Dina Yuen is beautiful, talented and writes about a cuisine that I love a lot – the food of Indonesia. I know about the food only because I am a touched obsessed with Bali and my neighbor, who cooks like a dream, happens to be from the area.  But, as I was getting ready to do a post on Dina’s gorgeous book, “Indonesian Cooking,” it occurred to me that I only knew a little about a few of the dishes that I loved but not really a whole lot about the cuisine as a whole. So, I asked her a few questions and they helped me learn a lot. I hope that they will help you learn and then you can make her amazing chicken featured here. The book released March 10, 2012.

I love her book because it epitomizes what I talk about all the time: flavorful ingredients coming together to create simple, working recipes that delight the palate. Enough said?

1. Tell me a little about the cuisine of Indonesia. What are the influences? Common ingredients?

For people unfamiliar with Indonesian cuisine, I typically liken it to a mélange of Indian and Thai, though really, it has very distinctive flavors and ingredients. Most common ingredients include garlic, shallots, shrimp paste (known as Terasi in Indonesian), turmeric, galangal, kafir lime leaves and coconut milk. Indonesian cuisine is definitely bold, filled with pungent flavors and scents.

Indonesian cuisine incorporates an eclectic array of ingredients, flavors and techniques, thanks to its countless indigenous peoples and foreign influences. Indonesian people love grazing throughout the day, eating both main meals and snacks, popularly known as street food or jajan. Main meals almost always include rice or noodles as the staple starch, paired with some type of poultry, meat or vegetable dish and a spicy condiment. One of the most popular dishes that is serves frequently across all households is called lalapan which is an assortment of fresh, raw vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce and other greens with a small bowl of sambal terasi or shrimp paste chili sauce.

2. What is a typical breakfast for you? A typical dinner?

The answer to this definitely varies according to where in the world I am but for my current home base of San Francisco…

A typical breakfast would be a tropical fruit smoothie (mango pineapple coconut water), sliced fresh fruits or if I’m in an indulgent mood, I’ll have an array of Asian buns (bbq pork buns, coconut cream buns, steamed pork buns, etc.).

A typical dinner will trend towards a lot of fish, whether sashimi or grilled salmon, paired with roasted vegetables or stir-fried vegetables.

I’m a huge supporter of including colorful fruits and vegetables throughout the day in every meal as much as possible. Like most Asians, I absolutely adore my carbs (rice and noodles) but I tend to eat the bulk of my carbs for lunch as I like to keep evening meals lighter.

Unlike in the west, Indonesians don’t have too much of a distinction between breakfast, lunch and dinner staples. All dishes are eaten for all meals of the day. It is not unusual for Indonesians to eat a hearty dish of fried rice, noodle soup or chicken rice porridge for breakfast.

3. What are your favorite ingredients to cook with? Why?

First and foremost, garlic is king. To me, food is not food without garlic. After garlic, I would say it’s a tough call between some of my favorite key ingredients including fish sauce, cilantro, lime juice and shrimp paste. I love very strong, pungent flavors and vibrant colors. I want all my senses to be filled and tantalized before the final step of actually eating the food.

Ayam Goreng Romboter (Butter Fried Chicken)

From Indonesian Cooking (Tuttle) by Dina Yuen

Different regions of Indonesia have unique versions of dishes. One delicacy that seems to be a national favorite is Fried Chicken. Around the world, this dish is incredibly common and viewed as nothing particularly special. In Indonesia though, the mastery of chicken is at a completely different level. Versions of fried chicken range from the super crispy with thick skins a la KFC to the super savory with a light, airy and crumbly exterior. Butter Fried Chicken is one of my all time favorites, crisp and packed with luscious flavor.

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 12-15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15-25 minutes

Vegetable oil for deep frying

1 whole chicken (pre-sectioned)

3 tablespoons garlic powder + 1 tsp for the butter

2 teaspoon salt + 1 tsp for the butter

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ½ stick unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

1. Heat enough oil for deep frying in a large wok on medium high heat.

2. Rinse the chicken pieces thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle all the spices evenly over all the chicken, rubbing gently into the skin. Allow the chicken to sit for 10 minutes.

3. Fry the chicken a few pieces at a time, as many as the wok will allow without overcrowding. Cook on each side for approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Larger pieces such as breasts may require longer cooking times. Drain cooked pieces on paper towel before transferring to a serving plate.

4. In a small sauce pot, melt the butter on high heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of salt until thoroughly mixed. Drizzle the melted butter over the fried chicken just before serving.

(Recipe, photo and cover featured here with written permission from Dina Yuen from her book – Indonesian Cooking ( Tuttle).

Who is Dina Yuen ( trust me you want to read this bio)

Bio taken from Amazon:

“Hailing from a mixed background of Chinese and Russian, Dina Yuen has spent most of her life traveling and living all over the United States, Asia and South America. Though she is an Industrial Engineer and classical musician by education, Dina has followed in her father’s footsteps of entrepreneurship by founding several successful companies. As CEO and founder of Asian Fusion, she has created the world’s leading portal and multi-media company that celebrates the best of everything Asian, including its cuisine, travel, people, culture, history, fashion, entertainment and technology.

“Indonesian Cooking” is Dina’s debut cookbook where she shares both her own recipes as well as those passed down from her mother and grandmother from their years residing in Indonesia. She is currently working on a non-fiction book- “Top Women Leaders of the 21st Century” as well as completing her historical fiction book “The Shanghai Legacy.”
Dina’s Asian Fusion company website is currently in beta launch and progressing towards a full launch in 2012 along with the opening of the Asian Fusion café chain and several other projects in the technology sector.

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