Cooking Utensils

A wok, basically a conical frying pan, is infinitely preferable to a frying pan for many dishes. Known as a kuali (or, in Javanese, wajan), this versatile utensil is practical for
deep-frying (it uses less oil) and also allows the right amount of evaporation for many dishes which begin with a large amount of liquid and finish with a thick sauce. When choosing a wok, avoid aluminum or non-stick types and try to get one that is large and quite thick.

A heavy cast iron wok that won’t tip over easily is preferable, or best of all, the Rolls Royce of woks, which is made of a non-stick alloy that will not scratch when metal
scoops are used. To partner your wok, a metal spatula and a perforated ladle for lifting out deep-fried food, are useful. Indonesian cooks also use an assortment of wooden or coconut husk spoons for stirring.

It is important not to use aluminum or cast iron saucepans for cooking Indonesian food. Many recipes contain acidic ingredients, such as tamarind juice or lime, or coconut milk, and using aluminum or cast iron will result in a discolored sauce or cause a chemical reaction. Choose either stainless steel, glass or enameled saucepans.

One item widely used in Indonesian cooking is seldom easily available outside the tropics. This is the multi-purpose banana leaf, used for wrapping foods for grilling, steaming, or placing directly onto hot coals . Just to give some idea of the versatility of the banana leaf, one Indonesian cooking manual illustrates 24 different ways of
wrapping foods in banana leaves, depending on the contents and the particular style of preparation! If you are able to obtain banana leaves, wipe them clean and cut to the required size. Hold the leaf directly over a gas flame or pour boiling water over it in a basin until it softens before using it to wrap foods. Aluminum foil can be substituted, but for a texture that is closer to that obtained by using the banana leaf, wrap foods in parchment paper first, then in foil. Bundles of banana leaf-wrapped foods are often steamed, usually inside conical rattan steaming baskets used to steam rice. The most practical approach in a Western kitchen is to buy a two-tiered Chinese bamboo steamer with a cover. This steamer sits inside a wok above the boiling water. The bamboo is ideal, as it absorbs moisture rather than letting it fall back into the food. Rinse and dry the steamer and lid thoroughly after use before storing.

An alternative to the bamboo steamer is a perforated metal disc that sits inside a wok above the boiling water; however, this will not hold as much food as a two-tiered steamer, and you will need to find a convex lid that fits over
your wok.


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