03 October 2008

Shallots (bawang merah) : Widely used in Indonesian cooking, pounded to make spice pastes, sliced and added to food before cooking, and sliced and deep fried to make a garnish.

Garlic (bawang putih) : The cloves of garlic in the Western countries are considerably larger. Adjust the amount to suit your taste.

Chilies (cabai, also called cabe or lombok) : Chilli's are available in many varieties and can range from mild to extremely hot. One thing that is important about chili pepper, the amount of heat increases as the size of the chili pepper diminishes. Green chilies are the unripe fruit, and have a flavor different from red chilies. Fresh, finger-length red chilies are the most commonly used. Dried chilies also used in some dishes and they should be torn into pieces and soaked in hot water to soften before grinding or blending. Hottest of all chilies are the tiny fiery bird's-eye chilies (cabe rawit). If you want to cut down in heat, remove the seeds and inner white flesh before chopping.

Candlenut (tingkih/kemiri) : A round, cream-colored nut with an oily consistency used to add texture and a faint flavor to many dishes. Should be ground up before use and never be eaten raw Substitute macadamia nuts or raw cashews OR Brazil nuts instead.

Coriander Seeds (ketumbar) : Small straw-colored seeds with a faintly orange flavor. Whole seeds are usually lightly crushed before use.

Cardamom (kapulaga) : About 8-12 intensely fragrant black seeds are enclosed in straw-colored, fibrous pod. Try to buy the whole pod instead of cardamom seeds or powder for maximum flavor, and bruise lightly with the back cleaver to break the pod before adding to seasonings.

Cinnamon (kayu manis) : A thick, dark brown bark of a type of cassia. Do not substitute with ground cinnamon if you can.

Cloves (cengkeh) : A small, brown, nail-shaped spice. Whole cloves are frequently used to flavor cooking liquids for simmering fish, poultry or meat.

Ginger (jahe) : Sold fresh in most supermarkets. This pale creamy yellow root is a very important ingredient for Indonesian cooking. Always scrape the skin off fresh ginger before using, and never substitute powdered ginger as the taste is quite different. Also available freeze-dried to be used in cooking.

Turmeric (kunyit, kunir) : Plant root resembling ginger, but smaller It imparts its yellow color and pungent taste to many dishes. If you can buy fresh turmeric, pick roots that are dark in color.For use, peel and grind in pestle with other spices. Hard to find fresh but as ready ground spice widely available. Usually sold in dried or powdered form in the US and Europe.

Kencur : It is sometimes known as lesser galangal. This ginger-like root has a unique, champor flavor and should be used sparingly. Wash it and scrape off the skin before using. Dried sliced kencur or kencur powder can be used as a substitute. Soak dried slices in boiling water for approximately 30 minutes; use ½-1 tsp. of powder for 1-inch fresh root.

Laos (lengkuas, Galingale, galangal) : It’s a member of the ginger family and it has a very tough but elusively scented root that must be peeled before use. Darker in color then ginger with distinct rings around root. Flesh has a hint of pink. Sold fresh, dried and powdered. If using dried Galangal, soak in water for ½ hour before use. Powdered Galangal is known as Laos powder and can be used in marinades and sauces.

Lemongrass (serai, sereh) : This is an intensely fragrant herb that is used for soup, seafood and meat dishes and spice pastes to produce lemony flavor. Can be bought fresh, dried or powdered. Fresh : remove outer stalks and chop finely to be used in dish or pound stalks and cook with dish and remove before serving. Dried : Use for cooking, then remove before serving. Powdered : Use sparingly in cooking, will still give a wonderful flavor to dishes. As a substitute you can use zest of lemon, half a lemon or lemon juice.

Palm Sugar (gula jawa, Jaggery) : Juice extracted from the coconut flower or aren palm is boiled and packed into molds to make sugar with a faint caramel taste. Palm sugar is used in sweet and savory dishes. It is sold in blocks, cylinders or in jars in most asian shops. If palm sugar is not available, substitute with soft brown sugar.

Tamarind (asem/lunak, asam Jawa) : The dark brown pod of the tamarind tree contains a sour fleshy pulp, which adds a fruity sourness to many dishes, very tardy and tangy flavor. Packets of pulp usually contains the seeds and fibers. To make tamarind water, break about 40 grams of pulp into a bowl, add 200 cc. hot water and soak, stirring occasionally. Sieve mixture, pressing through as much pulp as possible and use as directed in recipe. Also available in jars ready for use.


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