Travelling to Indonesia is never boring. It has more than 17,000 islands; there are so many places to visit, so many different cultures to see, and traditions to experience.
During her time living in Jakarta, Michelle experienced many unique local cultures, one of which was Sudah Makan Pulang. This loosely translates as “as soon as you eat you go home” and is an expression that Michelle’s family still use when they meet for a meal but someone needs to get off quickly. Michelle’s first encounter with this particular culture was at a local wedding reception. Guests will stay for only a very short time, mainly eating and then promptly leaving. A culture or habit, which may seem strange or maybe rude at first, but is actually quite common among people who live in a densely populated Asian city like Jakarta.
Another eating culture Michelle came across was Makan Pakai Tangan, loosely translated “eating with your hand”; in this case your right hand. It’s considered rude to eat with your left hand in Indonesia. Many Indonesians, especially the older generation, believe the food tastes better when eaten directly using your hands. And this same belief applies in different communities, ethnicities, and religions in Indonesia.
Indonesians really love their food hot and spicy. Michelle discovered how Indonesians are obsessed with Sambal, a traditional condiment made from chili pepper, garlic, and onion, equivalent to hot sauce. Indonesians tend to put Sambal on almost everything. It’s practically available in every home and every restaurant, at every meal. And the strangest type of Sambal Michelle ever tasted was Sambal Terasi.
Terasi, or as some parts of Indonesia call it Belacan, is made from fermented ground shrimp in the form of solid block or paste, almost exclusively used to make Sambal Terasi. It smells distinctively unappetising but it instantly enhances the flavor of the Sambal with its umami taste, giving the Sambal its bold, earthy taste.
Michelle also had the pleasure of tasting and discovering many different kinds of Indonesian traditional foods, like:
Soto Ayam - a yellow herbal chicken soup with noodles or rice.
Gado-Gado - a traditional Javanese version of vegetable salad with peanut butter, tangerine sauce and tempeh, or tofu.
Rendang - beef cooked overnight in spices and herbs from West Sumatera.
And her personal favorite: Satay, spelt locally as Sate. An Indonesia staple, satay is grilled meat on a bamboo skewer dish, with special peanut butter sauce. It’s sold everywhere, from street push carts to high end restaurants.
Michelle says that the best Satay she ever had was the one that was made by her family’s cook Nur. She made her an authentic traditional Javanese homemade chicken and lamb Satay, topped with creamy peanut butter sauce and kecap manis (fermented black soy sauce).
Nur marinated the chicken and lamb over night in a mix of kecap manis, salt, lemon juice and other spices and herbs before cooking. It gives the tenderness, the fresh aroma, and the sweet taste to them. In the cooking process, when griddled, barbequed, or grilled, the marinade of kecap manis will create a distinct, sweet-smelling smoke, which will get your tummy rumbling!
Nur served the satay traditionally by pouring the sauce onto the Satay. The sauce was creamy, not too thick but not runny. It has the texture of the peanut butter, which she made from crunching roasted peanuts coarsely. Kecap manis gives the sauce sweetness, thickness, and appetising aroma. The fresh and savory taste comes from the spices and herbs Nur added to the mix.
In that very moment Michelle fell in love with Satay. She then shared her love of Satay to her husband Owen and her three daughters. Now Michelle wants to share her love of Satay and her other Indonesian experiences to everyone. Together with Owen, she has created a new food company called Sourced, one of whose products is the Aromatic and Spiced Satay Kebab Kit. With the kit everyone can enjoy Satay in its most authentic style - using a skewer, and its most authentic taste - without having to leave the comfort of home. And if you like your Satay hot and spicy, just add Sambal!