A Woman of Her Own

Times Haiku

This year’s Eid, I don’t know why I kept on thinking about my maternal grandmother. She usually made ketupat (rice cake in woven palm leaves), chicken curry, mutton curry, sayur lodeh and few other side dishes like sambal telur goreng (spicy deep fried egg) to celebrate the day. Occasionally she would send them by courier to us in Jakarta while other times she would come to visit us. She never wanted to leave her home, deep in Sumatra island, even when she needed to be taken care of. She was always an independent woman, one who wore a bright red lipstick. I used to savor her lipstick mark on my cheeks until my mom reached over and rubbed it off.

I got a lipstick mark, I was kissed, I was loved and nothing else matters.

When she was still alive, she never could stay still. She would wake up at 4am to run (even when her knees couldn’t support her anymore). She drove a boxy 4WD Daihatsu Taft when a woman driving a car was unheard of. She had a pretty successful restaurant and later a hair salon during the time men still expect women to stay at home. Many said she was a sharp business woman, but her business acumen never was passed down to the following generations. It wasn’t up till the morning of my wedding day, I was clued in to the “family secret”. That she was a mother and a grandmother to us in every sense of the word, except in DNA. Quelle horreur! Imagine the kind of scandal this was back in 1950s.

Yeah, that’s my mama. A woman of her own.

So, in memory of my beloved grandmother, the one who always told me to study hard, to go further, who left her small town to check out my university, and who always cooked all our favorites whenever we visited her, here’s Lontong with Sayur Lodeh and Sambal Telur Goreng. I miss you mama, selamat Idul Fitri!

Sayur Lodeh
Sambal Telur Goreng
Telur Goreng LontongLontong Sayur Lodeh Telur Goreng

Most of the time sayur lodeh is just sayur (vegetable), but since I’m not preparing fried chicken, I added chicken breast meat here for H and pan fried firm tofu for me. The Indonesian/Malay version usually uses young jackfruit and dried shrimps, which I omit since I couldn’t get them here.

Sayur lodeh is usually eaten with lontong (similar to ketupat, but instead of rice cooked in woven palm leaves, it is cooked in banana leaves or these days, in plastic or aluminum foil. Alert: health issue). I’m not posting a lontong recipe here, since mine wasn’t totally successful i.e. the rice are still crumbly and you can find many recipes out there, such as here or here.

Lontong Sayur Lodeh Sambal Telur Goreng

SAYUR LODEH
(adapted from Singapore Local Favorites)
Enough for 4-6

1/3 to 1/2 head medium size cabbage, chopped into large pieces
2 large carrots, cut into thick, large matchsticks
About 110 gr green beans, chopped about 4 cm long
100 gr chicken breast meat (optional), cubed
125 gr firm tofu (optional), cubed/ sliced and gently pan fried – so they won’t break as easily

425 ml coconut milk
2.5 C water – add more if you like your curry to be thinner
salt
pepper

spice paste
2 tbsp sambal oelek or any other chili paste – see note below
2 tsp belachan (shrimp paste) – you can use the Thai version known as Kapi
1 large shallots – The shallots here are much larger than the Asian shallots (typically not much larger than Pearl Onion). So if you use the Asian shallots, use 2-3.
4 medium size garlic cloves
2 lemongrass stalk – peel the outer (dry) layer, chop the hard bottom stem and use only the lower 7-8 cm part, slice thinly
2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp chili flakes, starting with 1 tsp and go from there
4 tbsp oil, divided

  • [Make the spice paste] Using pestle and mortar, pound the shallots, garlic, lemongrass and ginger to a paste. Add in the chili paste, belacan, coriander, cumin and turmeric; pound further.
  • If your paste is not smooth enough, transfer to a mini food processor, add in 2 tbsp oil and pulse till you get a smooth paste.
  • In a medium to large pot, add in the (remaining) oil, and gently fry the spice paste for about 1 minute.
  • Add in the coconut milk and water, and bring the pot to a simmer. Add in the vegetables as well as the chicken & tofu, if using. Cover with a lid and cook further till all vegetables are soft.
  • Taste and adjust. Add the chili powder, adjust the salt and if needed, sugar. Add more water if you want to thin further the curry. This isn’t a thick curry kind.
  • Serve warm with lontong or rice.

Note: Sambal oelek is an Indonesian version of chili paste, usually much sweeter than say Chinese version or Portuguese/ Creole version of chili paste, which is pretty much just hot chili, garlic, salt and citric acid. You can still use the non Indonesian version, but be mindful of the salt & add some palm sugar or brown sugar to balance it out. Trust your tongue.

Deep fried Egg Sambal

SAMBAL DEEP FRIED EGGS (sambal telur goreng)
from Mummy, I can cook
makes 2

2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 C Sambal tumis belachan
oil, for frying

[Short Cut] Sambal Tumis BelachanShu Han makes hers fresh, I made an adapted version with many supermarket ready shortcuts
1/2 shallots
1 large clove garlic
3 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp belachan (shrimp paste or kapi)
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp chili flakes
pinch of coarse sea salt
1 tbsp oil

  • Lay the eggs in a single layer in a pot, cover with water and bring it to boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let the eggs sit for 6 mins. Drain and let them cool down. Gently peel the skin off. The white will be firm while the insides are still runny.
  • In a wok, heat some oil and deep fry the eggs till golden. Drain and set aside in kitchen towels.
  • [Making the Sambal Tumis Belachan] Pound the shallots and garlic with pestle and mortar till smooth.
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients and pound/ mix. Taste and adjust.
  • In a pan/ wok, heat up the oil and gently fry the sambal for about 10 mins till the paste turned deep red color.
  • Add the eggs, toss a while to warm them up and serve immediately. You can also serve the eggs room temperature.

Note: I think it’s better to “over boil” the eggs than “under boil” them. One of my eggs was under boiled and was painful to peel and handle.

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