Sweet and sticky, savoury coconut milk is the first impression, if you travel to the city that never sleeps. To enjoy Javanese food and if you are strong enough with spicy food and your heart is actually healthy enough for the deep fried dishes explore the side streets and traditional markets
What I am thinking
Strolling along Solo City walk was the easiest place to start, in the evening you can find a few serabi (kind of coconut pancakes) vendors, you can choose toppings of either jackfruit or banana and chocolate. I don’t think the serabi sellers are willing to explore different ingredients which may work with this pancake. A few coffee shops are available and lots of roti (roti : sweet bread or kind of brioche) vendors, if you are looking for sourdough bread, you are in the wrong place, I’ll let you know when I find it..
Chicken satay, Gosh!! Everywhere, but if you ask people in Solo, they will point you straight to a place call Nonongan, on the junction of Slamet Riyadi which is still in the Solo City Walk Area. Not meaning to criticise or be rude but it’s a bloody junction where the traffic is chaotic, think about dust and fumes from mopeds and cars.. Will I recommended this to you guys? Well it’s back to you, it’s street food that we are talking about.
For many years I didn’t stroll into a traditional market, so I went to one called Pasar Nangka (pronounced Nongko), very little has changed, the market traders are still lovely they keep smiling and if white Caucasians are hanging around with you they show more interest with the “Bule”, and try to explain what they are selling and want to know why a foreigner is lost in that place.
My tips on how to haggle in the traditional market:-
• Speak their ethnic language properly, you then don’t need to haggle!!
• Don’t haggle more than 3% unless you think the price they are asking is ridiculous and you are shameless!!
• Don’t hesitate to ask the price for the product they sell, in my experience they are all honest and helpful.
• Do remember that all the the traders need to make a living so why are you bothering to haggle?
Charred cooking methods in Javanese is simple everything with word of “bakar” is always charred. And it’s common wrapped in banana leaves before char because we still have smoky flavour but keep the fish, meat or vegetables moist, and banana leaves hold all the spices too. This recipe is simple to prepare but the only problem is British weather that slightly difficult to char over charcoal outside especially in early spring! My partner called me a bonker when I Cook outside, anyway hey ho!! He’s the one that clean the plate. Serve this Sea bass with Nasi Bakar (rice wrapped in charred banana leaves )
2 small/medium Sea bass, cleaned
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 Shallots, finely chopped
3 cm fresh turmeric, finely chopped
6 pulp of tamarind, deseeded (or 1tbs of tamarind paste)
2tsp coriander seeds, slightly toasted and ground
2cm ginger, finely chopped
1 lemongrass, only the white soft bit finely sliced, discard the leaves
1tsp of salt
Lemon juice of 1 lemon, (keep the remainder of the lemon)
1tbs groundnut oil
30 cm square of Banana leaves for each fish
In a food processor or pestle and mortar grind the garlic, shallot, turmeric, ginger, tamarind, lemongrass and ground coriander seeds. Add the lemon juice and groundnut oil, stir well. Rub the Sea bass with the paste and put the remainder of the lemon inside the fish.
Prepare 30cm square of banana leave for each fish, and wrap the fish with it like a parcel, use bamboo toothpick to seal the leaves.
Char the parcel over charcoal, 10-15 minutes each side.
Nasi bakar (Rice wrapped in charred banana leaves)
2 cups of cooked rice
2tbs coconut milk
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1 kaffir lime leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
30cm square of banana leaf
In a bowl mix the cooked rice, coconut milk, spring onion, bay leaf and kaffir lime leaf, stir well. Wrap in banana leaf like a parcel and use bamboo toothpick to seal the leaf.
Char over charcoal for 5-10minutes each side, serve immediately.
– 2 plantain ( slices into 2 cm mix with 2tsp all ground all spice)
– 2 vanilla pods
– 150g of caster sugar
– 400 ml coconut milk
– 6 egg yolks
– 3 pieces pandan leaves, cut into 3cm
– Banana leaves to wrap the cake or ramekins
– Salt to taste
How to make :
Heat the coconut milk with the vanilla pod and allow to just come to the boil make sure you didn’t break the coconut milk. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar.
Pour the hot coconut milk over the egg yolks whisking vigorously. When completely mixed in, return to the pan.
Stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. This will take 5-6 minutes. Drain into a bowl, remove vanilla pods, grab a banana leaf. Give a piece of pandan leaf in it, insert the banana slices and pour the coconut custard. Wrap the banana and custard and steam for 25 minutes. Serve cool or hot
Ps : ground all spice in Central Java refer into “bumbu Spekkoek” ( mix 1 part ground cinamoon, 1 part ground nutmeg,1/2 part ground cardamom and 1/2 part ground cloves)
This recipe uses stale pastries, if available ask your local coffee shop for their stale pastries it would be amazing for this recipe.
Butter croissant-Pain aux raisins-Pain au chocolate, plantain, coconut butter pudding.
Pain aux raisins-Pain au chocolate and butter croissant are the best ingredients for this butter pudding (so scrap the maple pecan plait, almond croissant and apricot croissant)
12 mixed pastries (chocolate, butter, and raisin)
2 ripe plantains (darker skin is better)
1/2 long pepper
(All spices slightly toasted and ground)
Coconut cream custard
250ml whole milk
125ml coconut milk
200ml double cream
3 egg yolk
1tsp vanilla extract
35g caster sugar
Pinch of Demerara sugar
– Slice pastry into 3, spread with butter, slice plantain into 1cm on the diagonal and mix with spices mix, using paella dish (30cm), place the pastry and plantain alternate layers.
– In a medium sauce pan, whisk egg yolk cornflour sugar and vanilla extract, add milk, coconut milk and double cream, put on a low heat cook for 8 to 10 minutes, just make sure the custard is smooth but not too thick
– Pour the custard over the pastries and plantain. With a large wooden spoon press the pastries firmly to make sure all the custard soaks inside the pastry and leave it for about 3 minutes before putting it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C
– sprinkle with slightly toasted desiccated coconut (and usually still have extra coconut custard left to serve)
Serves 4 comfortably
July 1998, finally my sister married her boyfriend, after a two year battle with our parents because he is Chinese. Just wondering why my parents didn’t realise that Chinese and Javanese people had already mixed hundreds of years ago and my families favourite dish is “Bakmi Jawa”, a Chinese dish with a touch of Javanese. Just thought how the racism is just everywhere, behind our closed door and how food actually didn’t recognise it. Looking back was such a drama and now we can laugh about it and still Bakmi Jawa is our favourite even my British other half loves it so much.
This dish wasn’t difficult to make because basically it is the same as making simple noodles but it taste vibrant because of the aromatic chicken stock, and creamy candle nuts and egg yolk.
½ large free range chicken (skin removed)
400g fresh egg noodle
¼ kg white cabbage cut into 1 cm pieces
4 heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 eggs yolk, beaten
4 spring onions, finely sliced
½ tbs sweet soy sauce
5 Asian shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 candle nuts (or 10 raw macadamia nuts if you can’t find candle nut)
1tsp ground white pepper
1 kaffir lime leaf
3cm ginger, bruised
1 bay leaf or salam leaf
1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp salt to taste
1tsp dried shrimp, toasted and finely grind
2tbs vegetable oil
Clean the chicken and remove excess skin and fat. In a large pan boil the chicken, lime leaf, black peppercorn, ginger and bay leaf with water for 15 minutes, and simmer for 45 minutes, remove the chicken and keep 500ml chicken stock, shred the chicken into small pieces, discard the lime leaf, bay leaf and black peppercorn.
Use pestle and mortar to pound shallots, garlic, white pepper, dried shrimp and candle nuts to a fine paste.
Heat the oil in a large wok Fry the paste for 2 minutes until fragrant, add the spring onions,cabbage, chicken stock and sweet soy sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and noodles, simmer for 4 minutes until all ingredients are tender. Add the 2 beaten egg yolk, keep stirring and simmer for 2 minutes.
4. Spoon into bowls, serve with chopped parsley, thinly sliced boiled eggs (optional), fried shallots and pinch of ground white pepper.
Ps: if you prefer using dry noodle, Simply M&S medium egg noodles(250g) are the most similar that we use in my home town.
If you can’t find dried shrimp, use 5 large raw prawn (use food processor grind finely), prefer you didn’t use nampla (fish sauce) because it’s too strong.
Pickled cucumber, ginger and birds eye chilli would compliment the dish
– 1 large cucumber, ½ cm sliced
– 1tsp ginger paste or grated ginger
– 8 bird eye chillies
– 1tbs salt
– 3tbs rice wine vinegar
– 3tbs water
– 1tbs caster sugar
in a bowl rub the sliced cucumber with salt, leave it for 30 minutes, rinse under tap water. Put the cucumber in a bowl add ginger paste and birds eye chillies. In a small pan bring the boiled rice wine vinegar, water and sugar. Add the hot vinegar into the cucumber mix.
As we saw on Nigel Slater’s Eating Together season 1 episode 5 (Sharing plates), how I learned to cook without using standard measurements, pinch with fingers are, Javanese spiritualism in cooking comes from Pawon that means place for ash, as in traditional Javanese kitchen always separated from the main house or in the back of the house, I even still remember my grandmother from paternal side her kitchen was a small stable as my grand father owned a few horses and carriage when Indonesia was still Nederland East Indies. Pawon always uses dry wood or charcoal to cook and women are the main act to do the job.
When I was young, my grand mother always woke up at around 4 am in the morning starting the ritual of “Dadhek Geni” or making a fire and she always said to me go back to sleep, I always sneakily followed her and it was such fun to play with wood and fire. Nothing can stop me and I think I was her favourite grandchild, as long as I remember she never snapped at me.
She usually offered me peanut brittle so I was out of her way so she can do her “ritual of cooking”, from washing the rice I found it so complicated for me only to cook the rice in her method, she used a saucepan to start cooking the rice and after the rice absorbed the waterand she transferred it into a steamer to finish the cooking.
The ritual of cooking passed down from my grand mother through the generation, devoted to feeding the family became my mothers job, the ritual early morning wake up and preparing breakfast for the family. Trust me breakfast was not always easy with five kids, but Nasi Goreng was our favourite breakfast and as school started at 7 am so she had to have cooked the Nasi Goreng before 6 am.
This Nasi Goreng recipe is from my mother
500g cooked and cooled long grain rice
150g prawns, heads and shells removed,
2tbs vegetable oil
1tbs salted butter
4 spring onions
1tbs sweet soy sauce
1tbs tomato ketchup
Salt to taste
For the paste
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
5 red chillies, deseeded and sliced
2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
½ tbs dried shrimp
½ tsp shrimp paste
½ tsp white pepper
To serve :
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 baby gem lettuce, washed
4 eggs, deep fried
To make the spice paste, use pestle and mortar to pound garlic, shallots, chillies, shrimp paste, dried shrimp and white pepper to the paste
Heat the oil in the wok add butter, fry spring onions for 30 seconds add the paste fry for about 2 minutes add the prawns and fry another 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir well, add tomato ketchup, sweet soy sauce and cook for about 4 minutes.
To serve, garnish the fried rice with tomatoes, cucumber, baby gem lettuce and individual deep fried egg. Topping the rice with crunchy fried shallots and chopped parsley.
Rice is the most important dish to the Javanese community, if the meal didn’t have rice in it, you can’t count that you have a meal. When political conflict rose in 1965 my grandmother said to me, she didn’t know what to do with the bulgur wheat that the government gave to them as a substitute because at that time rice was to difficult to find as the economy was falling apart.
Living in the UK for the past ten years, something that I have learned is to embrace multiculturalism of food, black pudding, bacon, vindaloo, taleggio, courgette, wild garlic.
Trying never hurt anybody, especially if food is involved and trying to put a Javanese influence into a British dish sometimes works well.
My coconut rice pudding is my favourite for a cool autumn day, replace milk with coconut milk, adding Pandan leaves instead of vanilla extract and put kafir lime leaves instead of nutmeg, but British berries to serve is a must.
Picture : Alex Hannam for Leicester Mercury
This recipe is inspired by Pisang Molen Kismis (banana and raisin roll) Rum was the only alcoholic liquid that I knew when I was a kid, to be honest my mother spoke to me whilst I was writing this recipe about Rum and Raisins. This Dutch influenced recipe uses raisins, rum and mixed spices, my mothers uncle married a Dutch lady. She also mentioned how difficult it is now to find rum in a cook shop in my home town due to the new alcohol regulations. She never drink it, rum only use for cooking, it reduces the eggy taste when she made “fla” (custard cream) and for soaking raisin when bake Roti Kismis (similar with raisin brioche). Anyway before too much gossiping with my mother here’s the spice rum and raisin banana roll for you.
5 bananas (try to get skinny ones)
79ml golden syrup, plus 4tbs for drizzle
1tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground mace
30g ground almond
1 ready roll puff pastry
1 egg yolk
Extra plain flour for rolling.
In a medium bowl mix together the raisins and all the spices and stir well, add the rum and golden syrup, just make sure all raisin are covered with the liquid. Wrap with cling film and leave it at least 4 hours (I leave it to soak overnight). Take the raisins before use for filling and keep 2tbs of the rum liquid to drizzle over the banana.
Roll the puff pastry into two 18x32cm square, cover with ground almond and semolina before placing two and half bananas a long in each puff pastry, cover it with raisins, be generous with raisins just make sure you use all the raisins, drizzle with golden syrup and extra spice rum liquid. Roll the puff pastry around similar like you make a sausage roll.
Cut each long roll into 4, so you will have 8 all together, brush with egg yolk. Bake in the oven 195°C for 20-24 minutes.
This sticky, lovely spiced rum and raisin banana roll is perfect for a rainy autumn day.
Ps : if your bananas are fat, cut the bananas in half lengthways, so you can use all the spice raisin for the filling. Don’t discard the spice rum liquid after you took the raisins out, you still can add raisin into it for another recipes (I did spice carrot and raisin cake).