Thursday, April 28, 2011

Indonesian beef and pineapple curry over jasmine rice

In the mid-ninties, my family spent three years living in Jakarta. Apparently, and inexplicably, Indonesia isn't famous for their cuisine. I don't actually know if I've ever seen an Indonesian restaurant in the States, but you see Thai or Chinese on every corner. Perhaps I'm hanging out in the wrong neighborhoods. Anyway, this is a damn shame. Indo food is goooood.

First of all, Indonesia produces hands-down the absolute finest variety of instant noodle on the planet, and I've tried a lot of instant noodles. [You can and should find them at your Asian market. Five flavor sachets!! Oh, modern science] Indonesian cuisine includes amazing fried rice and noodle dishes as well as a variety of curries, including this one.

Or one kind of like this, anyway. As usual, I adapted it to my own tastes and what was around my kitchen, like using cashews in place of candlenuts, omitting the sugar and shrimp paste (are we out of shrimp paste again?), and substituting a little lemon zest for lemongrass, because I have exhausted my freezer lemongrass stash. If authenticity is what you're after, here's the inspiring recipe, stumbled upon one afternoon while browsing foodgawker.

Overall, it's a great quick recipe for a weeknight. On to bakmi goreng! [Holy cow, has no hits for bakmi goreng. What the hell?! Anyone have a trusted recipe?]

1/2 a small red onion, diced (you're going to process this and the following ingredients into paste, so don't work hard mincing them)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 red Fresno chilis, seeded and chopped
3 cashews, chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped

1 whole star anise
1/2 a cinnamon stick
1 whole clove
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
zest of about a quarter of a lemon
~1/2 an inch of fresh ginger, microplaned

~ 1/2 lb beef, the cut of your choice, cubed (I used the ends left over from trimming up a whole tenderloin - if I'd used something less tender like stew meat, I'd have cooked this a lot longer, so bear that in mind)
1 can of coconut milk (I generally use the reduced-fat)
~1/4 of a nice ripe sweet medium-sized pineapple, cored and diced
dash of fish sauce
dash of cayenne (which was only necessary because my Fresno chilis had very little zing. Stupid dud Fresno chilis)

1/2 cup jasmine rice

Get the water on for your rice. Boil and steam it nice and fluffy while your curry cooks.

In a food processor, combine the red onion, garlic, chilis, cashews, and tomato, pureeing into a paste.

Season the beef cubes with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Brown the beef over fairly high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Once the cubes have been browned on all sides, add the star anise, cinnamon stick, clove, turmeric, nutmeg, lemon zest, and ginger. Allow the spices to toast for a moment and become aromatic, then add your pureed paste and cook for around another 5 minutes, just long enough to get the rawness out of the onion and garlic. Pour in the coconut milk and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add the pineapple, fish sauce, and adjust the heat if necessary (I didn't really make mine spicy, it's more about balancing out the sweetness of the pineapple). Let it cook at a simmer over a low flame, uncovered, until the pineapple softens and the sauce becomes thick and luscious, maybe another 10 minutes. Serve over the steamed rice.

Serves two, takes under 40 minutes.


  1. I just want to grab a fork and dig in.


  2. So is fresno a red, green, orange chili? I'm sure I won't find that (under that name anyway) anywhere near me, but I have everything else and I'm willing to substitute!

  3. It's a red chili that looks pretty much like a small red jalapeno, which would be a good substitute. But I'm sure you could use absolutely any chili you like or can find - next time I think I'll use a habanero, left whole, and fish it out at the end before serving. Let me know what you use!