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Tamarind (asam jawa) is a fruit that is often sold dried in Indonesia, still encased inside its long narrow tree pod. Outside of Indonesia, the pulp is more often sold in jars and packets already shelled, but sill containing some fibers and seeds. It is used as a souring agent in many dishes. To obtain […]

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Sweet Indonesian Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is brewed from soybeans and wheat fermented with salt. It is salty and used as a table dip and cooking seasoning. Black soy sauce is denser and less salty than regular soy sauce. It adds a smoky flavor to dishes. Sweet Indonesian soy sauce (kecap manis) is much sweeter and thicker than normal […]

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Star Anise

Star anise (bunga lawang) is an 8-pointed dried pod encasing shiny black seeds with a strong aniseed flavor. The whole spice is usually used when cooking and is discarded before serving. Whole star anise keeps for a year in an airtight container.

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Salam Leaves

Salam leaves, from the cassia family, are used in the same way bay leaves are used in Western cooking—to add a complex earthy fragrance to dishes. If unavailable, omit them from the recipe altogether. Do not substitute with bay leaves as the flavor is totally different.

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Palm Sugar

Palm sugar (gula jawa) is sold as a solid block or cylinder of sugar made from the sap of the coconut or arenga sugar palm. It varies in color from gold to light brown and has a faint caramel taste. It is used to make Palm Sugar Syrup (page 104). To measure, hard palm sugar […]

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Mung Bean Flour

Mung bean flour (tepong hoen kwe) is sold in paper-wrapped cylinders— sometimes, the flour is colored pink or green and the paper wrapper correspondingly colored. It gives a more delicate texture to desserts than rice flour.

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Limes of several types are used in Indonesia. Round yellow-skinned limes (jeruk nipis) are slightly larger than a golf ball. The small, dark green calamansi limes (jeruk limau) are used for their fragrant juice and rind. Other types of limes may also be used.

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Krupuk are dried crackers made from bits of shrimp, fish, vegetables and nuts mixed with various types of flour to make a very popular snack in Indonesia. They must be thoroughly dried in the sun or in an oven set on very low before deep-frying in very hot oil for a few seconds, when they […]

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Jicama (bangkuang) is a crunchy and juicy white tuber that is peeled and eaten raw, sliced and served with rock salt or dressing as a refreshing snack. Look for it in the produce section of supermarkets.

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Garlic Chives

Garlic chives (kucai), sometimes referred to as Chinese chives, have flattened leaves and resemble thin spring onions. They have a strong garlicky flavor and are often added to noodle or stir-fried vegetable dishes during the final stages of cooking. Substitute spring onions, although their flavor is more mild.

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