised the sweetness one notch. And I won’t say I dislike it (come on! it’s a strawberry cheesecake). But actually I’d prefer plain cheesecakes with fruits on top. Aaand…as I said before, not everyone is lucky enough to have cakes on their special day.
(Oh, and maybe you can place a special order to ask for plain cheesecake)
The Cake Storage also includes a restaurant, where I have eaten before but it was a long time ago. I saw their dining menu and it had several vegetarian options. Might try it out one day.
July 22, 2011
This is a chayote.
It is commonly used here as one of the ingredients for tamarind soup, or as a savory stir fry or spicy coconut milk soup. Apparently it is also a common ingredient in Latin American dishes as well, as a quick net research revealed to me.
It also revealed that eating chayote can have many health benefits, such as reducing constipation, acne, and even reducing blood pressure and increasing intelligence. hmm.
Unfortunately, it is not one of my favorite vegetable. It has this strange, freshwater scent that I am not keen on. I used to avoid eating it in tamarind soup, but now I am more tolerant of the vegetable that is apparently a relative of squashes and cucumbers.
However, I am determined to make myself like it even more. Thus, I decided to incorporate it into one of my favorite dishes: steamed/boiled dumplings.
I browsed for recipes of vegetarian dumplings on the web, aside from using a recipe in my “Asian Vegetarian” cookbook. None of the ones I found had Chayote in them though. So I decided to be creative.
On my first try, I used spinach, tofu, spring greens, a carrot and a chayote of course. On my second try, I omitted the spinach. The taste difference occurred more because of the seasonings rather than the spinach change, I think.
I first tried boiling the dumplings but it was a messy affair, and discovered that it was easier to steam them (I was first intimidated by the thought, but it was fairly a piece of cake).
I also tried first to shape them into half-moon shapes but the parcel shapes were much easier to make. Plus, the edges don’t turn as dry as the half-moon ones.
My first try at these babies revealed a lack of flavor, but I added more soy sauce on the second try, and, although my taste buds are a bit immune to homemade dumplings now, I’d say they’re not bad. Or maybe I should pay a visit to Crystal Jade for a comparative study soon.
1 package of gyoza (round) wrappers. The one I bought contained 16 sheets.
1 medium-sized chayote.
a bunch of spinach.
Four firm tofu cubes, or adjust to taste
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced finely
about 1 cm ginger, shredded
1 stalk of spring onion (optional)
salty soy sauce
Spicy sesame oil. or better yet, sesame oil and togarashi (dried chili)
Cut the chayote in half, and rub the two halves in circular motion until white foam comes out. this is to get rid of the sap. keep rubbing until the surface of both halves feels somewhat coarse.
peel the chayote and dice it into small cubes.
wash, drain and cut the tofu into small cubes as well.
cut the spinach or any other asian greens you like into small shreds.
Peel and cut the carrots into small slices as well
let cool. meanwhile, prepare a bowl of water (to dip your hands in) and a working space to make the dumplings.
Place the stir-fried ingredients on the center of the wrapping, dip your fingers in the bowl and gather the edges to make a square-ish envelope.
I used an old-fashioned steamer like this:
so swiped some oil on the porous inset’s surface and placed around five dumplings at a time and steamed them for a few minutes. And you’re done. Serve hot with the sauce. I used some chili sesame oil combined with a bit of soy sauce. But I think it would be even sweeter to use a mix of plain sesame oil with dried chili flakes.
July 21, 2011
Remember my previous post on the Masakan Sehari-hari cookbook? well I did my first (and second, actually) try at one of their recipes. I picked Opor Tahu.
Opor refers to a dish cooked with savory coconut milk soup. It’s similar to padang curry in terms of its richness but it is not spicy at all.
When you say ”opor” it will almost inevitably be followed by “ayam” or chicken. And I have always disliked the dish even before I became a vegetarian because I found it hard to tolerate chicken cooked in non-fried ways, especially with the bones still intact.
So when I found the recipe for tofu opor in this book I was delighted, because I liked the opor soup nonetheless. To have it without the chicken, even the scent of it, would be marvellous.
On the first try, the people who tasted it said it needed more salt. I personally think not, but it WAS lacking in kick, although I wasn’t sure how. The second try was better, but the soup was too rich and it ended up so savory that it reminded me of our ketupat ketan (rice cakes) we have for Idul Fitri celebration. But I think, all in all, I’ve gotten the hang of it.
six cubes of yellow bandung tofu, or the firmest tofu you can find. cut into
halves of triangles, fry.
one small potato (optional), peel, cut into medium-sized pieces, boil until half-done.
five bilimbi or tree sorrels (optional), make a gash along one side
three citrus leaves, torn
two salam (indian bay)leaves, torn
One stalk of lemongrass, hammered
750 cc of coconut milk (try not to have it too thick, although ready-bought ones are usually already the right consistency. i f too thick, thin with water)
Seasoning: Grind to a paste:
five small shallots
three cloves of garlic.
one table spoon of finely chopped galangal
one teaspoon of finely chopped ginger.
one teaspoon of finely chopped turmeric (optional)
three candlenuts, smashed and roasted (or fried without oil in a wok)
two teaspoons of coriander seeds, roasted
half a teaspoon of cumin seeds, roasted
two teaspoons (or adjust to taste) pepper , roasted
salt and a bit of sugar to taste.
heat up around two table spoons of oil. sautee the paste, bay leafs, citrus leaves and lemongrass briefly until fragrant.
pour the coconut milk, let boil.
put in the tofu, potatoes and bilimbi. cook until soup thickens (around 10 minutes) .
July 21, 2011
I finally got to visit Belitung a few months ago. It was certainly worth the wait and occasionally hair-pulling arrangements.
Belitung, in Sumatra, rose to tourism fame after the showing of blockbuster movie “Laskar Pelangi”, which used the island as its main setting. I have heard my friends gushing about it as well, so I was excited to go.
However, this was my first dab at planning a trip all by myself to a place I have never been before. I browsed and asked for advices from friends who had been there and tried to imagine how it would be like.
Transportation was a cinch. I picked Sriwijaya air because it had the earliest flight. The return ticket from Jakarta cost around Rp 700k. The trickiest part was deciding where to stay. I finally decided to book a hotel in the middle of the city. As I had very vague picture of how far the beaches-the main reason I want to go there- were from the city and it seems that all the hotels near the beaches had its own faults.
So I went with a friend’s advice and picked Hotel Martani. I was interested because it was said to be the oldest star hotel there. And indeed the place was interesting. It had the necessary facilities-hot water, air con, spacious rooms, but you can tell right away that it was built perhaps at a time when fake waterfall sceneries and aquariums were cool. It was very reasonably priced, though, to the point that I found hard to believe. I mean, the room was HUGE and yet it cost around 200k. Also, you get to see an authentic cannon from the Dutch Colonial era displayed at the entrance.
After a night, and a visit to the nearest beach-it was allright, certainly cleaner than Ancol, but it was also low tide so not much to see- we asked about the beaches and tried to get a grip of how far they were. But I guess the best way was to go ahead and try to get there. And so we rented a bike for Rp 50 k a day and explored.
The road was well-paved but they were getting a widening treatment because of an upcoming tourism event. So there were a few roadblocks and we had to be extra careful. Despite that, an accident occurred and now I have scars on my leg to prove it.
But on to the trip. We discovered that it would be much more convenient to rent a room outside the city near one of the beaches. And so there were three options: Bukit Berahu, which is about 30 minutes from the city, Tanjung Kelayang Cottages, which is a bit further away (10 minutes), and Lor in Resort, which is still further away, about 10 minutes from Tanjung Kelayang.
I hesitated to book one of these because my internet research found faults with all of them: Bukit Berahu’s beach had stinging jellyfishes, a review on Tanjung Kelayang said one of the rooms had bedbugs in it, and Lor In was just too expensive (around US$80 a night).
But after seeing for ourselves, we decided to go for Bukit Berahu Cottages. So Tanjung Kelayang’s beach might be much nicer and sans jellyfish, but we weren’t keen on the looks of the rooms or the prospect of bedbugs. (But a friend stayed there afterwards and she said it was fine).
Bukit Berahu Cottages are simply beautiful. It’s secluded. (A sort of romantic
path leading there reminded me of the private bed and breakfast in Victoria that I stayed in last year. The very Indonesian architecture blends in with the landscape, and the rooms are nice. Plus its really fairly priced at around Rp 200k. You get a hot shower, aircon, and a television, but there weren’t really many channels to choose from. The food’s not bad and reasonably priced as well.Oh and there’s a swimming pool to make up for the beach I guess.
To get to the cottages you have to go down a long, steep flight of steps, this means a long climb back up as well if you want to go to the restaurant.
Time to talk about the beaches. Tanjung Kelayang’s beach is pretty in itself, but to really enjoy what it has to offer, rent a boat and snorkelling equipment to explore the nearby underwater scene near Lengkuas island. There is also an old lighthouse that is still functioning and you can climb up to see the amazing view from the top.
The boat driver told me that sometimes travelling groups also spend a night on one of the islands near Tanjung Kelayang. There are a few islands to choose from, including the Pasir island, a tiny piece of land housing starfishes that disappears during high tide.
A strange thing happened to me during snorkeling though. I felt sick all of a sudden despite the water being really calm. I wonder if it was because I haven’t eaten enough before.
On the next day, we went to Tanjung Tinggi beach. This is the one famous for its unique granite structures. And it was breathtaking indeed. The water was calm, the beach was clean, there were few tourists, and despite a couple of hours of rain during midday, the sun became delicious when the afternoon came and we ended up just lying with half our bodies in the water for hours, soaking up the loveliness of it all.
And I was just amazed at how some tourists came, climbed on the rocks, took pictures and leave without dipping into that wonderful water!I guess that might be because they’re on a package tour. I’m glad I decided not to go on one. I mean, it might be some people’s cup of tea but I prefer to laze around during my holiday
The next day, bruised and tanned, we went back to the city, returned the motorbike, and head back to the airport using the same driver who took us to the first hotel. My friend told me that there are actually more in the island-especially towards the inland part-to explore, such as the coffee houses in Manggar, but I am pretty satisfied with my four-day, accident-marred, getaway.
July 18, 2011
I watched one of my favorite local bands, Mocca, perform, last Friday. It was labeled their “last” concert, and it will likely be so, because their singer, after performing for 12 years with the band, will leave the country soon to be with her future husband in the United States.
It’s really not an exaggeration when I say they’re one of my favorite bands. But I won’t lie, it’s been a while since I listened to them. When I found out that it was their last concert (on the day it was held!) I panicked and started going about on how to watch it. The tickets were reportedly sold out already.
After a few frantic e-mails and dashing about, I finally had access.The show was to be held in a cabaret-musical manner with the title “Annabelle and the Music Box.”
For all of you who are still in the dark about Mocca, they are known for their happy-go-lucky retro songs. They are just plain sweet, too sweet for some who prefer angsty sounds and cynical lyrics. Nope, “Annabelle and the Music Box”is no irony. It’s about a girl who finds a music box that transports her to a wonderland.
Here’s a sample of one of their well-known hits:
So, as I told you, it’s been a while since I heard their songs. When I did, it was emotional overload. I literally smiled and cried at the same time. It’s just that their songs have been in various periods of my life during the last decade. Former boyfriends, circles of friends and memories from different times, went flashing before my eyes.
And the show was good. They had a few guest stars such as the string-voice duo EndahN Rhesa, White Shoes and The Couples Company, guys from SORE and two guys: journalist Soleh Solihun and actor Ringgo Agus Rachma playing the role of the storytellers (they ended up being a cross of talkshow hosts and comedians, but they were damn funny).
I especially liked the Endah N Rhesa collaboration-they picked the right song to work with, the one I posted a video of above, because it went perfectly with the duo’s habit of string duet and playful singing. And as for White Shoes and the Couples Company, I have always thought of their singer-Aprilia Apsari- as one of the hottest woman I have ever seen. And seeing her that night singing together with Mocca’s lovely singer Arina…it was quite overwhelming.
Also, Arina sang one of the few White Shoes’ songs that I know: Senandung Maaf. It was like a very happy coincidence!
Occasionally the sound system experienced very annoying feedbacks, and the acoustic wasn’t amazing, but I think that’s kind of acceptable because they initially planned to hold the show in a different building, with different structure. (The ticket sales were higher than expected and they had to move the show, so they say).
The cabaret show, performed by a a high school cabaret group, was fun and entertaining. and the storyline? well it was cheesy, as with most Mocca’s songs, but that’s just the way they are and I like them nonetheless.
But come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t that simple. I mean, during the intro, it was hinted that all of the events-the girl called Annabelle meeting prince charming, who was killed by the villain but somehow came back to life- were merely a dream. Ah well, like I said, cheesy or profound, I still like them, anyway.
I had a good time. I had to stop by at a friend’s house later to talk and calm my emotions. Silly me.