Bumbu Kacang: LET’S GET NUTS

One of the traditional characteristics of Indonesian cuisine is the popular use of peanut sauce, bumbu kacang, in many local signature dishes. The notable concoction reveals a delicate balance of sweet, spicy and savory flavors, making it a favorite combination to an array of dishes; either as a dip, a generous dressing or simply for seasoning.

One of the traditional characteristics of Indonesian cuisine is the popular use of peanut sauce, bumbu kacang, in many local signature dishes. The notable concoction reveals a delicate balance of sweet, spicy and savory flavors, making it a favorite combination to an array of dishes; either as a dip, a generous dressing or simply for seasoning.

THE TYPICAL ingredients include grounded roasted peanuts, sweet soya sauce, palm sugar, garlic, coconut milk, lemon or tamarind juice, chili peppers, shallots and other local spices. Several additional ingredients such as shrimp paste, coriander seed, cumin, cloves, cinnamon stick, kaffir lime leaves, nutmeg and lemongrass are often included in the sauce to create varied flavors, textures and consistency for selected dishes.

Peanuts are used for the basics, but some have replace it with the more expensive cashew for added creaminess and flavor.

Here are a few popular Indonesian signature dishes that harness on the divine sauce:

Siomay or Batagor
One of popular street food is Siomay, typically consisting of steamed fish dumplings and vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, bitter gourd, tofu and eggs. Generally, the components in a plate of Siomay can be picked according to an individual’s preference. The Siomay is cut in to bite size pieces and draped in creamy peanut dressing, local sweet soya and chili sauce with a dash of lime-juice. Another version of this dish is the crispy and crunchy Batagor, an abbreviation of Bakso Tahu Goreng, which is fried fish dumplings, meatballs (bakso) and tofu. Both dishes are served with identical sauces, thus a plate of this grub can consist of a marvelous mixture of both Batagor and Siomay.

Gado-Gado

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Gado-gado is a globally recognized Indonesian salad, which literally means ‘mix-mix’. As the name explains, the dish is a mix of slightly boiled, blanched or steamed vegetables such as potatoes, bean sprouts, spinach, string beans, cabbage, bitter gourd, with fried tofu and tempeh, hard-boiled eggs and compressed rice cake (lontong). The rich mixture is then abundantly coated in the traditional peanut sauce and garnished with kerupuk crackers and bawang goreng (fried sliced shallots).

Sate

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Another globally renowned Indonesian dish is sate, which consists of small pieces of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat such as lamb, beef, chicken, fish, prawns and occasionally vegetables. The meat is generally barbequed over charcoal or wood fire then typically served with the famous spicy peanut sauce, either as a dip or doused in it. The archipelago’s diverse culture has resulted in countless variety of sate but the most common one consists of skewered meat immersed in peanut gravy and topped with local sweet soy sauce.

Ketoprak

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Ketoprak is a typical and popular street food in Indonesia, which consists of freshly fried tofu, compressed rice cake (lontong), bean sprouts, and thin rice vermicelli (bihun), often accompanied with hard-boiled eggs and sliced cucumber. The dish is served in simple peanut sauce made of only roasted ground peanuts, palm sugar, garlic, a desired amount of chili peppers and a generous topping of sweet soy sauce, then of course the compulsory kerupuk and bawang goreng.

Pecel

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Similar to Gado-Gado, this dish also comprises of slightly boiled, blanched or steamed vegetables such as spinach, bean sprouts, beans, cucumber, cassava leaves and lemon basil. However, the peanut sauce used in Pecel does not include coconut milk and generally tastes more tangy and spicier than other peanut dressings.  Thus, the mixture is best accompanied with steaming white rice to balance out the strong flavors.


Written by Divya Pridhnani Photographs by Yosua Yanuard August 26, 2016.

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