My son recently gave me a fantastic Indonesian cookbook called Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia, by Elenor Ford. This is not to be confused with a book about Fire Island, New York. I’m always super-skeptical when I see a clearly Anglo name attached to a narrowly-focused ethnic cookbook, but Ms. Ford both grew up in Indonesia during her formative years, and later returned as an adult to re-explore the islands, so one can hope that she knows the food and culture. Indeed, it is a beautiful book.
The first dish I made from the book is this classic Indonesian mushroom recipe, that, like its name, is both sweet and spicy, but not overly so in each case. It actually has a fairly subtle, but delicious flavor. It’s also vegan, if that’s of interest to you.
Beyond making the spice Bumbu spice paste, it’s a quick and easy recipe.
What you’ll need for the mushrooms:
- 2 lime leaves
- 1 lemongrass stick, trimmed, beaten and tied into a knot
- 1-in piece of galangal (I actually skipped this because there’s some in the Bumbu paste)
- 1T neutral oil
- 1 lb oyster mushrooms, trimmed and spit into medium-size pieces
- 3T thick coconut milk or coconut cream
- 1.5t dark palm sugar, shaved (brown sugar works in a pinch)
- 2t kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
- 1 large red chili, seeded and sliced
- 1 tomato, sliced into wedges
What you’ll need for the Bumbu paste:
- 0.5t coriander seeds
- 4 peppercorns
- 1 small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 candlenut* or Macadamia nut
- 0.5” piece of ginger, peeled
- 0.5” piece of turmeric, peeled
*These can be found at Asian grocery stores. Do NOT eat them raw, as they are slightly poisonous until cooked. If you eat them raw you may get a very upset stomach.
What to do:
Grind up all the bumbu ingredients in a high-speed food processor or use a mortar and pestle.
Put the paste into a large frying pan along with the lime leaves, the tied-up lemongrass and the galangal. Drizzle the oil over the paste and stir-fry over medium heat, until fragrant. You want the ingredients cooked, but not scorched.
Add the mushrooms and stir to coat them in the spices. Add the coconut milk, sugar and a bit of salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes. The mushrooms will release a lot of water as they cook, so keep stirring, cooking the mushrooms and cooking off the extra liquid. Right as they look fully cooked, add the kecap manis, chilies and tomato, cooking for two minutes more, stirring to coat the chilies and tomato.
Serve hot as an accompaniment to the main dish.