Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
It is almost 15 years since I left Indonesia, though it certainly didn’t feel that long. We didn’t exactly part ways in a cordial term and so it has marred my view of the place where I had amazing childhood, when the most important thing was to jump the highest, cycle the fastest or catch the fattest fish. I do go back several times over the years, less and less frequent as I grow older and live further and further apart. However, in every city that I have lived, there are always Indonesians inviting me to their dining table or sharing the home shipped ingredients that have sailed through many oceans.
Most Indonesians I know don’t eat pork, so you’ll hardly come across this dish unless among non-muslim families or regions like Bali or certain parts of Sumatra. There is a cousin of this dish using beef, called semur sapi, which is basically beef & potato stew using sweet soy sauce. H doesn’t like it much because the spices (clove & cinnamon among others) are much stronger.
“J’aime bien,” he said of this dish, I like it. This is a typical Indonesian food, you don’t know what meat you are eating, but at least it tastes good.
SWEET SOY SAUCE PORK (aka BABI KECAP)
(adapted from Kayotic Kitchen)
serve 3-4, as side dish
About 600 gr Pork meat – as tender as you can get, otherwise pound the meat before using
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
1 large onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
4-5 whole dried cayenne pepper, soaked in water, then chopped
thumb size fresh ginger, grated & squeezed for its juice
2-3 tbsp oil
1-1.5 tsp cornstarch, optional – to make the sauce thicker, if needed
spring onion, sliced, to garnish
Sweet soy sauce mixture
1/2 C sweet soy sauce (aka kecap manis)
6 tbsp water
1/4 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp lime juice
- Pound the meat, if needed, cut into bite size portion. Then season with ground ginger, cumin, coriander, salt & pepper.
- In a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, heat up 2 tbsp oil and brown the meat in batches. Add more oil if needed. Set aside once done.
- While meat is browning, mix the sweet soy sauce in a large bowl.
- Add in the onions and cook till translucent, scraping the bottom & collecting the grits from the browning process. Add in the garlic, cayenne and squeeze the ginger juice. Stir to let it cook 1 minute.
- Add in the sweet soya sauce mixture and the pork. Stir and bring it to boil, before letting it simmer for about 30 mins. Taste & adjust seasoning.
- If you think the sauce is not thick enough, add the cornstarch mixed with 2-3 tbsp water and cook for another 2 mins.
- Serve over warm rice and garnish with spring onion. Don’t forget a big dollop of chili!