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BillP
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Cooking with Foreign Flavors

One of the books I picked for the seven suggested "core" books for this time of general discussion is Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, which does a great job of bringing "international" cuisine to the (American) home cook. He limits his recipes to include ingredients that can be found in the average U.S. grocery store and have been simplified to some extent, making just about everything possible for someone who spends a decent amount of time in the kitchen.

I prefer this approach to really trying to make anything "authentic" in my kitchen. Myself, I would my local Thai or Indian place than to go out and buy a lot of stuff I don't have in my pantry. (I also know that living in NYC where everything is accessible is different than my parent's small town in rural West Virginia where "international" means the Chinese buffet that now has California rolls.) But it definitely informs my own cooking, whether it's curry deviled eggs, or adding jicama and fresh chiles to a salad.

I'm curious as to how many of you attempt to cook things from other cultures. Obviously Italian, French, Mexican food is pretty ingrained in American culture to the point where I'm not sure we even consider these as "foreign." But do you ever attempt Thai food at home? Or Indian? Or Japanese? Also what's your favorite international cuisine?
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caroline88
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors

Bill, we do not ALL live in america.

I prefer the Indonesian kitchen. Thanks to the colonial heritage, Indonesian herbs and spices are easy to come by, especially in The Hague. I like it because it is spicy food, healthy eating and impossible to fail.
My cooking is from a few cookbooks, but mostly from the small collection of original Indonesian recipes. My mother took lessons and the recipes are from her teacher. I was merely the "selfless" helper who offered to type her a fresh copy when the old ones were too spoiled from tomato stains :smileywink:
Belief in your mission, greet life with a cheer
There's big work to do, and that's why you are here
~ Caroline
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BillP
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors



caroline88 wrote:
Bill, we do not ALL live in america.

I prefer the Indonesian kitchen. Thanks to the colonial heritage, Indonesian herbs and spices are easy to come by, especially in The Hague. I like it because it is spicy food, healthy eating and impossible to fail.
My cooking is from a few cookbooks, but mostly from the small collection of original Indonesian recipes. My mother took lessons and the recipes are from her teacher. I was merely the "selfless" helper who offered to type her a fresh copy when the old ones were too spoiled from tomato stains :smileywink:




Caroline,

I realize that, but B&N is based in America and *most* of our Book Clubs users live here, though we certainly have many frequent contributors from around the globe. You live in the Netherlands?

I must admit to not being that familiar with Indonesian cuisine -- it is underrepresented here in NYC, I think there are only three our four restaurants in the five burroughs, most of them deep in Queens. (Compare that to three or four Thai places within four blocks of my Brooklyn apartment.)

I really liked my one experience (was told it was Sumatran, specifically) and found it to be similar to Malaysian food which I like a lot, though I'm sure I'd be more aware of the differences if I ate it more often.

I would love it if you would elaborate a bit about Indonesian food. I specifically remember a stew made from jackfruit that was out-of-this world good.

BillP
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caroline88
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors

Bill, yes I live in The Netherlands. I really do prefer Indian food over Indonesian but there is not much of an Indian culture here so it would be hard to get all ingredients and as long as I am still saving up for a kitchen, hopping over to London UK is not feasible. London is where I first tasted Indian food.

Indonesia has many regions, I am not an expert on the regional differences. My mother's teacher explained it, many people in Indonesia do not have a lot of money and all recipes are designed to make simple food taste like heaven. Because of the feedback that she got from us, most recipes that she gave my mother are hot meat dishes and lots of coconut in all meals. Later on I learned a trick from one of my recipe books. It was not in the recipe, I simply made the dish and followed the recipe to a T. Turns out, if you put meat on the stove with a few herbs and add the sambal (Indonesian type of hot sauce) and let it simmer for a few hours. The meat becomes so soft your 98 year old grandmother without any teeth could eat it. And the hot burning disappears completely. A mild dish made of hot sauce.

I do not have many recipes for entrees or desserts so the meal consists of rice, I prefer to use parboiled brown rice. One or two main dishes and a few side dishes. For instance, a meal of mixed vegetables, flavored with herbs and a bit of coconut cream (santen). And a dish with meat or fish or eggs, the sauce can be hot or sweet. Side dishes, e.g.:
- atjar (Indonesian pickles)
- seroendeng (stir fried dried coconut with garlic, spices and non-salted peanuts)

Another specialty is called "spekkoek" which is a Dutch word that you could translate as "Bacon cake". You make a batter and then put it in two bowls. One is yellow and the other is dark. Then you brush a thin layer, put in the oven, brush another thin layer, back in the oven. It takes a few hours to make this, then you let it cool and you take a very thin slice (which looks like a strip of bacon with the yellow and brown thin layers sliced through) with a cup of coffee or tea. This cake is extremely rich, one cake is made of 500 grams of butter and 30 eggs. BAD cholesterol but that one cake would consist of 30 portions.

There are no leftovers. One of the things that I like is that most of these dishes only taste better, the day after. Except maybe for the vegetable dishes because they taste best with a bit of crunch left in them. But you can make the sauce of the dishes they day before. With the protein ingredients, let them soak in it overnight because it will only taste better. And the veggies need only 10-30 minutes to cook when your guests have arrived.
Most dishes are made in a wok or wadjan.

Garlic, sambal, santen, sereh (lemon grass) and djahe (ginger) are used in most recipes.
Koenjit is kurkuma, yellow root. Koenjit is part of all curry powder mixtures but is often used on its own, in the Indonesian dishes. It gives the yellow color to the pickles or the nasi goreng (fried rice). And is also proven to be very healthy.
There are also a few recipes with ketjap, the Indonesian soy sauce. Which can be manis (sweet) or asin (salty). But I am not sure if this is original or more of a Dutch adaptation to the Indonesian kitchen.

Slamat makan! (enjoy your meal)
Caroline
Belief in your mission, greet life with a cheer
There's big work to do, and that's why you are here
~ Caroline
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BillP
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors



caroline88 wrote:
a Dutch word that you could translate as "Bacon cake".



Caroline, you got me all excited... I thought someone had finally combined my two favorite things.

All this talk about Indonesian food has made me very hungry. I may have to trek out to Queens this weekend.

-BP
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors

Great summary Caroline, thanks!

ziki
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caroline88
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors

You are welcome, Ziki.

Bill, that is what talking about food does. The bacon cake does not taste like bacon at all, I think one of the spices is cinnamon.

And now I am thirsty :smileywink:
Belief in your mission, greet life with a cheer
There's big work to do, and that's why you are here
~ Caroline
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BillP
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Re: Cooking with Foreign Flavors

[ Edited ]
Unbeknownst to me until just now, Mark Bittman's The Best Recipies in the World has become a television series on PBS. It's a mix of travel and food, and has been airing for a couple weeks already -- though it's up to your local PBS station as to the start date and when it airs. You can find out when your's is airing it at the show's website. I missed the first episode, but I'll be watching from here on out.



BillP wrote:
One of the books I picked for the seven suggested "core" books for this time of general discussion is Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, which does a great job of bringing "international" cuisine to the (American) home cook. He limits his recipes to include ingredients that can be found in the average U.S. grocery store and have been simplified to some extent, making just about everything possible for someone who spends a decent amount of time in the kitchen.

Message Edited by BillP on 05-08-2007 10:59 AM