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May 1, 2009 05:50 PM

*May 2009* COTM Cradle of Flavor: Condiments (sambals, dipping sauces, dressings, & pickles)

**May 2009 Cookbook of the Month is Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore by James Oseland.

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes here for condiments including sambals, dipping sauces, dressings, and pickles from Chapter 6, page 114 - 137. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Javanese Peanut Sauce
    page 128-129

    My first foray into Cradle was a simple dinner for one. The menu included Chicken Satay with peanut dipping sauce, stir-fry vegetables and steamed rice. I had planned to make the Javanese pickles as well, but misread the recipe and didn't start this early enough in the day.

    For this recipe, I made the full amount since it can live in the refrigerator for several days. As with the chicken, I am really not sure that I ever got the correct texture in the food processor.

    When processing the peanuts alone, he says it should be the texture of sand. I believe that I did this properly. I substituted anchovy paste for the shrimp paste with no stovetop cooking. And this is where I became somewhat unsure. He states that you pulse until you have a well-ground mixture, after adding the rest of the ingredients. with a caution about processing too much. So, my resulting sauce was a little sand-like. Distinct tiny chunks of peanuts.

    The flavor is unlike any peanut sauce I have had before. A very subtle flavor that didn't overwhelm the other food on the plate. Perhaps my palette doesn't understand this cuisine yet, but I wanted a little more "oomph."

    I have tons of this sauce leftover, so I will need to make some other items to serve it with quickly.

    17 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      Ideas for leftovers: Is this the kind of sauce that you could use as a dipping sauce with crudites? Or maybe with some veggies and/or chicken and/or tofu plus rice in a wrap, served warm perhaps? That's what I do with tahini-lemon sauce, and this would work for that too.

      Regarding subtlety: In the first dish I prepared from the book (Javanese chicken curry, p 275 see Poultry thread), I experienced the exact same reaction -- Hey, where's the oomph? Then I read in chapter two that in west Javanese cooking, the flavors "are more delicately spiced than those of other parts of Indonesia." Perhaps that's the case with the dipping sauce, as well, as he notes that it is Javanese and "rustic and spare, with just a hint of sweetness." Of course, that curry also improved after a day or two, and maybe the peanut sauce will also be bolder the following day.

      I would like to make this sauce, in any event. Thanks for such a thorough report, smtucker, and looking forward to the ingredient trade-off!

      1. re: foxy fairy

        Isn't that interesting?? I thought maybe my lack of Holland chiles (I've made due with serranos) was making things less spicy. Maybe I'll need to up the peppers, since I like things pretty spicy.

        1. re: LulusMom

          holland chiles are only mildly spicy so that is unlikely to be it.

          1. re: jen kalb

            I re-read his pantry section about the peppers, and he says serranos *are* an ok sub, which made me feel better. But I will def. be upping the peppers in each recipe from now on.

            1. re: LulusMom

              I honestly dont know where Oseland is coming from on his pepper recommendations - I suspect he is recommending a more bulky and kess pungent red pepper (as opposed to say a thai bird chile) because you need to have enough peppers to add bulk to a sambal and color as a garnish without burning the mouth up. this is the sort of issue I would be happy to discuss with Oseland for sure.

      2. re: smtucker

        I blame the anchovy sub - shrimp paste is freaky funky strong. Still, you do what you can...
        : )

        1. re: pitu

          That darn allergy..... Since I was eating alone, I decided that this wasn't the meal to test my allergy as it specifically relates to the shrimp paste. Next time!

          1. re: smtucker

            Don't risk your health. It may not be *exactly* the same as the authentic, but it will be the closest that you can get without hurting yourself (putting my mom shoes on, obviously).

            1. re: smtucker

              "mam nem" is made from fermented anchovies. It's solid thick wet paste left over after the milder "fish sauce" is drained off. It is stout stuff, and closer to shrimp paste than is UN-fermented anchovy paste.

              Phú Quốc is the best brand, pictured here -

          2. re: smtucker

            Oh, interesting about the tons of leftovers. Do you think the recipe could be cut in half or something or would that make it hard to achieve the correct texture?


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              The full recipe actually seemed a little sparse for the full sized food processor. But, if you have a mini, I bet that making a third of the recipe would fit perfectly. Now please be advised that I am somewhat volume-challenged, so I might be wrong.

              The full recipe makes about 2 cups of sauce, which is a lot of sauce. For example, with my chicken thigh satay, I ate less than two tablespoons of the sauce, and I was working at consuming as much as possible. But this cuisine seems to be all about the balance, and too much peanut overwhelmed.

              1. re: smtucker

                I made this peanut sauce on Friday night to serve with gado gado salad (see apppropriate thread). The sauce came together very easily. The only substitution I made was white balsamic for the cider vinegar because that is what I had. The shrimp paste was a bit difficult to make as I found it hard to tell when it was ready. I kept opening it up to check and kind of messed up my foil packet a bit. It did get a little charred around the edges, but I think the middle of mine was too thick and didn't get dry enough.

                In an case, the sauce tasted very good and I served it with gado gado salad and shrimp chips (which I bought). It was a very different sauce from the usual peanut sauce that I have made, due to the inclusion of shimp paste. My sister tried it today when she was visiting and said, oh, the shrimp is a little too present in this dip. I don't think she was expecting it. Oh and my cat NIgel loves the smell of it!!

                1. re: tartetatin

                  Im using thin slices of the belacan smashed down with the foil- just leave it on the heat until it gets stinky and smoky and then flip, If you have any doubt that it is done (no burned shrimp smell, etc) then its not done. turn your exhaust fan on before you start, Ive asked my husband to check our hood since its not pulling much of this smoke away.

                2. re: smtucker

                  After spending a lot of time with my mini-processor tonight, I think it would fit about 1/4 of the original recipe.

                  1. re: smtucker

                    I halved the recipe and made it in my cuisinart food processor (can't remember the capacity, but not mini). It worked okay - no issues with the processing. I think I made about a cup of sauce.

              2. re: smtucker

                Sos Kecap Rawit -- Sweet Soy Sauce & Lime Dipping Sauce, page 125

                Tasty and quick -- surprisingly great. I will make this again!

                I actually (finally) found the fresh red Holland chiles (I think) so I combined those, chopped, with the Indonesian sweet soy sauce and fresh lime juice. My SO tasted the sauce, looked at me in delight, and immediately asked me to make more so we wouldn't run out with the satay. So I doubled it. At first I thought the sweet soy overpowered the lime, but later the lime flavor came shining through. I squeezed in a little extra though.

                I could only find the ABC brand of the sweet soy sauce, though Oseland states a preference for the Cap Bango. Nonetheless, this sauce is quite appealing, far greater than what I expected. I would use it as a dipping sauce for potstickers too in the future, definitely.

                Here are pictures of the sauce, the sauce with "chicken on a stick" (Sate Ayam, p 147) and the (I think) fresh red Holland chiles.

                1. re: foxy fairy

                  Yours looks so much prettier with the Holland red chiles. I think I'm going to try the Korean market this week and see if they have them...

                  The combination with sweet soy and lime really is good. I liked it on the Javanese Fried Rice too.

              3. Javanese cucumber and carrot pickle (p. 132)

                This is a wonderful recipe where the sum is greater than its parts.

                Easy too. Cut up some cucumbers, carrots and shallots, add salt and pour over it some boiling water.

                Add in palm sugar, vinegar (I used cider) and fresh Thai chiles ( I used those little green chiles from the Asian store). Chill and then bring to room temp.

                Fab with the rendang, particularly appreciated in my experience by visiting Indonesians!

                3 Replies
                1. re: NYchowcook

                  Sounds good! Will be a good summer recipe!


                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    I made the quick and easy Javanese cucumber and carrot pickle (p. 132) again. When I posted before I was confused -- I had previously made the more elaborate pickle on p. 130 to accompany beef rendang. As others have said it's worth the effort, and can be made days in advance.

                    Oseland's "pickle" is simple and good. I didn't refrigerate the second go-round since I followed the instructions, using regular sugar. It's a good fall back to the more elaborate cucumber and carrot pickle (p. 130) so you don't have to order a pizza or go out for Chinese!

                    This one is similar to a cucumber salad I make in which I soak sliced red onion in rice wine, salt the cucumber in a colander and drain out some water, rinse, and add rice wine vinegar, sugar and dill.

                    1. re: NYchowcook

                      I made this quick Javanese cucumber and carrot pickle (p. 132) to go with the Javanese grilled chicken and potatoes rendang tonight. It was a perfect complement to the other dishes, and so easy.

                      Though I have to admit that I made it even easier by simply cutting the cukes and carrots into 1/4" slices instead of matchsticks. I just hate cutting round objects into matchsticks. So it may have been inauthentic, but it still tasted good. When I make it again, I'll probably cut the rounds into halves or quarters, but even the whole rounds were fine.

                      My book doesn't say anything about chilling it, just letting it rest for at least 15 minutes but no more than 2 hours. Are there different versions? I was actually curious about how it would do if refrigerated overnight, but we ate it all!

                    2. Sweet-Sour Cucumber and Carrot Pickle with Turmeric
                      page 130-132

                      Dinner tonight was the Spice-Braised Tuna, steamed rice and Stir-Fry Greens.

                      Imagine my dismay when I went to the refrigerator and the kirby cucumbers were gone! I have no idea if I never put them on the belt or if I paid for them and they didn't get put into my bag, but either way, they were not in my house. So I substituted a regular ole American cucumber, which I seeded. I used one red holland chile.

                      I took some care in creating the matchsticks so that they would be evenly sized and pickle evenly. The salting process was simple, and I let the vegetables sit for a bit longer than his 2 hours recommendation.

                      For the flavoring paste, I omitted the candelnuts [they aren't here yet] and since I am running low on red peppers, I substituted thai chiles. Creating the flavoring paste involves aiming for the elusive "creamy mashed potatoes" once again in a small food processor. I had to add two full tablespoons of water before I managed to get to this stage, in spite of the fact that I don't have any candlenuts yet. Maybe my mini-prep isn't powerful enough, but so far I have had to add a little water to each of my pastes.

                      After warming the oil, I added the mustard seeds. I loved the popping noise they made. It was really obvious when it was time to add the paste. I used rice vinegar.

                      This pickle took me almost 2 hours to prepare which seems really long. Perhaps I took too much care in creating the matchsticks. Maybe I spent too much time trying to get the "creamy mashed potato" consistency. Didn't matter. It was Sunday night, 8pm and I hadn't started any of the other dishes and I was hungry. I left the pickling mixture to cool and went out for some Chinese food.

                      Oseland actually recommends letting the pickles age overnight and the results are amazing. This pickle is full of flavor, a little spicy, a little sweet, a good mix of really crunchy carrot, softer cucumber and soft shallot. Absolutely wonderful and worth every moment it took to make.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: smtucker

                        Too funny! <Left it and went out for Chinese!> I've been there! When I was too ambitious in cooking -- I would order in pizza 'cause I was too busy cooking and was hungry!

                        Glad to hear the pickles came out well. It sounds like you went for the more labor-intensive pickles than I made.

                        1. re: NYchowcook

                          I thought I was the only one who had to have an alternate meal ready for those days I get so immersed in a cooking project that I'm starving by the time I'm done. Good to know that letting the flavors sit and meld overnight only enhances these recipes!


                        2. re: smtucker

                          YES smtucker. One of my favorite kitchen sounds: mustard seeds, popping merrily! Every time I cook Indian it's a little thrill...

                          I too need to have a backup food plan when I get into these projects. As my mom says sometimes when I'm coming to visit and we're tight on time, "Let's not get into a big ordeal." Ordeal in the kitchen? Moi?

                          1. re: foxy fairy

                            My sister has said to me: Did you have to use every pot in the kitchen?
                            My response is: Huh? (does not compute) Isn't that what they're there for?? And BTW, you failed to mention what a fabulous meal came out of those pots!

                            And for family get togethers, my father has suggested that I not make "a big fuss" over the food. Huh? (again, does not compute) That's what I live for!

                          2. re: smtucker

                            I made this pickle today as well, and you're right smtucker, it's absolutely heavenly. It does take quite a long time to prepare, but it's oh so good. I did use the candlenuts, and dried Thai chillies (but not the super-hot ones) in the flavouring paste. For the pickle, I used two red chillies which may or may not be the red holland ones or could be cayenne.

                            i served this with steamed rice, Padang fish curry and stir-fried greens.

                            Oh yes - note to self. Wear CSI gloves when peeling and chopping fresh turmeric. My fingers look like I've smoked fifty a day for decades!

                            1. re: smtucker

                              I made this pickle sunday night. Shredded the carrots course in my food processor - cut a bunch of small middle-eastern cukes into slivers/matchsticks. Wasnt fussy aimed for the general size, took maybe 15-20 min. Salted and drained for 2+ hours. Should have used my judgment and NOT washed at the end since with squeezing the veg was drained and dry and after the washing I was short of salt in the finished. dish.
                              Made the paste as written - felt there was too much oil and not enough chile heat. Very tasty and enthusiastically accepted by my family, but I thought it was far from the bast achar i have eaten/made - I will see if I can find some better recipes to share.

                            2. Soy Sauce, Chile, and Lime Dipping Sauce (sos cili padi - Malaysia, Singapore), p. 126

                              I made this quick and easy sauce because he recommends it with the Kuey Teow Noodles (p 193) I was making tonight. Simply mix soy sauce and lime juice with sliced chilis. I used about 10 red and green Thai chilies because I wanted it nice and spicy. It was great with the noodles, adding salty-sour flavor and plenty of heat.

                              He mentions that it also is good with a couple of other dishes I'm making this weekend - the Chinese Egg Noodles with Shrimp and Asian Greens, and the Stir-Fried Greens with Garlic.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Rubee

                                I made the soy sauce, chile and lime dipping sauce (p. 126) last night to accompany round two of chinese egg noodles. It went very nicely with the low-key (not spicy) noodles, as Oseland suggests.

                                I used 10 Thai chiles (mostly green, some red).

                              2. Sweet Soy Sauce and Lime Dipping Sauce (sos kecap rawit - Indonesia), p. 125

                                This is another quick and easy sauce. Combine three sliced chiles (I used two red Thai chiles) with sweet soy/kecap manis and fresh lime juice. Loved the flavor, I kept licking the spoon. I made this condiment as he recommends it with two dishes we had for dinner - the Javanese Fried Rice and Stir-Fried Asian Greens with Garlic and Chiles. I also served them with the spicy Soy, Chile and Lime sauce I made above. I liked both with the rice, while preferred the Soy, Chile and Lime with the greens.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Rubee

                                  I am so glad rubee that you posted on the dipping sauces. It spurred me to re-open the condiments chapter after I made a sambal and it took forever.

                                  I made the sweet soy sauce and lime dipping sauce last night. Very easy and simple. And you're right -- it's hard not to taste as I stirred, oh and I think I should stir it up again (and taste) as lime juice rose to the top, and to be sure chiles' flavor blended in. I was worried that the flavors would not blend, but after 45 minutes or so that sauce was spicy! and sweet and delicious! Easy as pie.

                                  It spiced up some boiled rice and the cabbage I posted about on the vegetable board.

                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                    I was really glad I'd made that dipping sauce to go with the nasi goreng since the rice itself wasn't very exciting. The dipping sauce made it a lot more fun, and you're right - so easy.