Crunchy Is Better


Peanuts are woven richly into Indonesia’s culinary livelihood, and any attempt to recreate the experience at home must include crunchy peanut butter.  Preferably the “natural” variety, as it comes closest to expressing the nut’s pure essence that so animates Spice Islands cooking.  Other options may provide adequate taste, though natural crunchy peanut butter best captures the textural savor as well.

This week finds the journal in just such a fortunate position, introducing Indonesian Chicken and Peanut Soup.  A glance at the ingredients Fine Cooking lists in the October/November 2018 issue reveals big tastes summoning the tropical isles.  Enough to jump past spring and into glorious full summer vacation mode.

There’s coconut milk, of course, providing a wonderfully aromatic sweetness that’s more than just a little evocative of swaying palms.  Quiet!  Can’t you hear the sea breeze rustling the fronds?  Juice from a lime or two adds sunlight glistening over the waters, as well as a green freshness the cilantro reinforces.

A heaping spoonful each of Madras curry and sambal oelek (the latter to garnish) remind us that, among all the world’s jungle-lined shores, we’re in the Far East.  Verdant paradise in the general sense, coastal Southeast Asia in the specific.  Though the location hardly matters, as we’re in a much better place than, well, here, staring at a monitor as another work week looms.

This spectacular scenery enlivens the palate and particularly favors the chicken, which is an inspired protein choice.  It also greatly enhances the peanuts, which, while not original to Southeast Asia, found a happy home in the region’s cuisines.   Selecting the right peanut butter is important, too, as it can add an extra day at the beach.

*****

Indonesian Chicken and Peanut Soup

  • 8 ounces rice noodles (*1)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or safflower oil (*2)
  • 2 large shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 4 cups chicken broth (*3)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (*4)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (*5)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (*6)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • fresh cilantro and sambal oelek (*7), for garnish

Cook the noodles as their package instructs.  Drain them in a colander, rinse with cold water and set them aside.

Meanwhile, set a stockpot over a medium-high flame.  Pour in the oil and, when it shimmers, add the shallots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to pick up color, about three minutes.  Add the curry and stir constantly, until it’s fragrant, about ten seconds.

Add the broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar and coconut milk.  Whisk until the peanut butter is fully incorporated.  Add the chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. (*6)

Add the lime juice and season with pepper.  Divide the noodles evenly among four serving bowls and ladle soup over them.  Garnish with cilantro and sambal if desired.

NOTES:

1 – Choose the variety that best suits your desires; for me, it was mai fun.

2 – Coconut oil is the better choice, if it’s available, as it accentuates the coconut milk in the slop. (*8)

3 – As I’ve repeated to excess previously, homemade chicken stock is the ideal option.  In this case especially, as it includes ginger, an ingredient the soup lacks.  The vague traces of it add a nice nuance.

4 – Continuing the previous lecture, use “natural” peanut butter if it’s on the shelves.  True, most varieties of peanut butter will do the job, though not so stylishly.

5 – If you have it, use palm sugar.  In this case, it’s more “authentic” and, more vitally, it’s better for you.

6 – Alternate plan: use instead four raw boneless, skinless thighs.  After the quarter-hour of simmering is behind you, the chicken will be cooked nicely.  Using tongs, remove the thighs to a cutting board, shred them with forks, then return them to the soup.  The extra minute or two this takes will be extra simmer time for the soup, which isn’t a bad thing.

7 – Any hot sauce, particularly an Asian variety such as sriracha, will work.  However, sambal, like the soup, is Indonesian, making it a natural pairing.

8 – A typo, which you caught, thus proving I’m wrong about nobody reading this far.  “That’s it, the movie’s over.  You can go home now…  Go.”

62 thoughts on “Crunchy Is Better

    1. Why thank you, Angela!

      Do you know how much that means, that you take time to comment, although you’re currently pulled in a thousand directions? The least I can do in return is to keep posting, and to look forward to the day, whenever that is, you have time once again to call your own.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jennifer, it was!

      The spicy and the creamy make quite a pair, each one compensating for the other, and elevating it simultaneously. In fact, the trio of sambal, coconut milk and peanuts cover just about every sensation the tongue can experience.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Crystal, though the food is more a response to most of us enduring the first blustery week of many, unfortunately. In fact, we had accumulation overnight here in the Northeast.

      I figure, we all could use a tropical getaway just about now. Get our dreams going, and the reality’s bound to catch up eventually, right? Our Christmas gift to ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Your kindness is generous, Tamara. Quite inspiring.

      I never received your email. Is there anywhere on your WP site that links to your presence on Pinterest or Instagram?

      That’s my next move, after I finish responding to comments here, to “link up” my WP page to social media. It’s my intention to add a post on social media every time I publish anything on WP, but for now I’ve chosen a few past articles which were particularly well-received.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What, and you think mine is?

        Heck, it’s taken me nearly a week to teach myself how to do hashtags on Instagram. Hashtags, which are the platform’s party piece. Way to play up the “Amateur” angle, TA!

        Know what, Tamara? It’s people like us, stumbling into solutions and happening upon things by chance, who give Pinterest and Instagram warmth and quaintness. Let people like The Rock or Courtney Kardashian, with their imposingly perfect sites and their millions of followers, build locations that become pop-culture icons. They have to spend $$$ and employ dozens to do this.

        Us, we’re just having fun and taking life as it comes.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I might actually make this dish soon. For real. Not just saying that to be nice. It looks really delicious plus I know with certainty that not only can I can easily obtain all of these ingredients I already have most of them on hand. Win, win, win.

    Natural peanut butter really is the best. The taste is so much better.

    I did catch the ‘slop’ as well, which proves how closely I read this recipe, lest you should disbelieve me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah shucks, JoAnn. It’s always inspiring to read of someone who wants to try a recipe. I mean “for real” try it. If you decide to go for it, you’ll have to tell me what you think. Pretty sure you’re gonna love it!

      Wow, and bonus points too for catching “slop.” I was ready to correct it (I still am a lousy typist), but I bet myself no-one would notice, certainly not 7,432 paragraphs into the entry. Glad to have been wrong.

      Oh, I agree about natural PB tasting better, and most people’s complaint, about having to mix it each time, isn’t an issue as far as I’m concerned. Although…in making peanut butter cookies, it is best to use the processed stuff, such as Skippy or Jif.

      Largely because Jif’s ultra-refined properties help it to withstand the sustained high temperature baking cookies requires. Apparently, natural PB breaks down in the oven. For gentler or for shorter-term heat, such as applies to stir-fries and to soups, natural peanut butter stays intact. And that’s when its superior taste really comes into play.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did try this recipe last night! It found it to be crazy delicious. I’m going to do a post about it on Friday and then link to your recipe. One thing I wondered about is the amount of rice noodles. I found 8 ounces to be way too much and could have gotten by with probably half as much. The rice noodles I used were very thin and densely packed though so maybe that had something to do with it.

        I’m a terrible typist as well, which means I have to spend a lot of time editing.

        I did not know that about natural peanut butter and baking. A great tip.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You did, JoAnn? That’s awesome!

        In fact, you’re working multiple levels here simultaneously. A recipe which inspired me to try it had the same effect on you? Superb.

        You liked it too? I knew it! That’s not surprising, considering, but still, it’s most gratifying.

        Finally, you’re going to detail this recipe on your own blog? Most humbling. Seriously, I don’t think anyone’s done me the honor before, and I’m touched. Thank you.

        As far as the minutiae goes , the noodles I used definitely were bundled loosely. It sounds as though the ones you tried aspired to a density only packaged “budget” ramen noodles achieve. You raise a rally good point, namely, that similarly-described product sometimes vary greatly by line. In density, among other factors. Something I’ll consider going forward when writing about pre-packaged off-the-shelf products.

        By the way, did you spike your noodles with any hot sauce? If so, what did you choose? Sambal? Sriracha? Or maybe…something Trinidad-bottled?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The availability of rice noodles was scarce. I only found one kind. Actually I think what I bought was more like a vermicelli as it was made wholly from rice grain and hailed from Taiwan. Most everything like that is imported here although I’ve heard that there are a few rice paddies to be found in south Trinidad.

        I didn’t do the hot sauce although I might try it in leftovers. My fiancé only buys scary sounding hot sauces that are made from ghost peppers or scorpion peppers.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. By scorpion peppers, do you mean Trinidad Scorpions? Wowzer – you certainly chose a good island for an inferno.

        See, that’s so far beyond my pay grade. I do enjoy something of a tingle, at least as far as a WASP like me defines it, but any time burn overtakes taste, I’m outta here. When you talk about beyond-thermonuclear varieties, such as Scorpions or Carolina Reapers, I’ll be on another continent altogether.

        Isn’t the whole rice noodle concept confusing? It took me some time to get my head around East Asians calling their rice noodles “vermicelli.” To me, “vermicelli” means “pasta,” and an Italian wheat variety at that. It doesn’t help, either, that there seems to be no hard-and-fast rule governing texture and density, either.

        Your instincts so far have been good, JoAnn, and I’m confident you’ll do well with what little local markets offer. After all, you have the aesthetics down, and they’re much more vital than are specific ingredients.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I did end up trying the scorpion pepper sauce. It was surprisingly flavorful but I used very little of course. We also have a hot sauce made from Jamaican scotch bonnets. It’s not as hot but it’s not nearly as flavorful. Interesting.

        I suppose a person could write an entire dissertation on noodles and maybe that has already been done. Who knows? I was trying to think of another noodle to try in this recipe next time I make it. Ramen, angel hair… hmm? Will have to see what else I can find in the stores here.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. That is interesting, JoAnn. Not that the Scorpion has a more wicked sting – that’s to be expected – but the fact it has more flavor, is more surprising. Honestly, I thought Scoville is pretty jealous, stealing thunder from anything that wanders nearby. By the time you reach the heights (Trinidad Scorpion, Ghost Pepper, Carolina Reaper), I thought is just Boom! – nothing but flame. Guess I was wrong about that.

        Yeah, noodles have perplexed me as well. Experience has provided clues. Including a hint of how little I know. In this recipe’s case, a rice noodle is probably the best bet. Is Mai Fun available locally? If not, your other ideas are great. Much has to with the mood you want to set. A stouter noodle would be heartier, and it would be good for when chilliness needs to be told what-not.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Cheating, JoAnn, or innovating?

        Think about what cooks created when they first attempted this dish. Nothing like what either one of us produced this month, I’d wager.

        In fact, on top of everything else that’s been manipulated, two of the key ingredients, peanuts and peppers, were introduced from the New World. Meaning, East Indian cooks wouldn’t have known about them until the 16th century, at least. What do you reckon they did before then?

        At one point, the two items would’ve been more jarring additions than angel hair ever could hope to be. Add your own chapter to the recipe’s biography, JoAnn!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I made this dish again a couple of days ago. With the onions I added in thinly sliced green pepper, carrot, and cabbage and then cut down on the noodles. It was fantastic! This is one of my new favorite recipes.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Great idea, JoAnn! In fact, I just may have to try myself your improvement,

        Fast-forward a century or two. When people are blogging about Indonesian Peanut Noodles as 2222 approaches, how much do you want to bet the “default” recipe will include peppers, carrots, and cabbage? And thus, JoAnn became an influencer.

        “Pressed for a comment, the chef at Djakarta’s premier hotel restaurant said, ‘Peppers, carrots and cabbage? What else would there be? Indonesians have been making it like this forever.'”

        Liked by 1 person

      10. No less an influencer than the person who decided one day Indonesian Noodles needed peppers and peanuts.

        You laugh now, but what will you say when Acme offers you $50K to mention their kitchen gadget in your next post?

        Make sure it’s a really clumsy mention too. You know, on caliber with those recipes certain brands put in their ads. Rather uneventful, until you get to the line calling for “Two envelopes of HIDDEN VALLEY RANCH SALAD DRESSING MIX.”

        Yeah, it really helps if you shout it.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. You’re just killing me now.,, then again, perhaps you are really onto something here. Maybe Wile E. Coyote can be my business partner. That would just be too much fun. However, Hidden Valley Ranch just seem to go way too far with the tacky factor… then again, $50K can make a person change their mind about a lot of things, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Oh, I don’t mean to single out the Ranch, JoAnn.

        In a few months, I’ll attempt a Lemon-Raspberry Cheesecake as presented in a Philadelphia Cream Cheese ad. As the cheese is a Kraft product, every other line in the recipe exclaims one brand or another. It really is annoying.

        Naturally, it’s Kraft’s right to promote its lineup, but it also is my responsibility to use the common sense experience won.

        That’s a pretty smart move, JoAnn, teaming up with the Coyote. Of course, you may have a hard time sneaking through Customs with half a ton of dynamite and 67 anvils.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Mar! As you may recall, I’m partial to Southeast Asian curries, with their coconut- and peanut-forward profiles.

      I’d love it if you’d keeping checking every once in a while, as there are entries coming I think you’ll like. Some Spanish dishes (and please don’t laugh when I try paella) and many others I hope will inspire your comments.

      Like

  2. Lol! As far as typos go, that’s actually kind of funny. It can still make perfect, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek, sense.

    And yes, people read that far! How else are we to resolve bets with ourselves about which sugar you used? (I won, of course.)
    There’s also the fact that your notes often contain useful bits of information…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, Rachel, how it thrills to read that. You’re admirably kind – thank you!

      Of course, I do go on and on (Really?). I fear I often leap down the geeky rabbit-hole we’ve discussed previously, wherein something fascinates me, thus making me So Sure it beguiles everyone.

      In fact, by the time that typo went uncorrected, I must’ve lost the last reader halfway up the page, right? Imagine the thrill of meeting more than one person who disproved that theory!

      Oh, today I received a second consignment of Spoonflower textiles, providing a sneak peek at the backdrops and the linens I’ll begin using in July, and onward. After this month’s two-entry dry run, that is. In addition, items and props from my own holdings may augment the effect. Stick around for the next seven months, and I think you’ll like what you find!

      With a view to that fast-approaching future, last week witnessed inaugural entries on Instagram and on Pinterest. If you visit either site, have a look!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am increasingly convinced that you and my sister would get along swimmingly… At the very least, I can easily imagine you both opening such packages (though for her, it’s usually yarn and fabrics for her projects) with similar delight.

        Ahh, yes. Instagram. Pinterest. Yep. I… have heard of these things. I visit them like I visit the moon.
        I’ll consider building a rocket. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You don’t mention your sister often, Rachel, but when you do, it suggests her tastes and mine often coincide. As do yours, for that matter.

        Have you ever shown her the blog? Given what you’ve told me about her, I do think she’ll enjoy it. Especially after the facility gets a remodel over the summer.

        You see what I’ve done here? Use any pretext to increase the audience. Always the impresario, huh? It’s especially tempting a draw when the prospective reader is of a caliber similar to yours.

        Until last week, I shared your unfamiliarity with (and, perhaps, your slight antipathy for) Instagram and Pinterest. However, a couple friends mentioned social media as being a useful means of vaulting readership from its current decline. A few readers – and occasional commenters – here also are active on the platforms (particularly on Instagram).

        From what I’ve gathered, this nucleus of viewers is necessary to attract the larger public. That’s how the “algorithm” governing promoting sites works, apparently. Naturally, Rachel, the support I’ve received already – including yours – is most gratifying!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s a brilliant idea! Though I’ll admit, sharing opinions, particularly with family members, is not something I’m very good at. I, sadly, am not much of an impresario. It was well over a year before I even told my sister about my blog…

        Ahh. For me, social media is just too daunting, whatever the benefits. I also have some ingrained reservations about using my real name on the internet, which most social media sites seem to call for.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Good points, Rachel. Your wariness also is comforting, a I worried I was the only person in America under eighty years who isn’t rah-rah for Team Social Media.

        Your reticence about giving out your name is completely understandable too and is a particularly prudent policy for a woman. I’m a guy, which means I have the luxury of giving the notion a big ol’ “Whatever.”

        Still, I defy you to tell me my real name. Am I Keith, or am I Felix? You think you may know, but most assuredly you do not.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Then you know what you must prepare to do.

        Nothing to cause much of a fuss, really. All part of an assassin’s daily routine. Make a mortal thrust here, parry another one there. Even a former assassin, and a young one at that, has experienced a thousand similar exchanges in her past.

        Speaking of fencing, doesn’t the League’s inventory include the glass rapier 007 used to dispatch a henchman in “Moonraker?” As wells as the jewels Clooney and the gang tried to fence in “Ocean’s 13?”

        Liked by 1 person

      6. We sure do. The outfield fence from “A League of Their Own” too.

        Have no idea why someone would collect such a thing, or what he/she thinks we’re supposed to do with it, but it’s ours now.

        If you ever want to have a look, descend seven flights of stairs to Subterranean Level G. Turn right down the main hall. Then, when you come to the seventeenth intersecting corridor, hang a left. The thirty-second door you pass leads to the Throckmorton Collections Annex. There, about 500 feet back, in the right-hand corner, you’ll find the fence. It’s propped between stacks of 1,762 Persian carpets, and the 680 badminton sets we forget to use each summer at the League Picnic.

        About halfway to the corner, take care not to trip over the six casks of Rosy’s Reserve Rum. Uh….I have no idea how those got there. They just sort of…showed up one day.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. To pen in the mammoths, maybe?

        Lol! The badminton sets… I forgot about those. Er, clearly.

        Luckily, though, my memory’s unreliability can be quite specific when it needs to be. Should a certain someone ever inquire after such casks, I’m quite sure any details will escape me. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      8. “Aye, tis’ not a soul aboard I trust more than I do the Crew Poet. If ye ever spied one of my casks, you’d be the first one up in the crow’s nest, shouting “Rum, ahoy!”, right? Right?

        Never mind that. I’m devisin’ a horrid fate for the scoundrel who purloined me grog!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. As do I, Rachel! Given that walking the plank and keelhauling are among the milder expressions of Rosy’s management style, what does the old salt have in mind for a more “distinctive” treatment?

        Fortunately, the League’s headquarters are about thirty city blocks inland from the port, meaning Rosy would have to cover about 29.5 more blocks-worth of land than he’s comfortable traversing. And then, just for the sake of argument, let’s just say he did. Then what?

        There are about 29,028 storerooms (and counting!), arrayed along 715 miles of hallways and divvied up among 36 levels. How’s Rosy going to determine which one holds his rum? Assuming, of course, we have it, which I’m not stipulating.

        We’ve come this far, and we might as well keep the conversation going. Fine, then. We’ll assume a hyper-psychic Rosy zeroes right in on his grog. Ok, then how’s he going to get the key? Each room has a different one, you know. Not to mention the exacting sequences of convolutions necessary to spring each lock. Oh, and he also will have to get past the Vikings, Cossacks, tigers and abominable snowmen who patrol the halls, guarding each storeroom with their lives….

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Ha! That’s an excellent point: a sailor on land is like a cat in water. Momentarily dismissing that as a factor, however (and accepting Rosy’s miraculous powers), I do think Rosy has a chance. Or would, you know, if we did happen to be in possession of his most precious treasure. See, even abominable snowmen cannot stand between pirates and the promise of rum. Rosy could sic his crew on the guards, and slip by in the hubbub. And the question of the key can be cleared up with his hypothetical psychic-ness. Sure, with the rum he has the benefit of a strong emotional connection, but the key shouldn’t be too hard to pin down with his abilities, especially once he’s close. After all, it’s the key to his rum. The sequence, too, he may be able to glean. Or, if that fails, he can always kidnap one of the League higher-ups (so… us) and threaten horrible, unspeakable fates until we open the door.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Those are really good points, Rachel, and pondering them makes their merit irresistible and pushes me to the edge of despair.

        Until, that is, I realized Rosy is after his cask, right? I mean, he’s spent so long idealizing the rum it contains and anticipating its effects, you just know he never is going to sample it, right? Many a night he’d sleep beside the barrel, softly caressing “(M)e one true love.” He never is going to tap the keg, though, because that would end the dream. Which gives me an idea….

        What if we found a cask and filled it with any kind of liquid – water, Nestle Quick, Kool-Aid…whatever – and rolled it into the hold’s deepest, darkest corner? Bury it beneath debris. Maybe a bunch of old cutlasses, or bandanas and eyepatches waiting to be laundered, or…how about this? Given Rosy’s newfound fashion, beneath a bulk of silky ladies’ unmentionables?

        Then, you’ll lead Rosy into the hold, under the pretext of giving it “one last search.” Then, voila!, feigning great “surprise,” you’ll find his missing treasure! Imagine his delight! “Aye, Rachel, never did a more worthy First Mate sail the seas! Nae, ye be the Queen of All Poets! From now on, every port where we make call will be forced to pay you tribute. in specie, jewels, chocolate… Whatever be your fancy!”

        Come to think of it, Rachel, this could turn out really well for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. That’s a staggering haul of chocolate, lass. What be your design?

        Wait! I understood scarcely a word ye uttered. I leave it to you to chart your own course. I’ll be in me quarters, composin’ a ditty to me rum.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Stella!

      This is most encouraging. and it really is impressive you have made your own sambal. This is the first time I’ve encountered such creativity, and I’m eager to learn where this talent take you.

      Somewhere delicious, no doubt!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an especially satisfying combination now, in the colder months. Not only is the soup warming, but the peanuts wrap guests in contentment too.

      As you know, two of the soup’s major components, peanuts and peppers, are New World crops, meaning Indonesians (and nearly everyone else, for that matter) didn’t know about them until the 16th century. Whatever they used before then, the newer ingredients definitely make the soup what it is, don’t you think?

      Like

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