Spicy ex­plo­sion of flavour

South Burnett Times - - TASTE - ED HALMAGYI fast-ed.com.au

AUS­TRALIANS find it hard to come to any work­able con­sen­sus about what “real” Aus­tralian food is, a prob­lem that ap­pears to be­come ever more com­pli­cated as our pop­u­la­tion di­ver­si­fies.

And to be hon­est, with all due re­spect for the hard-work­ing English chefs, hav­ing a her­itage steeped in colo­nial Bri­tish cui­sine was never a great start­ing point.

But if you think our con­fu­sion over the pri­macy of lamb roast, meat pies or bar­be­cued prawns is di­vi­sive, con­sider our neigh­bours to the north. In­done­sia con­sists of more than 13,000 is­lands, 300 eth­nic groups and 700 lan­guages. That is an ar­ray of cul­tural prac­tices, ex­pe­ri­ences and tex­tures that is un­matched any­where on earth.

In their na­tional foods, there is no less di­ver­sity. While nasi goreng, sa­tay and gado-gado have been ex­ported to the far cor­ners of the globe, even the sim­plest list of well-loved uniquely iden­ti­fi­able dishes would stretch into the dozens.

Yet per­haps In­done­sia’s uni­fy­ing the­ory of eat­ing is not, in fact, the recipes, but rather what you’ll find along­side at each and ev­ery meal — sam­bal.

Sam­bal is a Ja­vanese word that de­scribes a spicy condi­ment based on hot chill­ies. At its most ba­sic, be­ing sim­ply chill­ies and a lit­tle vine­gar, it’s known as sam­bal oelek. This can be found in most su­per­mar­kets.

From there, re­gional vari­a­tions ex­plode into an el­e­gant cel­e­bra­tion of flavour. From lemon­grass and gar­lic in­fu­sions to co­conut and fer­mented shrimp, from soy sauce and palm sugar to lime and crispy shal­lots. There are dif­fer­ent sam­bals for dif­fer­ent dishes, and lo­cal spe­cial­ties that you’ll only ever try if you travel.

And not all sam­bals are ex­ces­sively hot — many for­mu­las use de-seeded chill­ies for an aro­matic and less in­tense ver­sion, par­tic­u­larly when del­i­cate seafood is on the menu.

SAM­BAL CO­RAL TROUT

serves / 4

In­gre­di­ents

1 young co­conut 1 red onion, finely sliced 4cm piece gin­ger, cut into fine ba­tons 4 cloves gar­lic, sliced 2 kaf­fir lime leaves, finely sliced 2 tbsp veg­etable oil 2 tsp sesame oil 600g co­ral trout fil­let, diced 1 tbsp sam­bal oelek paste 1 bunch snake beans, cut into 7cm lengths 2 tsp palm sugar, grated 6 green shal­lots, finely sliced on the bias ¼ bunch co­rian­der leaves 8 Viet­namese mint leaves, torn Steamed rice and lime wedges, to serve

Method

Pierce the co­conut and drain the wa­ter. Re­serve this for an­other use. Open the co­conut and use a large kitchen spoon to re­move the soft flesh, then slice into fine strips.

Fry the onion, gin­ger, gar­lic and lime leaves in veg­etable oil and sesame oil in a wok over a high heat for three min­utes, un­til very aro­matic. Add the co­ral trout and sam­bal, then cook for two min­utes, un­til the fish be­gins to change colour.

Mix in the snake beans and palm sugar and cook for one more minute, then fold in the shal­lots and herbs. Serve with rice and lime.

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