Adventures living as expats.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cupcake Eruption

I've been struggling with our oven since I got here. It's half the size of an American oven, the temps are in C, and it has cryptic symbols for the different settings. Also, the oven has no heating element on the bottom, just a top one so the bottom rack is always way cooler than the top rack.

Since Jeff's birthday is tomorrow, I made some cupcakes (from a box mix) today. The first batch came out looking like volcanoes with chocolate lava erupting from the center.

After some googling I decoded the mystery.
  • Fan = 3D hot air cooking
  • Fan with squiggly line = hot air grilling
  • Squiggly line = variable grill
  • Star with water drop = defrost (who defrosts in the oven???)
Since variable grilling obviously didn't work, I tried the fan setting for the second batch. I think these were somehow worse. Has anyone ever seen this?

Luckily they still taste great so we're calling them lava cakes, very fitting considering Indonesia has 167 of the World's 850 active volcanoes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pad Thai & Sauteed Beef w/Oyster Sauce

I was really excited to learn Pad Thai this week. I had always thought it was a peanut sauce, but it turns out not.

Pad Thai

  • 500 g flat rice noodles, cooked according to directions
  • 200 g fresh shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced very thinly
  • 150 g bean sprouts
  • 3 fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 T tamarind water
  • 3 T cooking oil
  • 4 T sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 t chicken stock powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Peanuts to garnish

  1. Add soy sauce to cooked noodles, set aside.
  2. Combine chilis, shallots, fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind water and blend into paste.
  3. Heat oil in wok and stir fry 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook for 1 minute, add shrimp and stir fry until almost cooked through.
  4. Add spice paste and stir fry 2-3 minutes. Add noodles, salt, pepper, and chicken stock powder. Add bean sprouts and toss until mixed.
  5. Garnish with peanuts.
The beef dish had great favors and I will definitely try it with chicken.


  • 600 g beef or chicken, sliced thinly
  • 2 cm piece of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 green onions, cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 200 g mushrooms, sliced and boiled a few minutes
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground pepper
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 T oyster sauce
  • 1 T cornstarch dissolved in a few T cold water
  • 3 T vegetable oil

  1. Combine beef/chicken with 1 T oil, salt, pepper, sugar, and garlic. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 T oil in skillet, add ginger and onion and cook until golden. Set aside.
  3. Add beef/chicken to wok and cook through. Add onion, ginger, and mushrooms.
  4. Add stock, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and green onions. Thicken with cornstarch and serve hot.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tom Yam Goong and Ayam Dengan Daun Pandan

For the 2nd Thai cooking class, we made another soup - Tom Yam Goong (hot and sour soup) and Ayam Dengan Daun Pandan (chicken wrapped in pandan leaves). I thought the soup was even tastier than last week. The chicken was fried, but the chef said steaming works well too. I'll start with the soup.


  • 400 gr shrimp peeled and cleaned
  • 200 gr mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 Lt. chicken stock
  • 5 T fish sauce
  • 5 slices galangal (see picture below)
  • 5 lime leaves
  • 3 stalks lemongrass cut in 3 cm sections
  • 4 T chili paste (recipe below)
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 3 cilantro stalks chopped

Chili Paste (Sambal) Ingredients:

  • 10 red chilies, whole
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 T tamarind water
  • 1 t sugar

  1. Make the chili paste - fry the chilies and garlic in a dry pan until slightly charred. Grind the chilis, garlic, and tamarind water in a food processor.
  2. Heat a frying pan with the oil, then add the chili mixture and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Make the soup - boil the chicken stock a pan. Add the galangal, lime leaves, sambal (4 T), mushrooms, fish sauce, and lemongrass and simmer 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and simmer 3 minutes.
  5. Add lime juice and simmer for a few more minutes.
  6. Garnish with cilantro. Note, don't eat the lime leaves or galangal they are pretty strong.

Next up the chicken in Pandan leaves.


  • 500 gr chicken, thinly sliced (we used breast)
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp chopped coriander root
  • 1 tsp chopped lemongrass
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 tsp sweet soy sauce (called kecap manis)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 T chili sauce
  • Pandan leaves for wrapping

  1. Combine garlic, shallots, ginger, coriander root, lemongrass, and palm sugar in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Add some cod the coconut milk if it won't mix.
  2. Add to chicken and marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Wrap chicken in Pandan leaves like a bow. This took some practice, but of course there's a YouTube video.
  4. Fry or steam the wrapped chicken for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

18 holes

I survived my first 18 holes of golf! Jeff and I went last Saturday and had such a good time. We went to Permata Sentul which is about an hour outside of Jakarta towards Bogor. The views were beautiful and the course was really nice. My golf game was not so pretty and the course officials had to tell us to speed up on the 5th hole, 441 meters uphill is really hard! I had a chance for par on the last hole but my putting skills failed me. I need some more practice.
My first shot, soooo nervous

Jeff didn't fair so well either, with about 12 lost balls. He was certainly hitting it far, just not quite the right direction. I'll give him credit though because the course was pretty narrow.
Go Jeff, our caddies are to the right

Our golf partners Dai and DJ
Getting outside in the fresh air outside of Jakarta was great. Having a golf cart and caddies to hand you clubs is awesome! I can see why golf is so popular here and hope to give it another shot soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Organization in Jakarta

I've tried to be pretty positive so far on the blog, but I have to complain a bit. One quirk in Indonesia is the store organization and building layout. Most of the times we are able to laugh at it, but sometimes it just gets old. Everything takes way too long. We've decoded a few of the patterns.

1. The Brand Method: Common in home goods sections. If you want a blender don't go looking for the blender section. Instead you'll need to search through the Phillips shelf, the Kitchen Aid section, then it's on to the Cuisinarts, and well you get the point. Don't plan on a quick purchase or the ability to do a side by side comparison.

2. The Maze: Because of the pollution, traffic, and lack of sidewalks it's pretty hard to walk in Jakarta. People wander around the huge malls instead. These malls are laid out so you can walk for hours without passing the same place. For a quick errand it feels like your navigating through a maze while the crowd moves in slow motion. Out of the 10 malls we've been to, we've only able to find 1 map.

3. Just Find a Place For It: This one is pretty common. It seems like when a new item arrives, any open spot will do. Today I counted 5 places for spices at the grocery store I frequent. By now I've got it memorized, but at first I walked back and forth way too many times.
In the vegetable section
With the chicken
Actual spice section
Season salt section, with bags of MSG just below
Finally in the health food section

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Jeff and I have been wanting to explore Jakarta more, but our weekends end up filling up so quickly so we haven't had much of a chance. The traffic really complicates things too. This week I took a trip to Chinatown with a few other expats. First we explored a traditional market with delicacies like frogs, turtles, and sea cucumbers.

We see dried fish all over here and can't figure out if it's a snack like beef jerky or if you cook with it.

Next we walked over to a a Buddhist temple. There were so many candles and in incense sticks burning that my eyes were really stinging.

We visited a few more shops afterwards and had some delicious dim sum for lunch.

Ok I'm off for some golfing, hopefully I survive my first time playing 18 holes. :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Premiere Cinema

Last weekend Jeff and I were super excited to go on our first backpacking trip here in Indonesia. The plan was to climb Gunung Ciremai with a group of backpackers called Java Lava. I scoured the stores for instant ramen without MSG and we were set for the trip. The day before we were supposed to leave we got an email that the mountian was "on fire". We still haven't figured out if that meant the volcano was erupting or if there was a forest fire. Anyhow the trip was postponed. Here's a pic of what we missed.

Luckily the trip is rescheduled so we'll get our chance to see it soon. So what was our backup plan? Do what everyone in Jakarta does and go to the movies. For under $8 each you can go to the Premiere Theater at Cinema 21. There is food and drink service and instead of chairs you get leather lazy boy recliners. Definitely not as cool as a volcano, but you can't have it all.

We saw the Born Identity and it was awesome! After the movies we tried some street food on the way home. You guessed it more Sate Ayam.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thai cooking class #1

I was so excited to start my Thai cooking class this week and happy to discover that a friend Gloria is taking the class as well. Although the class wasn't as hands on as I had hoped it was still really fun learning some new recipes. On the menu was Tom Sam Pla (sour soup with fish and veggies) and Garlic Prawn in Hot Sauce. Overall I couldn't believe how simple the recipes were to make. In comparison to making Balinese sauce this is a cake walk. I can't wait to test these out on Jeff! Did I mention they were delicious?

Tom Sam Pla

  • 200 gr fish fillet cut into 1" chunks (we used snapper)
  • 200 gr cabbage shredded
  • 100 gr green beans sliced diagonally
  • 2 spring onions sliced diagonally
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 T ginger chopped
  • 2 tsp cilantro root chopped (apparently its common to use the root portion in Thailand)
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 1/2 L chicken stock
  • 3 T tamarind water
  • 2 T palm sugar
  • Chopped cilantro leaves

  1. Combine the ginger, garlic, cilantro root, shrimp paste, turmeric powder, and tamarind water in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste
  2. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and stir fry the spice paste for ~5 min. Add chicken stock, salt, pepper, fish, and palm sugar and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the cabbage, green beans, and spring onion and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Serve with cilantro.
Garlic Prawn in Hot Sauce

  • 1 kg fresh prawn peeled and cleaned
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger sliced (like matchsticks)
  • 2 red chiles seeded and sliced
  • 100 gr sliced bamboo shoots (canned)
  • 2 T sweet chili sauce
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 3 T chicken stock
  • 1 T corn starch mixed with a little cold water
  • Basil leaves for garnish

  1. Mix sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, chicken stock, and corn starch together.
  2. Heat oil in wok and add garlic, onion, ginger, and chili. Stir fry until softened, just a few minutes. Add prawn and stir fry until they turn pink. Add bamboo shoots.
  3. Pour sauce into the wok and stir until thickened. Serve garnished with basil leaves.
We had these two dishes with rice for lunch - yum.