Most of my grocery shopping I do at my favorite supermarket Trader Joe’s. Unlike many larger stores, they don’t have an ‘international’ or ‘ethnic’ food isle. Even those supermarkets that do, generally don’t feature Indonesian products. Most often you can only find Chinese, Thai, or Mexican food products. The one familiar product that these supermarkets do carry is the well-known Indonesian style chili paste Sambal Oelek, made in the US by Huy Fung (Yes! The makers of the famous sriracha hot sauce). Luckily, we do have a few Indonesian grocery stores scattered in Los Angeles.
One day I was walking through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and thought: what can I use to cook an Indonesia-inspired meal? There are blogs and cookbooks featuring recipes with Italian, Indian, or Vegan cooking with TJ’s. But Indonesian cooking with Trader Joe’s has not yet been explored. So, here we are with my first recipe inspired by Siomay Bandung – a popular street food made with steamed fish dumplings, potatoes, tofu, egg, bitter melon, cabbage, peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce.
Yes, I can hear the purist voices say; that will not be authentic or original. Of course, it will not be the original version you eat in the city and country of origin Bandung and the rest of Indonesia. Outside the country borders, it often boils down to having to improvise when you cannot find the right ingredients, and one has to look for alternatives. That’s why I say ‘inspired by’.
The point of this all is that, with inspiration, improvisation and shortcuts, you can still serve a delicious meal that has some Indonesian flair to it. Let’s face it: we don’t always have the time to cook from scratch. And you can’t always go to an Indonesian import store. My mother taught me that the art of Indonesian-style cooking also involves working with the ingredients you got: make something from nothing!
So, what did I find at Trader Joe’s to get started?
Look for Shu Mai steamed dumpling in the appetizer/snack refrigerator. While there are different types of Siomay variations in Indonesian cuisine with different fillings including mackerel, chicken, shrimp, crab or a mixture of chicken and shrimp, Trader Joe’s Shu Mai dumplings only come with chicken or pork.
Siomay Bandung is served with tofu (get the extra firm), hard-boiled egg, and vegetables such as potato, cabbage, bitter melon and of course the most important peanut sauce, sweet soy sauce and slices of lime.
This recipe is for 2 people
1 box of Shu Mai, steamed
10 tbsp of TJ peanut butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed/minced
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp chili sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp soy sauce
8 tbsp palm/coconut sugar
1/2 tofu extra firm, steamed and diced
1 large potato, peeled, quartered, cooked
1/3 bag of shredded cabbage, steamed
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
1 lime, in wedges
Boil the eggs, peel and cut in half
Boil the potato
PEANUT SAUCE – a very simple recipe:
Sautee minced garlic in oil, add peanut butter, chili sauce, sugar and salt and enough hot water to make a thick peanut sauce.
You can make sweet soy sauce yourself and save the rest for later:
1 cup salty soy sauce
1.5 cups palm/coconut sugar
Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered and stir frequently until sugar is dissolved and soy sauce has thickened. Takes about 10-15 minutes.
Fill a steamer with water and prepare the steam basket with parchment paper (to prevent sticking)
Arrange dumplings (no need to defrost), tofu, cabbage in basket and steam for 10-12 minutes.
Cut the lime in wedges – so people can squeeze the juice over the dish themselves.
Serve on a plate: 5-8 dumplings, some steamed potato cubes, some steamed tofu cubes, 1 egg cut in half and two table spoons of steamed cabbage.
Top it all off with 1/2 cup of peanut sauce and 2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce.
And 3 wedges of lime on the side – so you can squeeze it over the entire meal.