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Whitebait (ikan teri) are baby fish ranging from 1 to 2 in (2 to 5 cm) in length. They are usually sold in Asia salted and sun-dried. Discard the heads and black intestinal tracts before using. If possible, buy them split, cleaned and ready for use. They are usually quite salty, so taste any dish […]

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Water Spinach

Water spinach (kangkung) is a nutritious, leafy vegetable also known as morning glory or water convolvulus. The leaves and tender tips are often stir-fried. Spinach is a good substitute.

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Tofu is rich in protein and amazingly versatile. Firm tofu holds its shape well when cut or cooked and has a strong, slightly sour taste. Pressed tofu (often confusingly labelled as firm tofu) has much of the moisture extracted and is therefore much firmer in texture and excellent for stir-fries. Refrigerate fresh tofu immersed in […]

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Tempeh or fermented soybean cakes, a Javanese creation, are made of compressed, lightly fermented soybeans with a delicious nutty flavor. They can be fried, steamed or baked and are a rich source of protein, riboflavin, calcium and iron. They are low in cholesterol and sodium and are increasingly popular with health enthusiasts. They are sold […]

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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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