Category Archives: Food

Food

looking for recipes?

I decided to add a new category to my blog, and that is “Recipe”. So I went back and labeled all the recipes I’ve posted here over the past decades. That means I can now list them all in once place, right here:

Todd’s Instant Pot pork green chile, attempt #1

Like a lot of people in Colorado, I like green chile. Denver is a 9 hour drive from Hatch, New Mexico, but we’re close enough to be in the orbit of Hatch chiles. So when I got an Instant Pot for Christmas, I decided to try to use it to make pork green chile.

The green chiles I got were a gift from a friend who bought a bushel and did all the prep work (thanks, KY!) so I just have a pile of quart-size Ziploc baggies of green chiles ready to use. This batch is a bit on the spicy side, I found, hotter than Anaheims. Maybe they’re Big Jims. I don’t honestly know.

Full green chiles, roasted and prepped

My experience wasn’t perfect, and during the process, I realized a fundamental truth I’d never thought much about. Colorado-style green chile sauce that you’d use to put on a burrito or eggs is a lot spicier than Colorado-style green chile that you eat like soup with tortillas. My original goal was to make the former, but I ended up with the latter. Next time I’ll do it differently, I think. Here goes with the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 pounds of pork shoulder, diced
  • 1 quart bag of prepped green chiles
  • 6 tomatillos
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano (a totally different plant than European oregano)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground dried New Mexico chile
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 32 ounce (weight) chicken broth, plus 2 more cups of broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • corn starch

De-husk, wash, and cut up the tomatillos, garlic, and onion. Blend them together in a blender.

This is about the right amount of onion, tomatillo, and pork to use.

Dice the pork and dice the green chiles (separately).

Set the Instant Pot for Sauté, add 1 TB of oil, and brown the pork.

Add the blended stuff, the green chiles, the chicken broth, the tomatoes, and the spices. Seal the IP and set for pressure cook High for 75 minutes. Yes, 75 minutes. You want the pork to be so soft it melts in your mouth. When it’s done, let the steam do the “natural release” for another 30 minutes.

First look after opening the Instant Pot lid
Before thickening

Switch the Instant Pot back to Sauté. Make a slurry of corn starch and water, and slowly add enough, stirring into the soup to thicken it up.

Once it seems thick enough, serve it up with warm flour tortillas.

You can also use this to smother burritos and eggs, but my taste buds say it’s not spicy enough for that.

Green chile turns a plain bean burrito into a yummy meal

Todd’s cranberry ginger relish recipe

Todd’s Cranberry Ginger Relish Recipe

This started as a recipe I found online and made for Thanksgiving sometime around 2000, and I’ve made it several times since then, slightly simplifying and improving it along the way. It’s fresh, vegan, gluten-free, and tasty. It requires no cooking, unlike Martha Stewart’s similar recipe.

Ingredients

Cranberries

Buy one 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries. Here’s the kind I’ve used most often:

Note that if you can’t find fresh cranberries, in a pinch you can make this using two small cans of whole berry cranberry sauce instead. Just dump the cranberries into a colander and rinse off all the gelatin and sauce and stuff, so you only have the berries left.

Apple

You just need one apple. It’s best to use a sweet variety, because the sweetness of the apple is going to help cut the tartness of the cranberries.

Ginger Root

You need one medium size ginger root, as fresh as possible. It should be about the size of three of your fingers, like this:

Sugar and Water

Regular table sugar. You’ll only need a tablespoon or two, depending on your preference of how sweet you want the relish. The sweeter the apple, the less sugar you need. And some tap water.

Preparation

First, rinse the cranberries and discard any bad ones.

Peel and rinse the ginger; if you don’t know the trick about how to peel ginger easily, watch this video.  Cut the ginger up into one inch chunks.

Rinse, peel, and core the apple. Then cut it into one inch chunks.

Put the ginger, cranberries, apple, one tablespoon of sugar, and a half cup of water into your food processor. Pulse it all to chop everything up to the consistency of relish, because this is relish! If it’s not blending nicely, add a little more water. Be careful not to blend it too much or it will become more of a sauce than a relish.

Once it looks nice, taste it. If it’s too tart for your tastes, add a little more sugar and blend it all together very briefly. Then taste again, and add more sugar if needed. (If you screw up and add too much sugar by accident, add a tiny bit of lemon juice to bring it back to the tart side. Nobody will know.)

When it gets to be not too tart but not too sweet, you’re done. Pour it into a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or more (overnight is fine), for the flavors to blend together. Stir before serving.

If you have more than you need, spoon some of it into a plastic container to freeze. Freezing and thawing doesn’t really hurt the consistency, I know from experience.

Todd’s makeshift mocha latte recipe

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe. Well, actually, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. But it’s time for a recipe.

I like coffee. And I occasionally like chocolate. But I prefer good coffee and dark chocolate. Also, I don’t have an espresso machine at home, so I can’t make a real mocha latte. But with a little experimentation I’ve found a way to make a coffee+chocolate drink at home that’s just as good as a mocha latte.

It’s really a mix of two things – strong coffee and strong chocolate.

Chocolate

In whatever mug you’re going to drink it from, mix about 3/4 cup of half-and-half with 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate powder. Microwave this for 30 seconds, and stir. You don’t want it getting too hot, of course, but it needs to be hot enough so the half-and-half dissolves the chocolate. If you need to nuke it longer, go for it.

Coffee

While the sipping chocolate cools, make one Aeropress full of coffee concentrate, using whatever your favorite beans are. Every Aeropress user has a slightly different technique. Did you know there’s an annual competition to see who can make the best coffee from an Aeropress? There is. The technique I use came from one of the winners of that contest.

I use the inverted Aeropress method with roughly 17g freshly ground coffee and 190 F tap water. I stir for 10 seconds, then let it steep for another 60 seconds. I prefer Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans, and use a metal mesh instead of the paper filters that come with the Aeropress.

If you’ve never used an Aeropress, you should get one. It makes better coffee than any other method except a pro-grade espresso machine, and cleans up easily. The coffee that comes out of it is stronger than most coffee, so most people dilute it with 25% to 50% hot water. But for this recipe, we’re not going to dilute it at all.

After the 60 seconds is up, press the coffee concentrate out into your mug with the cocoa concentrate. Now stir them together, and enjoy.

The richness of the half-and-half (instead of milk) and the concentrated coffee flavor make this drink not taste like the sickly sweet mochas you find at some coffee shops.

 

FOONG Coffee & Bar

If you’re a friend or a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed I have a thing about coffee. Well, on my previous trip to Bangkok, I discovered a really cool little coffee shop by total accident. I wrote about that back in November 2015. The place is called FOONG Coffee & Bar.

After that visit, I wrote this:IMG_0772

I knew I was in the right place when I walked in and the first thing I saw was this, a cold drip maker. Sadly, they didn’t make any cold brew coffee that day, so I had another cappuccino and a Banoffee dessert.

 

Next to seeing the new Star Wars movie, the second highest priority thing for me to do in Bangkok was to return to FOONG, hopefully to get some cold drip coffee. This time, I inquired in advance via Facebook. The owners were very kind and basically said, “For you, we will make a special batch.” So we agreed on what day I would visit, so they could make all the preparations. It takes several hours to make cold drip coffee correctly. And if their cold brew was anywhere near as good as their cappuccino, I knew it would be worth it.

So on Saturday January 2, Beth and I caught the Orange Flag Express Boat from the Central Pier at Sathorn near our hotel north to the Phra Arthit pier, which is next to FOONG. When we first got there, the door was locked and nobody was inside, so we went to the little restaurant next door and had some curry lunch. While we were eating, the owners arrived and opened up the store. By the time we finished lunch, several customers had already found their way in.

We grabbed a table and I chatted with one of the owners a little. She knew who I was without having to ask. So I said that of course I’ll have some cold drip coffee. Beth had iced chocolate. Off and on over the next couple hours, I talked to both the owners. They’re a couple who own and run the coffee shop. I never thought to ask their names, but the man is the main barista and knows a lot about coffee, while the woman is the chef and apparently deals with all the food. They had a third guy helping out who wasn’t there the first time I visited.

After a few sips of my iced coffee – “iced coffee” in the American sense of the term, not the way the Indians or Kiwis use it – I realized I should get a photo. They serve it in a wide but short glass, with one big chunk of ice.

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It was good, not surprisingly, though I don’t think I liked the coffee blend as much as some for this. It was a blend of beans from Thailand and from Rwanda, and tasted very much like dark chocolate. But it didn’t have the fruitiness that I like so much in cold brew coffee. Still, I’d have it again.

I didn’t want another coffee drink, so for my second drink I ordered tea. They had a few small glass jars of teas, and I picked the one that smelled best to me. Then they prepared it in a glass siphon. I’d seen people make coffee in these, but never tea. The tea came out really good, and I used it to help wash down a huge piece of chocolate cookie cheese cake.

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When it was about time to go, I found that they had bottled up some of the cold drip coffee for me, for taking home. It’s in these glass flasks, so I took one, which is enough for two smallish portions.

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That prompted me to make some ice in our hotel room fridge, using mineral water. And so a couple days later I enjoyed some iced coffee while writing this blog!

I haven’t explored very much of Bangkok, really – just a few isolated pockets around the city. So for all I know there are a dozen really good coffee shops comparable to FOONG. Or maybe there are none, and The Force drew me here. Either way, of the six or eight coffee shops I have visited so far in Bangkok, FOONG is the best, with great service, a nice ambiance, and really good coffee and food.

our day at cooking school in Bangkok

Today was our first special experience in Bangkok. We took a Thai cooking class at a local cooking school not far from our hotel. The class started with a trip to the Bang Rak fresh market, and then we went to the cooking school for the rest of the day to make and eat several dishes. We had tom yum goong, pad thai, phanaeng curry with chicken, green curry with chicken, and mango with sticky rice. I had prepared a couple of those dishes in the past, but never made my own curry paste from scratch. And my one attempt at tom yum goong in Broomfield was mostly a bust. Today’s class was from about 8:40am to 1:30pm, and left everyone full and happy. Here’s the whole story…


Since we started planning our trip to Southeast Asia, one thing high on my own priority list has been food. I’ve been trying new foods and learning as much as I can on a limited schedule and budget. I knew I wanted to take a cooking class in Thailand and in India, and maybe one in Cambodia. So the day after we arrived in Bangkok, I started looking into classes.

I settled on Silom Thai Cooking School. It’s near the hotel where we’re staying, the Pas Cher Hôtel de Bangkok. And it gets really good reviews online, plus their website made the whole thing sound like great fun. A half day class is 1000 baht. That’s a huge amount of money in a city where an hour long massage is 200, and a plate of pad thai is 40. But it was worth it. Especially once I found that the school is air conditioned and that in addition to our instructor there were two other helpers doing all the legwork in the kitchen — cleaning up after each dish we made, prepping the next thing, etc. The class is taught in English. Ironically, Beth and I were the only native English speakers in the group. The instructor was Thai, one student was Japanese, and the other six were all from Taiwan.

The meeting point for the start of the class was inside one of the BTS Sky Train stations. That’s Bangkok’s elevated light rail system, separate from their bus system, their bus rapid transit system, their subway system, and their river express boats. Yes, they have a lot of modes of public transit here, and that doesn’t count automobile taxis, motorcycle taxis, and tuktuks.

Anyhow, getting to the meeting point was the hardest part of the whole class. We went to the BTS station near our hotel, bought our tickets, and then went to the platform. But because we were traveling in rush hour, all the trains inbound to the city center were already packed. We (and hundreds of other commuters) had to let the first two trains go past because they couldn’t squeeze any more people on board. Finally, we got on the third train, went only two stops, and then got off at the station where we were to meet the group. Of course Murphy’s Law states that if you get on a jam packed train on the right side, the station where you get off will have the platform on the left. But Beth and I muscled our way to the door, got off the train, and soon found the meeting point.

As other students arrived, we introduced ourselves and had some idle chit chat. Once the main instructor arrived, she said that because of the number of students we would be splitting into two groups. So they read off names for the first group, which included us, and we all went with a different instructor, named Nam.

Guess what the first step of the tour was? Nam handed out pre-paid BTS tickets, and we got right back on a train headed the other direction, went two stops, and got off at the same station where we started! In fact, we soon learned, both the market and the cooking school are very near our hotel. If we’d known all that, we could’ve just walked to the market to meet up with the group in about five or ten minutes and saved about an hour of commuting hassle and two train fares. Oh well.

We proceeded into the narrow alleys of the fresh market as a group. At the first stop, we got shopping baskets for everyone in the group, and then went to the coconut seller. We saw the coconut shredding machines, and learned about the two types of coconut “meat” — one that’s pure white and one that’s speckled grey because it contains some of the skin (not the shell). Nam said we could also buy coconut milk and coconut cream here, but that we would be making our own from scratch instead.

Then we continued to the seafood shop, where she taught us how to tell fresh shrimp from shrimp that are too old. They have shrimp from the river and shrimp from the sea there. But we didn’t actually buy any of them, because her helpers had already been to the market earlier to buy enough for all the dishes we needed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were cleaning and shelling them for us back at the cooking school.

Next up, we bought herbs and vegetables. I’m not sure I remember everything we got, but I know we picked up lemon grass, finger ginger, galangal, cilantro, something she called Thai cilantro but which I think is the thing we usually call culantro, pandanas leaves, kaffir limes, kaffir lime leaves, baby garlic, coriander roots, green onions, chives, little eggplants (they looked like tomatillos to me, and are very different than aubergines, the big purple eggplant we see in the US usually), sweet basil, tamarind paste, long beans, and both green and red chiles. We learned there are two types of tamarind, a sweet and a sour; the sweet is sold with the skin on to differentiate it from the sour which is sold without the skin. We got to sample and smell all the herbs, which made me smile.

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With baskets full of produce, the students make our way to the cooking school building

Then we headed back to the cooking school, where we put our stuff away, got aprons, drank some cold water, and washed up.

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Here I am hamming it up with our instructor Nam (photo by Beth)

The first dish we made was tom yum goong, which is the Thai hot and sour soup with shrimp that you see at every Thai restaurant in the US. I’ve made it before by carefully following a recipe, and it took hours, plus some herbs that are hard to find in Broomfield, kaffir lime leaves vexing me to no end. But this recipe was actually quite fast to cook. Prepping the ingredients takes a while, but making the soup just takes a few minutes, not hours. And the result tasted a lot better than the big pot I made years ago.

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Ingredients for tom yum goong (Thai hot and sour soup), including chives, Thai cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, tomato, birds eye chiles, mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice

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These individual burners really crank out the BTUs. Like Luke Skywalker said, “We’re going in, we’re going in full throttle.”

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The end result = pretty decent soup

Mine was a bit spicy. I put two red birds eye chiles in, plus chili paste, and then it was garnished with more red birds eye chile at the end. The student from Japan could barely choke hers down, even though she only used a half a chile compared to the two I used. I guess she’s not used to spicy food.

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Todd and Beth, happy to be sweating over our blazing burners

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Instructor Nam blurrily shows how to add the liquid into the sticky rice to go with mango for dessert

Once we finished our soup, and I finished sweating because of my soup, it was time to prep ingredients for the second dish, pad thai with shrimp. The helpers prepped all the shrimp, which was awesome. So all we had to do was cut up some chives and tofu. We made the dish with fresh noodles, so there was no need to pre-soak them for a long time; just five minutes in cold water before cooking. The result looked good and tasted fine, but it could’ve been better. I added extra peanuts and ground red chile on top at the end, but I think it needed more fish sauce, frankly. Still, it was filling, especially since we ate it around 10:30.

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Some of the ingredients for pad thai

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My first pad thai

Next, it was time to make phanaeng curry with chicken. This one didn’t take too much work, either. It was just chicken and long beans and the curry. I wasn’t too impressed with this one. My curry separated into oil and the sauce. I felt like I must have done something wrong, but the instructor said that at home you should just make this without the oil. The coconut cream provides the fat to cook everything in. We just used oil because we were sticking with the school’s official recipe, but that’s not how she makes it. It tasted fine, but didn’t look nice, so I didn’t bother taking a photo to share with you.

Moving right along, we then started on green curry. This one took a bit longer because it was our chance to make curry paste from scratch. In short, the students all chopped up the stuff in this photo into tiny pieces, while one student toasted some of the dry seeds you see on the left — coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and cumin seeds. Then Nam showed us how to grind everything together using this big mortar and pestle. She said you can use a food processor at home, but we’re doing it the old fashioned way for class. She pounded the dry ingredients, then added some of the fresh ingredients, and then let each student have a hand at grinding, one by one. In the end, we had a big pile of green curry paste.

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Ingredients for green curry paste

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Instructor Nam demonstrates how to grind the spices into curry paste (photo by Beth)

The paste went into the pan with soybean oil, eggplant, shredded carrot, kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil, shredded finger ginger, and chicken. And then as you are stir flying this stuff, you add the coconut cream and then coconut milk. This one came out better than the previous curry. Here’s a photo of how mine looked, with some rice.

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With all the ingredients in the pan, it’s time to start the fire

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My first green curry from scratch — just don’t eat the kaffir lime leaves

The final course was mango with sticky rice. It was delicious, and I’m including a photo. But the students really didn’t have anything to do with this. The instructor’s helpers prepped the mangoes, steamed the rice, fried the mung beans, etc. Note: It may look like there’s some sauce on this plate under the mango and rice, but that’s just where the plate has a different color. Several of us students made the mistake of thinking the plate design was actually some sort of cream, but it’s just an optical illusion.

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Mango and sticky rice

And then class was over. We each got a little recipe book to take home. The Japanese student got a special one in Japanese to go with her copy in English. Strangely, the six Taiwanese students didn’t get any special book. I guess they figure if you speak Chinese you can read English just fine, but Japanese people can’t? It doesn’t make sense to me, but whatever. We all cleaned up, paid our 1000 baht, and said our farewells.

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I guess this is a list of places their past students have come from. I noticed Denver was on the list. (photo by Beth)

Once we got back to the hotel, Beth and I both needed a nap. It’s hard work cooking and eating all day!

nasi padang, and I didn’t know it

Beth and I were walking around Kemang this morning, looking for something to eat for an early lunch. Many places were closed, and at least one of the warungs I found a sign for didn’t even exist anymore (such is the way of Indonesian street food, apparently). But after visiting an ATM for some cash, we stumbled into a sign that said “RESTORAN SEDERHANA MASAKAN PADANG.”

My Indonesian language skills are nearly zero, but as with any foreign language, my vocabulary is 90% food words. I know this doesn’t surprise any of my friends, but it has surprised people in foreign countries I’ve visited when I know all kinds of words related to eating, but not the word for “money” or “bed” or “toilet”. So I recognized that this sign meant “restaurant SOMETHINGSOMETHING cuisine Padang.” Knowing that the Indonesian and Malaysian languages put adjectives after nouns, I knew this last part meant “Padang style cuisine” whatever the hell “Padang” means.

So we went inside, and got a shock. The host directed us to a table, but instead of bringing us menus, a platoon of waiters rapidly and immediately descended on the table, bearing all kinds of stuff. In about 20 seconds, they put something like 15 small plates of food down, along with a plate of rice for each of us, a cup of hot tea for each of us, and two small bowls with warm water. Beth and I looked at each other with WTF expressions. She tried to explain that there is no way we can eat all this food, but none of these guys spoke enough English to understand. I thought maybe on Saturdays the lunch is like a prix fixe thing where you get all this stuff for one price, whether you want it or not. Beth thought maybe the guys were pulling some kind of scam on us by forcing us to pay for way more food than we ordered. So before the main waiter left, she got him to explain as best he could about each dish. His English was limited but he knew “chicken” and “beef” and “egg” and “chile” which was a little helpful.

This isn’t my photo, but this is what our table looked like with all the plates on it. Photo from Wikipedia.

We picked out the half dozen plates that looked most appetizing, and then pointed at the rest and pantomimed for the guys to take them away. Then we started to eat. Most dishes had two of each thing on it, like two pieces of chicken, two eggs, etc. The other dishes had a small pile of stuff, like green chile, sliced vegetables of some variety, etc. The food was all really good, and we ate with fork and spoon in the Indonesian way, which we had learned two or three days earlier.

The Indonesian way (also, supposedly, the Malaysian way and the Thai way) is to use a spoon and fork, but no knife. Fork goes in left hand, spoon in right. You use the spoon edge to cut pieces of whatever you’re eating, then use the fork to scoop that and some rice onto the spoon, and then put it all into your mouth. In theory, all tough stuff should be cut up in the kitchen, which is why you don’t need a knife at the table. At the end of the meal, to signal you’re done, you put the fork down on the plate facing down, and then put the spoon on top of it, also facing down.

Anyhow, while we were eating, I noticed that phrase again on the rim of my plate — “masakan padang.” So I looked it up on Wikipedia. Between that and observing the other people in the restaurant a while, a few light bulbs came on for me. First, the service style is normal, and is part of the Padang style. They bring out plates of everything they are serving that day. You just eat whatever you want, and then at the end of the meal they come count it up and charge you for what you ate. Second, this style of food is also typically eating with the fingers, not with fork and spoon, which explains the finger bowls. Lastly, I learned that the restaurant we were in is one of a very popular and famous chain of Padang restaurants.

We ended up eating the rest of the meal partly with fingers and partly with the fork and spoon technique. Everything we had was very good, I thought. At the end of the meal, when I made the universal gesture for “bring me the bill” the waiter added up everything. It came to around $11, which is a little more than I expected (five times as much as dinner last night) but way less than what we’d spend for two meals and drinks at the Irish pub nearby.

Now that I’m writing this back in our room with internet, I found the website for this restaurant chain. And here is the Wikipedia article that explains the style of food and eating experience we had.

Last night was our first Indonesian warung experience and today was our first nasi padang experience (of a style I now know to be called “hidang”). My self-directed Asian food studies are coming right along.

 

our first warung experience did not feature Daniel Craig (updated)

Written October 10, 2015
Updated October 11, 2015

Friday Supper

Last night, we sought out the warung dining experience. A warung is a small family-run shop in Indonesia. Most commonly, they’re tiny restaurants, but the word can also refer to small coffee shops, internet cafes, or even phone booths.

From what I can tell, there are sort of three types of commercially served food in Indonesia.

At the bottom of the ladder are the gerobak makanan. These are little hand carts where a man or woman sell a single type of thing. So far, I’ve seen some that sell fried egg rolls, some that sell pieces of fruit, some that sell fried rice (nasi goreng), and so on. I’m not sure how you could make a whole meal on this stuff. I think you’d have to go to multiple carts to do that. So these seem most suited to getting just a snack. The nice thing about these carts is that the owner can just push them around to wherever business is best. They’re all over in Jakarta, probably one every 100 meters or less.

gerobek makanan – food carts – By Gunawan Kartapranata (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

In the middle are the warungs, as I already mentioned. They hold a half dozen to a dozen people and are more permanent. They have a place to sit down, even if it’s just on a stool on the side of the road.

And at the top are restaurants, where you go in, sit down, and get served by a wait staff. These usually have a menu (though stay tuned for the story of our visit to one that didn’t). The Indonesian word is “restoran” which I’m guessing is taken from the Dutch word “restaurant” which looks a whole lot like the English word “restaurant”.

Anyhow, Beth and I had been wanting to visit a real warung, so we went out in search of one. And when we found one called “007” we had to try it (the new James Bond movie, “Spectre”, was released yesterday). There was a sign pointing down a long narrow walkway. We walked, and then there it was. It held about six people, maybe eight in a pinch.

Wanna see what it looked like? I didn’t take this video, but thanks to the amazing power of Google, I just learned that someone else posted a YouTube video of Warung Nasi 007 in Kemang (Kemang is the part of Jakarta that we’re in). Check it out…

There was an array of dishes behind glass, and an L-shaped bench and counter around the display. There were no signs showing what anything was called, or what they contained, or how much they cost.

Fortunately, we sat next to a young woman with fairly good English skills, and she was our savior. She interpreted between us and the warung proprietress. This style of warung is a “warung nasi” meaning that you get a plate with a scoop of rice (rice is “nasi”) and then order other stuff to go on top. We didn’t know how to order, but the young woman — clearly of the internet generation — explained, “You just point and click.” So we just pointed at what we wanted. Beth got a few items on her rice, and I got a few slightly different ones.

A lot of the food was based on tempeh, one of two words that our impromptu interpreter couldn’t translate but I knew because they’re shared with English. The other was soursop, which in Indonesian is “sirsak”.

Beth's photo of her plate. I had the same veggies (the corn and green beans) but had a tempeh dish instead of the egg, and also a tofu thing much like agedashi.

Beth’s photo of her plate. I had the same veggies (the corn and beans) but had a really good tempeh dish instead of the egg, and also a tofu thing much like agedashi instead of the tiny dried-and-fried minnows.

It was a bit awkward, but everyone had a good time. The girl seemed to enjoy helping us figure out what to eat, we got a good and very authentic meal, and all the other patrons got to giggle at the funny American tourists. I asked our interpreter where she worked, and learned she works at the front desk of a nearby hotel. That explains why her English is pretty good (and presumably why she was so helpful).

Side Note 1: The next day, after lunch, we were walking toward the supermarket, which is next door to this hotel. Beth recognized the girl at the front desk, so we went in to say hi. It was a funny little meeting. Even in this huge city of 11 million, it can be a small world! Beth tried to explain that she was going to the Cat Cabin, which nobody around here seems to have even heard of. The desk clerk didn’t know the word “cat” or “cabin” or “kitty” so I did a pantomime of a cat — “meow, meow” with my paws up in the air — and then she got it, though I think she felt we were a little crazy to pay money to go see and touch cats.

Side Note 2: To my knowledge, there is only one Malaysian or Indonesian food restaurant in all of Denver, and that’s a place called Makan. Beth and I went there a few years ago, and I wasn’t really impressed. But now that I’m learning more Indonesian (which is essentially a dialect of Malaysian) I learned that “makan” just means “eat”. Similarly “makanan” means “food” or “that which is eaten”. It’s a stroke of marketing genius to name your ethnic restaurant “eat” in the language you’re representing. What do you want to do? Eat. Where do you want to eat? Eat. “Masakan” means cuisine, by the way, though I won’t hazard a guess as to whether makan, makanan, and masakan all share the same root word.

Here is the receipt from our meal. Given the current exchange rate, this receipt is about $2.28 in US dollars. That’s a good price for two plates of hot food and two cold drinks! And that’s how you can tell this place is “real” Indonesia, not one of the dozens of targeted-at-westerners restaurants in Kemang.

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For an idea of how hard it is to keep prices in perspective, we went out to an authentic Irish pub after dinner, for drinks. We each had two drinks. The bill came to over 10x this amount. Imagine going out on an inexpensive dinner date in Denver, maybe burritos or something for $20. And then in 30 minutes you and your date spend $250 for margaritas afterward. Prices are so topsy-turvy in Indonesia.


Update: Sunday Lunch

Beth and I went back to Warung Nasi 007 for lunch today. The hotel clerk who helped us the first time was right; the food selection is better during the day. In addition to many of the same dishes we saw Friday at supper time, on Sunday at lunch there were also about four different preparations of whole fish, an eggplant dish, and fried chicken.

We used the “point and click” method to order what we wanted on our rice. Here’s a photo of what I ended up with. It’s an egg and vegetable fritter, some green beans, a piece of fried chicken, and a tempeh triangle. I had a bottle of cold water to go with it.

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Beth ordered more items on top of her rice. I guess she was hungrier.

I regretted not taking some photos Friday night, so I snapped a few today. Below is the ultra dingy fan on the wall, along with the toy gun that, I guess, gives it the 007 flair.

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And here is a shot of the window to the warung (and me in the reflection).

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It says:

WARUNG NASI 007 – the name of the joint, remember that means a warung that serves rice with stuff on top

MM. FAHMI – I assume that is the name of the owner

MENU

Sedia – available

Soto Ayamtraditional chicken soup

Indomie Rebus – boiled instant noodles

Minuman – beverages

ES JERUK – iced orange drink

SODA SUSU – milk soda

BIMA SUSU – I don’t know what this means

JOS SUSU – I don’t know this one either. Could it mean JUS SUSU, which would be “juice milk”?

KOPI – coffee

KP SUSU – ?

DLL – ?

After eating, I grabbed one of these weird looking things. They’re kept in a big metal container with a lid. I had no idea what it was, but I figured I should try it.

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On the way out, I asked what it’s called. “Kerupuk” is the answer, but I didn’t know what it means. Thanks to Google, I’ve since learned it “kerupuk” is a cracker, and this particular type is a kerupuk kampung. That means it’s made of tapioca starch that’s been seasoned (probably with salt and finely ground dried shrimp) and then fried. Apparently, these crackers are traditionally served on top of soto ayam, the chicken soup mentioned in the window! Ah, so that explains a few things.

Beth and I ate the cracker by itself (it was tasty), but it’s meant to go with a bowl of soup.

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And now, the damage. Today’s lunch cost 47,000 rupiah, significantly more than the 34,000 we spent on supper Friday night. I guess some of that is due to the kerupuk and bottle of fizzy orange drink I took with me to go.

That’s $3.46, according to today’s exchange rate. As predicted, that’s about 1/6 what we spent for our Western style breakfast this morning.

 

Thanksgiving 2014 Menu

For Thanksgiving this year, Beth and I are volunteering at the Turkey Trot, which is a big race in Washington Park (Denver) to raise money for the Mile High United Way. I volunteered two or three times about 10 or 15 years ago, but not recently. After that, we’re gonna make a semi-traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home. And then possibly go see a movie.

For a moment I thought of doing the 100 Mile Thanksgiving Challenge again. I did that years ago and won a prize for my menu. All the ingredients were grown or raised within 100 miles of home, except for some things like salt. But it’s tough to round up all the ingredients to pull that off. So here’s what I have planned this year:

  • roast turkey: I ordered a small non-GMO free-range turkey from Mary’s, and plan to roast it in a pretty traditional manner. Not smoked, not brined.
  • wild rice and sausage stuffing: Beth loves her mother’s stuffing recipe, but it’s not really compatible with how we’re trying to eat these days. So I chose this recipe, which is lower carb and has more interesting ingredients: wild rice, sausage, and fennel stuffing
  • cranberry sauce: Beth wants to look at Whole Foods and see if they have anything made fresh and local. I’m guessing they won’t, so we’ll probably just get this from a can.
  • green salad: This is pretty standard fare, and I don’t have plans to do anything unusual or special here. I’ve really grown fond of Annie’s Goddess Dressing lately.
  • maybe gravy: Beth really likes gravy, and even though we’re not having mashed potatoes she may make some to put on the turkey.
  • chocolate mousse: We’ll buy this or something similar from a local bakery. I’m just not into making desserts.

What we’re not having: mashed potatoes, bread, bread-based stuffing, pumpkin pie, the American green bean casserole thing