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*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.

Thanks for participating!

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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.

                                2. Javanese Sambal (sambal bajak or sambal ulek - Java, Indonesia), p. 119

                                  No Holland chiles, so I used half a red bell pepper and three red Thai chiles. Toast dried shrimp paste in oil, and then process it with peppers, shallots, garlic, palm sugar and salt. I used a regular-sized food processor. To finish, cook paste in oil until it separates, then let cool. This was really tasty as is with a nice amount of heat for me (though he says it should be "mellow, rather than fiery"), and with sweetness from the palm sugar and red bell pepper. I'm looking forward to trying it with the dishes I plan on cooking this week.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Nyonya Dipping Sauce
                                    page 125

                                    served with Nyonya-Style Spiced Fried Chicken, Asiah's Eggplant Curry, Sweet-Sour Cucumber and carrot Pickle with Turmeric and Steamed Rice

                                    This is the most unusual dipping sauce I have ever made. Very simple... took about three minutes to make. I used red Thai chiles. On its own, it seems like almost nothing. A little sweet, a little sour, a little spicy, but coupled with the chicken, it was perfect. The ingredients of this simple sauce compliment the chicken spices making both better together than apart.

                                    1. South Indian-Style Eggplant Pickle (aca terung - Malaysia), p. 133

                                      This was so flavorful, and he says it's better the next day so I'm looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

                                      First I made the paste. I used a spice grinder for the spices - coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried arbol chiles (I used five) - and then combined them with the garlic and ginger in a mortar. The paste was a bit dry and I never got to that elusive "creamy mashed potato" consistency, even though I added some water. Chunks of eggplant rubbed with powdered tumeric is fried and set aside, and then saute black mustard seeds, fresh curry leaves, and a cinnamon stick, add Holland chiles (I used a quarter red bell and one Thai red chili), the paste, and rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Simmer, add eggplant, stir, and let cool in a bowl.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Rubee

                                        My old Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks (pre-food processor) have you make the wet masalas in a blender after the spices are ground. Although you have to use a fair bit of water, this definitely works better than a food processor to create the "mashed potatoes" texture. The water is no problem as long as the masala is fried or cooked.

                                      2. Nyonya Sambal (Sambal balacan), Malaysia (p. 120)

                                        I made this per Oseland’s suggestion that it pairs well with stir fried chinese egg noodles. I did not care for it at all. I did not like the taste of it, nor did I think better of it eating with noodle dish.

                                        I wrapped some dried shrimp paste in aluminum foil, and held it over a gas flame until it starting reeking, turned it over until it started smoking, and set aside to cool.

                                        Chopped up some red Holland chiles (unfortunately I only had 2 left, though recipe calls for 5-7, so I sort of halved the recipe. Used a few red and mostly green Thai chiles, shallot, and garlic, all into mini-food processor w/ toasted shrimp paste.
                                        That’s it. Then you add lime later. I did not have kasturi limes, so regular (I suppose) Persian limes went into this sambal.

                                        There’s a reason I suppose it’s called sambal balacan because that’s the predominant flavor: shrimp paste. It was too strong for me. Perhaps with more red Holland peppers it would have had a brighter flavor.

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: NYchowcook

                                          this can be a bit of an acquired taste (think cilantro) but I have come to love the stuff. You might want to back off and try some other dishes featuring belecan, like kankung belacan,, before rejecting it altogether.

                                          Having said this, Ive not tried Oseland's recipe and will do so.

                                          ps - one of the online recipe sources recomends using a "blonder" rather than dark belacan for this dish.

                                          1. re: jen kalb

                                            Hmm. Time for a new post of blond balacan in our ingredients chart!

                                          2. re: NYchowcook

                                            Nyonya Sambal (Malaysia - sambal belacan), p. 120

                                            I made this tonight for lunches this week, keeping in mind NYchowcook's comments about the amount of peppers so the shrimp paste flavor wouldn't be too overpowering.

                                            I used 2 tsp of toasted dried shrimp paste, a half a bell pepper and one red jalapeno, 15 green Thai chiles, garlic and shallot. This is so easy because it's just tossed in a food processor and doesn't have to be cooked. I just had a taste tonight and it is delicious and SPICY (I could have used only 10-12 chiles). I can see why Oseland suggests this as a sambal with sweeter Nyonya dishes. It's going to be even more fiery tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to trying it with a noodle dish or just steamed rice. He says to squeeze a bit of fresh lime over the sambal before serving.

                                            (BTW, last week I toasted a bunch of individual tsp-sized amounts of belacan, wrapped in tinfoil, and stored in the refrigerator. E's happy because I'm not stinking up the kitchen every time, and it's easy to just pull out what I need.)

                                            1. re: Rubee

                                              I actually found packaged, pre-toasted belacan when I did my shopping! But for some reason, none of the recipes I've selected so far have called for it, so I haven't had a chance to try it. It's June now, but I'll have to make at least one more recipe (I've had my eye on that Shrimp Sambal dish) to use at least one of them. Sheesh.

                                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                Oh good! I still have lots of ingredients left, so plan on cooking out of the book in June too. Tomorrow I'm making the Twice-Cooked Tofu with Coriander, and still haven't made any of the satays or rendangs yet....

                                                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                  I'm going to keep taking this book out of the library...I hope people will keep posting! I wasn't really interested in cooking or eating Malaysian et al every day, but I'm really interested in working it in to the repertoire..

                                                  1. re: pitu

                                                    Im certainly going to continue with this book for a while - have barely scratched the surface let alone put a dent in my ingredient collection, and my lemon basil is just starting to grow.

                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                      Me too. My "Cradle" box of ingredients is still overflowing.

                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                        I am happy to see the enthusiasm running into June. I was cooking happily along till around mid May, when I had to deal with health problems; which other than other things, took the cooking time out of my hand.
                                                        I was sulking everyday, looking at my full fridge: long beans, the herbs I bought for herbal rice salad and other things rotting, while eating take outs. Now when I have thrown out all the unsued perishables, I am ready to shop for more and get back in the game.

                                                        1. re: cpw

                                                          Oh, cpw, I feel your pain. I had just finished making the Spice Braised Nyonya Pork and had done little more than taste it when I had a family emergency and had to leave town. In addition, along with all the herbs and vegetables I'd gone to Chinatown for, there is a Bobo chicken in the fridge that I was thawing but is certainly now rotting. I know only too well what you mean about sulking over it. Glad to hear things are looking up for you. I, too, hope to be able to get back in the game before too long.

                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                            Thanks. I hope things are okay with you and your family.
                                                            Now I have to make another trip to Chinatown, but hopefully I am not carrying any more heavy things back!

                                                  2. re: Rubee

                                                    I've made this a bunch of times and it has become a regular condiment. A large squeeze of lime after mixing and contact covering with plastic wrap extends the refrig shelf life to two weeks.
                                                    This might be obvious to others but when I can get very good peppers the sambal is especially fine.
                                                    I have it with boiled chicken, bok choy, spinach, any asian sour soup, grilled strong flavored fish and of course BLT's.

                                                    1. re: wewwew

                                                      I imagine it would freeze pretty well too. ive had good luck with sambals in the past, as long as they are well sealed.

                                                2. Lemongrass and shallot sambal (Sambal Serai), Bali, Indonesia, p. 122

                                                  This is easy and citrusy as Oseland says. Chop up lemongrass, red or green Thai chiles (I used red), and shallots, all by hand. It is a chopping challenge, to be sure – he says it should be the texture of sand. Well, I threw in the towel (and knife) when it was more like gravelly pebbles.
                                                  Add peanut oil, lime juice and salt.

                                                  He says to let rest for 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Mine rested longer. But it didn’t make me like it. Maybe the rawness of the flavors, especially uncooked lemongrass isn’t to my taste.

                                                  Oseland says make sure the lemongrass is super fresh. I got mine from the Asian grocery and it looked good, but I suppose fresh out of the garden (I have plants coming on) or farmer’s market would improve this.

                                                  It did not complement my javanese grilled chicken, though Oseland says it harmonizes with garlic fried chicken and spiced roast chicken.