Indonesia is a country I don’t know much about. Other than drooling over fantastic travel photos on Pinterest, all I know is that it is made up of many islands. When I heard about the Indonesian Food festival at the Westin Pune, I was all agog. An invitation to meet Chef Ridwan Hakim and learn Indonesian cooking first hand at the Indonesian food Masterclass was the perfect weekend gift.
The rains have arrived, and so has an intense desire to eat hot and spicy food. Indonesian food with its liberal use of chilies is perfect for this season. Chef Ridwan taught us two basic dishes but he also managed to share a lot about Indonesian food and the Indonesian people. He shared tons of useful information in a short time, and I am going to use all those tips while trying to recreate the food right here in my kitchen. But first, I am going to tell you about what a blast I had, and what you can look forward to at the Westin this month.
The Gado Gado is pretty well known as an Indonesian dish. The star of this is the peanut dressing. It is hard to find authentic peanut dressing anywhere – I am pretty sure most versions start with peanut butter from a jar. Chef Ridwan told us that the peanuts were put through a grinder several times until they became super fine and their natural oil was released. Must be a very high powered grinder because I have tried to do this at home in a food processor and I have lost patience. I fondly remember that machine in Whole Foods where all you have to do is hold a jar below the spout and press a button. The machine whirs and you get all natural peanut butter with zero additives. So anyway, this kind of peanut puree is the base of the peanut sauce.
All kinds of veggies can be used in the Gado Gado and they can be raw and steamed. I particularly liked the fried tofu chunks and the crisp blanched green beans. The chef took a bit of each veggie, added some sambal and some peanut sauce and tossed it lightly with his fingers. This salad tasted very fresh and sweet at first, but the heat from the chili paste slowly seeped in.
Another Indonesian favorite is the Nasi Goreng. I have only ever eaten frozen versions of these from Trader Joe’s. The real one looked pretty similar, but I wouldn’t have guessed the way it was made. The chef scrambled eggs and put them aside, then added sambal or chili paste to hot oil. He added half cooked rice to it and stirred the rice until it absorbed the chili and got cooked. Some veggies were added in at the end.
The chef served this with some grilled shrimp which is of course not my cup of tea.
Both dishes were drizzled with a thick sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) which enhanced the taste a lot.
Questions flew back and forth and the chef shared more about Indonesian food.
I got a chance to catch up with Chef Giuseppe Lioce who is the main man at Prego. He whipped up a special dessert for me to taste, a brownie-cake made with almonds and chocolate with Nutella frosting, topped by an Amarena cherry and served with homemade vanilla ice cream. I was in heaven! Be sure to taste this dessert the next time you are at Prego.
Lunch was at Seasonal Tastes where there was a wide variety of Indonesian dishes on the buffet. I tried some stir fried veggies, a coconut milk based curry and the Gado Gado. It was past 3PM by the time we ate and some dishes on the buffet were a bit ‘done’. I really enjoyed the Mediterranean Mezze dips and loads of salad. Dessert at Seasonal Tastes is always a lavish affair and there was ample to please people of all ages.
One point to note – there were a lot of vegan options on the salad bar at Seasonal Tastes – tofu caprese, another tossed tofu salad, sweet potato salad and so on.
Head to the Westin this month for a taste of fiery Indonesian food that is just sweet enough to make you love the chili.