Special Dish for the Week: Seafood Laksa

This has got to be one of my favourite kind of meals—it’s soupy, it’s spicy and creamy, it’s full of veggies and seafood, and healthy to boot!—a combination of Indonesian and Thai ingredients and flavours that burst in the mouth and feel like there is sunshine radiating from the plate in this Special Dish for the Week:

Seafood Laksa

Seafood Laksa

Seafood Laksa

On a recent trip to T&T Supermarket, the Asian grocery store at the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, to pick up some specialised ingredients for my multitude of Bali dinners following my recent self-directed healing retreat in Bali, I picked up some rice vermicelli noodles.

I have been salivating over the thought of making some type of a laksa meal since I was reminded of this delicious dish during my recent travels.

Laksa is actually a Malaysian dish of Chinese origin, though through the use of ingredients and spices, it can be varied in flavour. I use an Indonesian seafood recipe with spices that I am familiar with from Thai cuisine, and it turns out to be a taste sensation.

Seafood Laksa Chopped Ingredients

Seafood Laksa Chopped Ingredients

I start by finely chopping the spice and vegetable ingredients:

  • 1 stem of lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 8 leaves of kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4 small Indian eggplants, cubed into 8ths
  • shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • small piece of green cabbage, thinly sliced
Seafood Laksa Ingredients

Seafood Laksa Ingredients

When the sliced ingredients are ready, I sautée the spices:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (a bit more if using shrimp sauce)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or 1.5L fish stock or bone broth, whichever is on hand, but using stock requires longer cooking time to reduce the volume)
Seafood Laksa Cooking in a Wok

Seafood Laksa Cooking in a Wok

I then add 2-3 cups of coconut milk to make the soup, into which I add the chopped spices and vegetables when the soup is lightly bubbling hot.

I let the veggies soften and absorb some of the soup’s flavours.

Meanwhile, I boil up some water, and place my package of rice vermicelli noodles in the hot water for about 10 minutes. (This dish could also be made with buckwheat soba noodles, for some Japanese influence on the taste, texture and nutrient composition.)

I drain the noodles in a colander, and set them aside covered with a lid.

Seafood Laksa Dish

Seafood Laksa Dish

After 10 minutes of warming up the vegetables, I add the seafood:

  • shrimp, dethawed and peeled
  • red snapper, sliced into small chunks (or any other white fish fillet)

I let the dish warm and cook for another 10 minutes, and I serve it by placing a generous portion of warmed rice vermicelli and topping it with a couple ladlefuls of the laksa soup, veggies and seafood.

I enjoy this pure sunsine in a bowl dish with a glass of my favourite Apothic Red wine and a flower by my side.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.

Special Dish for the Week: Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters

I make one of the most sought after Indonesian desserts—another version of fried bananas—for this Special Dish for the Week:

Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters

Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters

Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters

Using a crêpe pan instead of a deep fryer, this Indonesian dessert reminds me of the Polish apple pancakes, except here I use bananas instead of apples and rice flour instead of wheat flour.

I try this with regular (large) bananas and with mini (half-size) bananas that are more common in Indonesia. Aside from the novelty factor of the mini bananas, I prefer the regular bananas—at least the ones I can get in Vancouver, BC. They are more moist and sweet compared to the minis, even after cooking.

Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters Ingredients

Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters Ingredients

To make the batter, I use the following ingredients, in proportions to make it flowy but not too watery:

  • brown rice flour
  • wheat flour
  • egg
  • salt
  • water
  • coconut oil, for frying

I mix the ingredients until no large lumps are visible, but avoid over mixing as well.

I peal and slice the bananas on a diagonal, dip them in the batter, and fry them with a little coconut oil until the batter is a little browned and slightly crispy.

I serve my version of Pisang Goreng Banana Fritters with organic coconut yogurt and garnish the dish with shredded or grated unsweetened coconut. The bananas are super sweet and the contrast of temperature and texture between the chilled yogurt, warm and soft bananas, and crispy fried batter does marvels on the palate.

Meal ideas & recipes from Bali Agung Village Chef Wayan Suana, personally prepared for me and my travel companion after preparing a set menu dinner for us and inviting me to sous chef with him on the preparations in the kitchen.

The Writer with Bali Agung Village Chef Wayan Suana

The Writer with Bali Agung Village Chef Wayan Suana

Special Dish for the Week: Gado Gado Salad

One of my favourite Indonesian dishes during a recent visit to the beautiful island of Bali on a self-directed healing retreat becomes my Special Dish for the Week:

Gado Gado Salad

Gado Gado Salad

Gado Gado Salad

What’s not to love (for me) in this salad: steamed veggies, peanut sauce, spice, optional tofu and tempeh, beautiful food arrangement and vibrant food colours, and memories of an enjoyable moment in my life to encourage the enjoyment of the present one!

I loosely follow the suggested recipes below, and “Maggify” the ingredients to suit my tastes, available ingredients, and the amount of time I have to make the base ingredients (like Sambal Oelek red chili paste and Peanut Sauce) from scratch or to find them pre-made.

Partially Pre-Made Peanut Sauce

Partially Pre-Made Peanut Sauce

I make up some Peanut Sauce ahead of time, in the future to be tried from scratch, but this one partly pre-made from an authentic Balinese package, adding:

  • piece of Bambu Sate Ayam dehydrated peanut sauce
  • 1 tbsp Bragg soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek or red Thai chili pepper, finely chopped with seeds in (quantity and seeds in or out dependent on desired spiciness)
  • warm water (for heating and diluting to a desired consistency)

I warm these up in a sauce pan, constantly mixing over low to medium heat. I set it aside, ready for slight reheating before serving (adding more warm water as needed for desired consistency at time of reheating).

Gado Gado Salad Ingredients

Gado Gado Salad Ingredients

I prepare the following veggies ready for steaming (in steaming order, at increments of 2-3 min):

  • green beans, diagonally cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • green cabbage or kale, shredded (optional)
  • green pepper, chopped or julienned
  • broccoli, cut into small flowerettes
  • bean sprouts, whole
  • spinach, chopped
  • firm tofu and/or tempeh, cubed or strips and fried up in coconut oil (optional)

I arrange the steamed veggies (with fried tofu and/or tempeh, when using) and peanut sauce on top, delicately decorate my plate setting with a flower and candle, and thoroughly enjoy the flavours and textures of this dish.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Tropical Salads” and the recipe booklet from Jambangan Bali Cooking Class.

Special Dish for the Week: Fried Coconut Bananas

As part of my first Indonesian meal, Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice, prepared after a recent visit to the beautiful island of Bali on a self-directed healing retreat, I prepare for dessert:

Fried Coconut Bananas

Fried Coconut Bananas

Fried Coconut Bananas

This dish can serve as a refreshing spicy curry accompaniment, or as a dessert on its own or with a little topping.

  • 1-3 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise, cut in half or thirds if long, or thickly on a diagonal
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded or grated unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (alternatively palm sugar, ice cream, yogurt, coconut cream, or any other desired topping)
Fried Coconut Bananas Ingredients

Fried Coconut Bananas Ingredients

I cover the banana slices generously with the grated coconut, and fry them over low heat until they are warmed through and the coconut begins to brown.

I serve the Fried Coconut Bananas sprinkled with some shredded coconut and with a little maple syrup dripped over them, and enjoy their heated sweetness immensely.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.

Special Dish for the Week: Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

With a recent visit to the beautiful island of Bali on a self-directed healing retreat, I gain new culinary skills in Indonesian cuisine and eagerly begin trialing new recipes, naturally “Maggifying” them to suit my tastes, available ingredients, and the amount of time I have to make the base ingredients (like Sambal Oelek red chili paste) from scratch or to find them pre-made, with my first dish prepared for a friend:

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

This basic Indonesian dish, a version of which is often served for breakfast, can be dressed up or dressed down as one’s fancy strikes. The dressing up typically involves some form of fried egg and possibly other fancy looking, yet simple, ingredients.

It is highly recommended to prepare the rice in advance and to let it cool before using it in the recipe, where it is to be fried (to prevent it from turning into a risotto).

The night before, I steam and store in the fridge:

I then prepare one part of the garnish, by frying up on low heat a thin layer of scrambled egg omelette:

  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • generous pinch of turmeric powder
  • pinch of black pepper and sea salt
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil or coconut oil, for frying

When the omelette cools, I cut it into 1 cm x 8 cm strips that I eventually arrange in a hatched pattern on top of the fried rice. It can also be rolled up and sliced thinly into more of a messy spaghetti string look.

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice Ingredients

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice Ingredients

I then prepare and fry up the following ingredients, adding a few at a time:

  • 2 tbsp peanut oil, for frying
  • garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tbsp Bragg soy sauce
  • chicken breast or thigh meat, shredded or pealed from bones used to make bone broth
  • peas and carrots, frozen and lightly steamed (steaming optional)
  • broccoli flowerettes, lightly steamed (steaming optional)
  • 1/2 orange or red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced and browned separately in coconut oil
  • 2-4 green onions, diagonally sliced
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • cool rice, prepared in advance
  • water, to prevent rice from sticking too much (optional)
  • 1-3 tbsp coconut oil, for frying (optional)

I arrange each portion of the Nasi Goreng fried rice on plates and arrange the following garnishes on top, adding more flavours, textures and beauty to the dish:

  • strips of egg omelette, arranged in a hatched pattern on top of the fried rice
  • 1/2 orange or red pepper, julienned and raw, arranged decoratively on top of egg omelette strips
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced and browned separately in coconut oil, arranged decoratively on top of raw pepper slices

I serve the Nasi Goreng with Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Australia (the closest region to Bali that produces wine), which my dinner guest graciously brings for us. I also adorn the table with a lovely white and yellow Balinese flower (a paper one I brought back from my trip to remind me of the ever-presence of these flower in that land everywhere!).

Following the main course, I serve Fried Coconut Bananas for dessert.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.