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***May 2009 COTM*** Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Island of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore

Hi there! Welcome to the links thread for the **May 2009 Cookbook of the Month** -- Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore by James Oseland. You may wish to bookmark this thread for future reference, as it contains links to all the other threads for this book.

We will use this thread for general commentary, recipe planning, links, discussion of the Introduction and Cuisines and Geography chapter, and any other goodies related to this COTM.

Happy cooking and baking and merry sampling! Yum yum! Enjoy! ♥

Here are the links for the threads for the full length recipe reviews:

Street Foods (satays, salads, and snacks)


Rice and Noodles


Fish and Shellfish


Foods of Celebration (beef, goat, and pork

Tempeh, Tofu, and Eggs

Sweets and Beverages

Ingredients, Techniques, and Equipment


Plus, there's a lively discussion here, as a bunch of us set out on the ingredient quest, gearing up to this COTM:

Happy cooking! Yay for lemongrass tied in knots!

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  1. WOOHOO! Thanks for setting these threads up. For those who haven't secured a copy of the book yet, here's a link to a dozen or two recipes from the book http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6107...


    1. Could you add the condiments thread to the list above? [Or I am blind, and it is there and I can't see it.] Thanks!!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: smtucker

        We took the liberty of adding a link to the condiments thread to foxy fairy's post above.

      2. Today was a successful trip to a local Asian supermarket called Lee Lee's. I'm going to list what I bought with some pics since I know some of the local 'Hounds are joining in this month. I went to the one in Peoria:

        Mung bean sprouts (I think they were mung bean, they weren't labeled but were smaller than the soybean sprouts)
        Chinese chives
        Fresh ginger, lemongrass, galangal, and turmeric
        Choy sum and kai lan
        Asian eggplant
        Fresh curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves
        Jasmine rice
        Candlenuts - 1.79, Indonesian aisle
        Shrimp paste/belacan - 1.29, Indonesian aisle
        Tamarind - Indian aisle, 99 cents
        Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) - I bought the recommended Cap Bango brand - 2.19
        Double black soy - recommended Koon Chun brand - 1.99
        Daun pandan (frozen) - 89 cents
        Daun salam (dried) - 59 cents, Indonesian aisle
        Black mustard seeds - 89 cents, Indian aisle
        Tofu (packaged and blocks in tubs)
        Fresh rice noodles and wheat noodles
        King Mackerel steaks

        It's such a large store, I might have missed this, but couldn't find sweet soybean paste, palm vinegar, or any type of fresh red chiles. They did have some red ones mixed in with the package of Thai green chiles I bought, and I also bought some fresh-frozen in the freezer aisle labeled "ot tuoi" in Vietnamese. However, I know both of these are spicier than Holland red chiles. I'm going to check Fry's and Albertson's for Fresno chiles; I know I've seen them there before.

        Some other ingredients for the book I saw - long beans, water spinach, dried shrimp, head-on fresh medium shrimp (4.99 lb), palm sugar, shrimp chips (Indonesian aisle), and all the whole spices mentioned in the book.

        (last pic is fresh turmeric)

        9 Replies
        1. re: Rubee

          Daun Pandan, curry leaves, and Kaffir lime leaves:

          1. re: Rubee

            Rubee, thanks for the pictures, that is very helpful.

            I have a general question for the COTM gang. I have the book, and I have been planning to join in the cooking. But I have a new issue with tastes and textures, and I have developed an intolerance to spicy foods (even mildly spicy foods). I am getting the sense that a lot of these recipes are very strongly flavoured and can be spicy.

            The symptoms come and go, and I am hoping I can find a window of tolerance so I can join in the fun. (BTW I have been really enjoying everyone's posts.) But any suggestions of recipes that might be a bit kinder on my sensitive mouth? I am usually very tolerant of spices and strong flavours, so I'm a little bummed about this situation. I'm hoping it will pass soon. Would love any heads up about recipes that might go down well....

            1. re: moh

              There was were posts on mild chicken dishes that might suit you -- check the poultry board -- both a braised dish and a roasted chicken dish.
              If you're looking for mild, look for things that don't call for red chiles -- it's the flavoring paste that makes the dish spicy.
              The two beef dishes I made were not spicy hot. The beef rendang was delicious!

              1. re: moh

                Thanks for posting those interesting photos, Rubee.
                I got the book at the library but I'm not sure I'll use it. I could find the ingredients but I can't see devoting the shelf and refrigerator space to stuff that I wouldn't use very often. The recipes wouldn't be too spicy for me but most of them appear to be too spicy for my daughter.

                1. re: NYCkaren

                  I've been surprised at the lack of heat in the 2 main, 1 veg dish I've made. I had to amp up the Java Chicken Curry to get it to my liking. That said, my liking is pretty spicy. But still, I wouldn't have called the Fragrant Fish Stew spicy so much as citrusy.

                2. re: moh

                  I was expecting the recipes from this book to be very strongly flavored. But the recipes are not only less pungent, but less spicy too, and as many have noted before - lacking the oomph.

                  So far I have made:
                  Lemongrass scented coconut rice (wonderful aroma, no spices at all)
                  Beef satay (has no chiles at all. The marinade seemed pungent, but the mellowed down after marinating and cooking. You can reduce the amount of shallots and garlic to reduce the pungency)
                  Beef Randang (I haven't yet reported this one. The chiles amount is 5-20, I don't remember which one, but I used 5 holland chiles. This dish was not at all spicy for me, but it was spicy for my 3 year old, so I washed the beef for her. You can omit the chiles if you want. Also I was expecting to be very strongly flavored, as I was comparing it to the previous randang I have had in restaurants, but it was a mellowed version and we did not misse the pungency at all because the flavor is well rounded).

                  All in all, I would suggest to omit the chiles, cut down on the shallots and garlic, or even ginger (substitute it with galangal maybe).

                  Shrimp paste is another story. Based on what everybody else is writing about it, I haven't developed the courage to use it.

                  Good luck with these symptoms, I had them too few years ago!

                  1. re: moh

                    moh -- Try the Opor Ayam -- Javanese Chicken Curry, page 275. Very subtle. Three of us have made it so far, all concurring on the subtlety of flavor. This is not even mildly spicy if you take the chiles out of the flavoring paste, as suggested by NYchowcook. Since I did find this a little bland for me (not just lacking in spice, but actually requiring an additional flavor), I added pineapple to this curry for some sweetness, which you might like.

                    Look here:

                    1. re: foxy fairy

                      [off topic]

                      foxy, the candlenuts and daan salam should be delivered today. Let me know at smtucker at mac dot com when you will be in Boston and we can figure out an exchange spot.

                    2. re: moh

                      As others have mentioned, many recipes are not spicy, but are meant to be fragrant or layered with subtle flavors, so I think there are plenty of recipes to try. For example, the pan-seared kingfish is only flavored with ginger, garlic, onion, and the mild Holland peppers (though I used Thai chiles)

                      From reading the book, it seems that the heat comes from the spicy sambals, pickles, and/or dipping sauces meant to be used as condiments. On p. 117, he mentions "Throughout the region sambals are served at virtually every meal and eaten in combination with virtually every dish, from coconut-milk based curries to vegetable stir-fries. The most important dish they are served with, however, is rice".

                      I plan on making the javanese sambal, nyona sambal, and lemongrass sambal, and at least one dipping sauce and one pickle to go along with the dishes for the rest of the month.

                  2. The NY Times did a nice profile of Oseland a few years ago, that I thought others might find interesting.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: NYchowcook

                      Nice! There's a recipe in there, too. Don't know if that one, Ching Lee's Braised Lemongrass Long Beans, is in the book or not. Did he ever respond to your invitation to come cook with us?


                    2. Here's more reading on Oseland, for those interested. He's quite a fascinating man with a fervent love and appreciation for the food, people and culture of the region!


                      he gets his spices from Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights

                      and NYC hounds: for vegetables, he likes Choi Kun Heung on Chrystie Street. “It's small and a little hard to find, but you can get beautifully fresh vegetables there-baby bok choi, garlic chives, long beans.”

                      A bit more about James, and rave of his book

                      I did invite James to join our discussion, and hopefully he he will!
                      If he does, we may want to prep by reviewing his participation in this prior forum:
                      Lots of helpful info from him posted there.

                      My sleuthing work revealed his favorite last meal would be:
                      ikan pepes – a whole fish slathered in a kaffir lime-y spice paste then
                      grilled inside a banana leaf (he says you can sub chicken or duck


                      coconut rice--lots of coconut rice;

                      eggplant curry with coconut milk and cinnamon and cloves;

                      stir-fried water spinach that had just been picked five minutes prior;

                      a glass of cool, sweet limeade made from kalimansi limes; and, of

                      the spice cake.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: NYchowcook

                        Interesting search. Oseland essentially changed his career from film to food "industry" by getting an invitation to Jakarta.

                        One thing about coconut rice, I had it once in the weekend and then again for Monday lunch and I am already thinking about when am I going to eat it again.

                      2. Regarding leftovers.....
                        Last night I had an acident and fell hurting my lower back so could not help in the kitchen tonight. DH, being the concerned and caring person he is, opened the fridge, found the spicy chicken we made a few days ago, some eggplant curry from last night. Nuked it all separately, made a fresh pot of steamed Jasmine rice and brought me a tray. You know, it was almost better than the original. The flavors were more pronounced and the curry had a nice heat I had not noticed yesterday. 'Course it could have been the martini he made which enhanced the sensation.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Gio

                          Have to totally agree with (while sending great sympathy to) Gio. 1) these dishes all seem to be even better after sitting a while (leftovers have been universally adored) and 2) martinis *do* seem to make everything better.

                          1. re: Gio

                            Oh sorry to heat that Gio! Hope you're feeling better today, though it sounds like your DH knew exactly how to make you feel better!

                            I thought both my leftovers yesterday for lunch (fish, and chives) tasted even better the next day too.

                            1. re: Gio

                              So sorry you were reduced to leftovers for something as nasty as back pain. But these are high-quality leftovers. I too have found the leftovers to be really full and robust. Hope you make a full recovery quickly.

                            2. I got the book from the library and plan to make trip to chinatown tomorrow to buy ingredients and have a major cookfest on Monday. So I can't speak for the recipes themselves yet, I'm loving the writing in this book, as well as the photos of ingredients. I definitely appreciate the context he gives for each dish in the stories he tells. If the recipes themselves turn out to be worth repeating, this may well go on my to-buy list. (Damn you chowhound, introducing me to great cookbooks! My shelves are overfilled already!)

                              1. I love this book! Just reading it makes me drool--but the recipes I've made so far have been great. I'll have to come back and add my comments to the appropriate threads. Great choice!

                                1. For fellow 'hounds who are loving Indonesian via Oseland, I came upon a website that features Malaysian, Indonesian and Nyona cooking w/ recipes

                                  BTW, here's Oseland's website. He links other websites, including the Malaysia one above.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                    I had known about Oseland’s site, I think I even posted a link to it at some point, but then I’d forgotten about it. You prompted me to take another look and I see that he has a recipe, Fragrant Fish Stew with Lime and Lemon Basil, that is very similar in ingredients to the recipe for Grilled Whole Fish with Lemon Basil and Chiles that I struggled with and posted about here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6165...

                                    I liked the flavors in that dish a great deal, but the procedure was quite onerous—at least for me. The recipe on his site looks like a wonderful way to capture the same flavors without the hassle of dealing with the banana leaves. Many thanks for the reminder to take a look. When I get a hankering for that dish again, I’ll try the Web site version rather than the book version.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      That recipe is also in the book - it was the first one I made. I liked it, although I'd add more chiles next time. And yes, I think it was considerably easier than the ordeal with the banana leaves (at least by the sound of it).

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        Duh! Missed that entirely. I'll definitely have to give that a try. Thanks.

                                  2. I have posted about Kevin's chicken recipe on the poultry thread, but I feel I have to make a general comment.

                                    This recipe is absolutely fabulous and easy. I have now made it twice and friends have all made it as well. One friend made it for a big group and was showered with praise. The simple pairing of soy sauce and worcestershire sauce is stellar.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      I totally agree Oakjoan. It was one of the first recipes i made from this extraordinary book and it is one of the dishes that will have a permanent position in my rotation both for family and friends.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        I agree too! Great recipe -- my family's already said they'd be happy to have this dish ANY time I feel like making it. :)

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          I guess I better add it to my list of recipes to try. It's the least Indonesian sounding of the recipes in the book (which he sort of says), so I ignored it at first, but a great recipe is worthwhile no matter what.

                                        2. I had so much fun with this cookbook, even though I could only participate for the last half of the month. I've always wanted an excuse to buy fresh turmeric, galangal, and all those other fun ingredients. Plus Oseland's writing is so captivating. His love of the place really comes through.

                                          However, my stomach has not appreciated the chiles/ginger/coconut milk part of this cuisine at all. Too rich, too spicy = reflux. I haven't even been using full allotments of chiles in the dishes! Although I also think we eat spicier food than this at Thai restaurants, without problems. And yet, most of these dishes haven't been setting well. Possibly it would be better if I made them for lunch than for dinner, but that isn't likely to happen.

                                          In any case, the Javanese Grilled Chicken is a keeper recipe for me. If I ever see a copy of this book used, I'd pick it up, but I'm not going to pursue it new. And now I need to do something with the rest of the turmeric, galangal, etc. I've got ingredients I never even got around to opening. Maybe I need to try a few more recipes anyhow.

                                          1. This has been a fun month of food in the smtucker household. Though I have tried to participate many months, this is the first time I truly committed. Buying all the ingredients before the start of the month ensured that I was in, which is a good thing.

                                            The funny thing is, half the ingredients I purchased were not in the recipes I ended up making. So I could regret the frenzy of Asian food store investigations and purchases, but I don't. If I hadn't had ingredients, I know that I would not have gone to a market to get just one item and never would have cooked from this book.

                                            This is the first time I have ever cooked "blind." I have never had food from these countries before which means I had absolutely no idea how anything was "supposed" to taste. With no knowledge of the cuisine, I was constantly surprised by how quickly things took to cook, or how long. Turns out, understanding techniques and flavors isn't a given from cuisine to cuisine when the underlying process is totally different. I now realize that my intuition about preparing food are based on years of experience. I know what a recipe means when it says sautee mushroom, for example. I know the temperature, how long this will take and what the mushrooms look and smell like when they are done.

                                            When I started the month, it was like going back and learning math in a new language. Fun, exciting and more laborious. Thank goodness Oseland was so very specific in his instructions throughout the book. Otherwise, I think the outcomes would not have been worth eating. I particularly loved his stories, and often made the items where the anecdotes were particularly heart warming.

                                            I have renewed the book for a third time and plan to continue investigating new recipes and remaking the ones that we particularly loved. Sounds like a few others will be there with me.

                                            18 Replies
                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              Nice! You've captured some of the things I find so enjoyable about joining in the Cookbook of the Month. It's also helped me in ordering in a restaurant; knowing what a certain technique is, a flavor profile I like, or what exactly a preparation means when looking at a menu (for example, dry-fried on a Sichuan menu or "golden sand" on a Hunan menu, which I learned from cooking from Dunlops' books).

                                              I'm always amazed when someone posts that they don't need cookbooks or 'believe' in recipes and then, even get many responses agreeing with them. I never understood it - do they just make what they know, do they not cook with ingredients unfamiliar to them, or do they just "wing it" when trying to make a traditional paella or ma po tofu? I love exploring a cuisine, reading about the country and regional differences in dishes, being educated on how to identify, cook and store ingredients, and learning techniques or traditions used in that part of the world. Definitely for me, it's part of what makes cooking and being a Chowhound fun - always learning and trying something new.

                                              1. re: Rubee

                                                I confess that I've been a bit disappointed with this book. I expected the "epiphany" I got with Dunlop, or Vietnamese, but it just hasn't happened. I've liked some of it well enough, but a lot of the dishes didn't really repay the effort involved in making them. Having said that, there's loads of stuff I haven't tried yet because I didn't have a whole lot of time to cook in May. It's also a cuisine that I'm not that familiar with, and perhaps you really need to make the sambals to ramp up the flavours, which seem quite muted to me..

                                                I've also been experimenting with the Malaysian/Indonesian recipes in Charmaine Solomon's Asian cookbook, and I have to say that I've generally found them easier, and tastier. I made a beef in soy sauce recipe tonight that was gorgeous, and very simple to prepare.

                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  I hate to say it, but my feelings are pretty much like greedygirls. I think I was the person who first recommended this as May's COTM, and I was looking forward to cooking from it so much. I ended up liking some of the recipes, but loving very few. And given that I found them more labor intensive than the Dunlop or Vietnamese recipes (and again, I agree with gg that those months were an epiphany), I wanted to be thrilled with the results. I DO think making the sambals would make a world of difference, and hope to get around to that when I try a few more things from this book. But, overall this wasn't the big hit I was hoping for. But I'm really glad that there are such big fans of the book. But I'll be turning back to Dunlop and the Vietnamese books much more often when I want asian food than to this one. And I'm going to try gg's recommended Asian cookbook!

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    I'm rather ambivalent about this month's COTM. While I wasn't blown away by everything we cooked, I/we liked most of what we did cook. I've learned over the years that I can project what the taste of a dish will be when I read through a recipe the first time. Perhaps that's because I'm old enough to have at least tasted many different foods. This has helped me sift through a cookbook and choose a recipe I think we'll enjoy, both in the prep and cooking and the eating. Another thing I have to think about is ease of executing the recipe. As you know, I prep and DH does the actual cooking so I have to envision the procedure and whether or not he's going to feel confident at the stove. I was so surprised when he made his first pan sauce effortlessly. I simply read the steps to him and he followed.... I didn't tell him how finicky this can be sometimes.... Since I had never eaten Indonesian food before this past month, I had nothing to compare it to so in that regard I can relate to what SMTucker wrote.

                                                    I think having had a garden, started from seeds, has educated me to the various flavors of different vegetables and herbs. I was growing Thai basil and lemongrass here before I ever heard anyone speak about them. So too with unfamiliar varieties of hot chile peppers, for instance.

                                                    COTM has given me a new interest in cooking. It's very easy to get into a rut after cooking for so many years and then have to alter how I work in the kitchen. The lively and varied discussions among the other home cooks renews my interest every time. So thanks to all who make COTM so very enjoyable for this old broad. Here's to more and merry cooking....

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      I think part of my disappointment with this book is that I was at least partially familiar with this food from a local restaurant that I love. I've never gotten anything there served with a sambal (this may just be because I don't order those things), and almost everything I've had is delicious, spicy, and usually all just a bit different. So I had very high expectations. Nothing I cooked from this book came close to what I can get from that restaurant. But these days I never go out for Chinese or Vietnamese.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        That's a good point. I enjoyed what I cooked from Cradle of Flavor, but nothing came out anything like the yummy Malaysian/Indonesian food I've had at restaurants. So yes, it was disappointing in that regard. Still, the Javanese Grilled Chicken is a total keeper recipe for me, great for grilling for a group since the chicken is mostly cooked ahead of time, plus it tastes great!

                                                    2. re: LulusMom

                                                      Me too. I've been tempted to buy Cradle of Flavor, but I'm going to look at the book gg recommended.

                                                    3. re: greedygirl

                                                      greedygirl - is it this one? Great reviews on amazon and 8.29 !!


                                                      1. re: bayoucook


                                                        This is the edition you want. A friend gave me this book to me last year and I have used it to augment the Fuschia Dunlop month, the Vietnam and most recently during Cradle. It's a wonderful compendium of the cuisines of 15 Asian countries. And, as I've said before and GG agrees with.... the recipes are authentic and very easy to make. Not to mention delicious!

                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                          Is it the same one with a different cover? The title's the same.
                                                          Looks like a fabulous cookbook.

                                                          1. re: bayoucook

                                                            It's basically the same, but the one I referenced is the original. Apparently the publishers have produced several later editions but without some of hte original material like information about each cuisine, equipment and pantry lists, etc. I might just be partial to my own copy tho....I love it!

                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                              Mine has a different cover again! Maybe the UK edition. It does have all the information that Gio mentions.

                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                I ordered and have just now received a copy of the edition that bayoucook linked to above. You can read the first 185 pages of this edition at this link:


                                                                The book I have certainly seems to have all the introductory info you mention, Gio. And I do think that this is the one that's currently in print in North America.

                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                  Well - I'm so glad you added that link JoanN! After reading snatches of the inroduction to the edition you have I'm so tempted to get this one too. This seems more logically updated than the others I've seen and read about. I have the 1976 edition and it stands to reason that much has changed over the years. And, she seems to have added another country. Amazon has the 2006 edition for less than $20.00..... (>x<!)

                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                    The Solomon book was my introduction to Asian food other than Chinese. It is well worth having, particularly for the lesser-known cuisines included, such as Cambodian and Burmese (as was). Have had this book since forever.

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      I'm really interested in trying some of the Burmese dishes. Especially since I discovered this blog, which has some interesting recipes.


                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                        I have the first (1976) edition. I was wondering if I need both and I'm beginning to think I do.....

                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                          I just checked and mine is from 2000. There are some updated notes, principally about coconut milk which didn't come in tins back in 1976. Interestingly, she recommends diluting it most of the time, by various proportions. I like this because it makes the food a bit lighter.

                                                    4. My daughter remembers the chicken satay from this book with particular fondness. She has decided to make a batch as her Super Bowl meal, since meat on a stick is "manly." [Yes, she cracks me up.]

                                                      Anyhow, the point of this post is she recently acquired a Ninja blender to make her morning smoothies. Wow! The paste for the satay is perfect without the addition of water. So, for anyone that needs additional justification to buy a high-end blender, creating Malaysian and Indonesian flavor pastes can go on your "pro" list.