Indonesia: finding comfort in the blessings of Nasi Goreng
Tededeh. How have we gone so long without this Indonesian word being a part of our vocabulary? Hailing from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, this word describes a feeling that arguably everyone has felt at some point in time, usually after say, devouring some absolutely delicious Indonesian cuisine? Tededeh describes the feeling of gorging oneself to the point of feeling too full to stand up and simply leaning back heavily in their chair (or the sofa, if by some miracle one might succeed in rolling oneself there). In Indonesia, from where our next guest hails, this wonderfully painful feeling is often complimented by gently rubbing one’s belly as if to both congratulate and comfort the digestive system on a job well done. Tededeh, friends: Lesson one of today’s blog post. Learn it, and embrace it when you make and eventually scarf down tonight’s Indonesian specialty of: Nasi Goreng.
We met with our lovely Indonesian expat Meita at the local Asian supermarket in Stockholm’s Hötorget metro station. What might seem like a small, unassuming market from the outside is actually like stepping onto the bustling streets of any large Asian city on the inside. It’s stocked with all sorts of rare and delicious finds from the far East, including Asian fruits and vegetables like Japanese pears and baby bok choy (as well as some out of this world snacks that you’ll want to keep in your bag at all times… red bean cakes, we’re looking at you).
Meita showed us all of the ingredients we needed to get, and we headed to the kitchen to get started on making this classic rice dish that we learned is the ultimate comfort food for a rainy (or in our case, snowy) night in with loved ones. Read on to hear about the adventures that brought Meita halfway around the world, including pit stops in England and Wales, and find out how you can impress your dinner guests with this simple but flavorful dish that will have everyone saying “Aw yeah… tededeh!”
Serve with: sweet tea, a jasmine tea based drink that can be served either hot or cold, and is bigger than Coke to the indonesian population
Listen to: for some classic style indonesian sounds, look no further than Gamelan. For more modern tunes: https://open.spotify.com/album/10zw5KSWIScIG3miQhjyRt
Serves 4 people
500 ml of jasmine rice (it’s best if you cook it the day before so that the rice gets a drier texture)
2 chicken breasts, roughly diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 small shallots, finely chopped
½ of a yellow onion, finely chopped
Sambal terasi (or Sambal Oelek) - ½ - a few tbsp depending on your spiciness tolerance
Sweet soy sauce
2 pak chois
1 cucumber, sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
Boil rice according to instructions and set aside in a large bowl. Try to spread the rice out for the water to evaporate. This makes the rice less sticky, which is what you’re going for. No need to do this if you’ve cooked the rice the day before.
Chop and slice all the veggies. Save some of the garlic on the side.
For the pak choi slice the green part in large pieces and the white area in smaller pieces (both length and widthwise). Skip the bottom of the pak choi which takes a long time to cook.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add in olive oil, onion, garlic and shallots and some salt. Let the onions fry for about 5 minutes.
Add in the chicken and keep stirring making sure the chicken is evenly browned.
While the chicken is cooking add about 1 tbsp of sweet soy sauce and a few more pinches of salt.
When the chicken is starting to be fully cooked, add in a handful of the cooked rice and mix together. Keep adding the rice, about a handful at a time, and stir together. If needed add in some more olive oil not to make it stick to the pan.
When all the rice has been added, stir in another 1 tbsp of sweet soy sauce and about ½ tbsp of sambal terasi (or more if you like breathing fire).
Keep stirring and add in an additional 1 tbsp of sweet soy sauce and salt.
In a separate skillet, heat olive oil and garlic and once it’s fragrant add in the pak choi and stir-fry until it has a softer texture / translucent.
Fry up a bunch of eggs (either sunny side up or over easy) - we cooked the same amount of eggs as people (so 4).
In a large bowl mix together the rice and pak choi.
Slice the cucumber and tomatoes and use as garnish.
Serve with a fried egg on top and VOILA you are ready to enjoy this feast!
Kryddhyllan: What is your favorite food from home?
Meita: Hmm, it would probably be this, Nasi Goreng is one of the favourites, just because it brings back so many memories. It brings me to a very specific memory, when it’s raining outside and my mum and dad would start fighting over who was going to make the Nasi Goreng. And my dad was always like “me me me me!”, and we didn’t want him to make because he would always make it super spicy to torture us *laughs. But yeah, this reminds me a lot of home, and I cook it whenever I’m feeling homesick.
Kryddhyllan: That’s so nice, and a delicious way to remember home. What brought you to Sweden?
Meita: I think it was the curiosity of wanting to see the world and wanting to meet people with different stories and life perspectives. Just, I love talking to people about what makes them think a certain way or what makes them have certain principles. So just being abroad and being in a country like Sweden is something I’ve never done before, so here I am.
Kryddhyllan: Cool! Was it specifically Sweden that you wanted to go to or was it more by chance that you found this opportunity?
Meita: It’s definitely both, it’s by chance as well. I feel like in my life, my Greek friend summed it up nicely by saying “if you try and plan something, God will laugh at you”, and that’s basically my life story. Like I planned to stay in the UK and then Brexit happened and I felt so uncomfortable. And then I planned to stay in Wales, and then this opportunity suddenly showed up in Sweden, so now I’m just living planless. Life is more interesting that way. So we’ll see what happens.
Kryddhyllan: Cool! And since moving to Sweden, what’s your favorite new dish?
Meita: Oh! Yeah, I’m gonna go super boring and say meatballs, because it’s super easy to make and I’ve only recently learned how to make it from scratch, which is really nice, really simple and so much fun.
Kryddhyllan: Nice! Did you do it with the mashed potatoes and sauce and everything?
Meita: Yes, and lingonberries as well. I still need to learn how to make the sauce from scratch as well.
Kryddhyllan: What a classic. And what did you know about Swedish food before coming here?
Meita: I didn’t know much to be honest, because outside of IKEA there wasn’t much exposure to Swedish culture besides you know ABBA and the whole music scene. Uh, but we know about Swedish meatballs even in Indonesia it’s been trending. But also crayfish in the summer, I’ve heard stories, you know where everyone’s singing and drunk, and I thought “I wanna do that!”
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, the reason you get so drunk is probably because there’s no food, crayfish isn’t that much food.
Meita: Yeah, it takes effort to eat, you have to earn it.
Kryddhyllan: Definitely. What would you say is the best and worst thing about Swedish food?
Meita: It’s very healthy. Like, this entire country. If you go to any grocery store, it has the biggest selection of non-dairy and ecological, just very healthy options. That’s the best thing. I’d say the most negative thing, just because I’m Indonesian and we use a lot of different spices, is that I feel like I need to add a little bit extra flavor every time I cook here, but that’s ok. It’s different palates.
Kryddhyllan: That’s true, a lot of people have said the same. We don’t use a lot of spices beyond salt and pepper. But if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be any why? Keep in mind that it can be a category. Some people have said sandwiches, or Mexican food.
Meita: Somebody said sandwiches?
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, one of us (Alex) said sandwiches.
Meita: *laughs. Hmm, that’s hard. Maybe… pizza, because I’m twelve years old. But also because you can have so many different types of toppings, and you can even make it into different types of dishes, like there’s a Japanese style of pizza as well as there’s a Mexican style of pizza.
Kryddhyllan: Kebab pizza...
Meita: Yeah, even kebab pizza. There’s so many different types.
Kryddhyllan (Anna): You should also come and try the pizza place here in Liljeholmen, it’s nice.
Kryddhyllan (Alex): Have they given you a sponsorship?
Kryddhyllan (Anna): I think I’m just one more visit away.
Kryddhyllan: But if you could choose one spice to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Meita: Oh boy, and I’m not allowed to use any other spice?
Meita: That’s hard! I’m Indonesian! Hmm, salt I think is the one that I use on every single dish, it’s a classic, cuz I could cut out chili and then just use the actual vegetable.
Kryddhyllan: Good life hack! I think most people say salt. And what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Meita: Best meal I’ve ever had?
Kryddhyllan: You can take your time, it’s a difficult one.
Meita: Hmm… I think the time I nailed student cooking. It was during my undergraduate and was the first time that me and my good friend tried to make a full English roast, like a Sunday dinner. So it was roast chicken, roasted vegetables, they have this thing called Yorkshire pudding which is basically like a sunken muffin. You get it wrong and it turns into a muffin and is just disgusting, you can’t use it.
Kryddhyllan: Hold up, so you don’t want it to be a muffin?
Meita: No, instead of a risen muffin it’s supposed to be like a gravy boat. It’s just- you have to try it. It sounds weird, but it’s delicious. I don’t know why they call it pudding because it’s savory… It’s a savory pastry that you have with chicken, peas and boiled greens, and then you have your Yorkshire pudding on the side. And you pour the gravy in there, or everywhere. And then it holds it shape. That’s the best thing about a Sunday roast, and that time we nailed every single thing, the chicken was just falling off the bone and it was magical. Probably the best meal I’ve ever cooked. I’ve try to recreate it but it’s never been as good.
Kryddhyllan: Oh no, that’s sad. It was beautiful, but sad. A fleeting moment.
Meita: Yeah, I mean it could also have been the fact that usually it takes around an hour to prepare the dish, but because we were students and it was our first roast it took us over two hours and we were super hungry, so anything would have tasted beautiful.
Kryddhyllan: When you’re hungry… you’ll eat anything. What’s your favorite restaurant right now? Could be here, could be anywhere in the world.
Meita: That’s tough! Uhhh favorite restaurant… Ok so just because it holds a really nice memory, there’s this American burger joint called Five Guys.
Kryddhyllan: Ahhh Five Guys!! They have it in Montreal. Probably have a heart attack every time you go but it’s so good.
Meita: Yeah, I used to have Thursday evening dates with my boyfriend there. We’d have to walk half an hour to forty five minutes to get there and then the same back, so in our heads we were thinking “yeah we’ll burn it off, it’s only once a week”.
Kryddhyllan: Is it the same in the UK that the standard burger was a double burger?
Meita: Yeah, I would always order the little one.
Kryddhyllan: It’s awesome how the answers are usually related to memories. It’s not necessarily about the dishes or the restaurant but more what you experienced there. Thank you Meita! And thanks for reminding us about Five Guys, feeling ready for a burger now!