Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen, written by Lara Lee, pairs over 80 regional recipes from the vibrant cuisine of Indonesia with beautiful stories and photography. A few highlights include Chai Kue (Borneo Pork and Prawn Dumplings), Bakso (Spiced Meatball Soup), Telur Bumbu Merah (Fried Spiced Soft-Boiled Eggs), Babi Kecap (Sweet Soy Pork Belly), Dadar Gulung (Pandan Crepes), and so much more. I will also be sharing her recipe for Soto Betawi (Betawi Beef and Coconut Soup) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a PDF copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and statements are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Lara Lee is an Indonesian and Australian chef and food writer. She is the chef/co-owner of an event catering business called Kiwi & Roo and holds supper clubs with a focus on Australian and Indonesian cuisine in London. This is her first cookbook.
Coconut & Sambal
Lara begins with an introduction of her family and cherished memories surrounding Indonesian food both in Sydney, Australia and in Kupang, Timor. She has included such an incredible amount of detail throughout the pages from a brief history of Indonesia to favorite ingredients, tips for planning and designing a menu (with lists to help get you started), mealtime etiquette, and prepping spice pastes. There is even an entire chapter dedicated to a variety of sambal with a guide to making and storing it at home. Following the recipes, Lara shares information on the Indonesian pantry with detailed descriptions, uses, helpful notes, and substitutions when available.
Chapters are divided according to the following: Savoury Snacks; Soups & Rice; Vegetables, Tofu & Tempeh; Fish & Seafood; Poultry & Eggs; Meat; Sambal; Sweets; and Basic Recipes. Before the index, Lara has also separated lists of recipes for those looking for vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free recipes.
The food photography is provided by Louise Hagger with travel photography by Lara Lee and food styling by Emily Kydd. Throughout the pages, you will find not only gorgeous photos of the food, but of the country and its people, as well (I also love the included family photos!). Most of the recipes are accompanied by a full page photo or spread, usually of the finished dish. There are also a few step-by-step photos to show techniques such as how to cook Martabak Telur (Egg and Spring Onion Martabak) and coat Ayam Penyet (Smashed Fried Chicken with Sambal).
Measurements are listed in metric. Titles are written in English with the original name underneath. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, region of origin (love this!!), level of heat, serving ideas, and variations.
Soto Betawi (Betawi Beef and Coconut Soup)
Soto Betawi (Betawi Beef and Coconut Soup) is an incredibly comforting and flavorful soup from Jakarta, Java. Cubes of beef brisket are simmered in water for an hour before stirring in a fragrant spice paste, milk, coconut milk, and tamarind paste. The mixture is simmered for another hour with potatoes, quartered tomatoes, and spring onions added closer to the end of the cooking time.
Along with lime juice, salt, and pepper, Lara recommends pairing the Soto Betawi with Sambal Ulek and Acar Ketimun (Cucumber, Chilli and Shallot Pickle), both recipes in the book.
After cooling to room temperature, the leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- The Kemiri (Candlenut) is a waxy, cream-colored nut with a high oil content. Take care to toast or roast the nuts first as they are slightly toxic when raw. They can be found in markets with Indonesian/Southeast Asian ingredients. For those in the Los Angeles area, I was able to find them and other Indonesian items at Holland International Market in Bellflower. If unavailable, Lara mentions that macadamia nuts, almonds, or cashews can be used in this recipe.
- Ready-to-use Tamarind Paste comes from the pods of a tamarind tree and is becoming more and more available in larger grocery stores. Different brands vary in quality and taste so adjust as needed. If unavailable, swap for equal parts lime juice and brown sugar.
I also made Kue Keju (Cheese Biscuits), Sose Solo (Egg Crepe Rolls), Indomie Dengan Babi Tore (Crispy Pork Belly Instant Noodles), and Kue Perut Ayam (Indonesian Cinnamon Doughnuts).
The Kue Keju (Cheese Biscuits) were a huge hit with my family. These savory, crumbly treats were the first biscuits Lara’s grandmother Popo sold in her bakery, Toko Surabaya. They are especially perfect for pairing with coffee or tea.
These Sose Solo (Egg Crepe Rolls) are inspired by a dish in Solo, Java. Thin egg crepes are packed with a mixture of ground chicken or pork (I used chicken), rice vermicelli, shiitake mushrooms, pak choi, garlic, spring onion, and seasonings, then served alongside Sulawesi rica-rica chilli sauce for dipping.
I made the Indomie Dengan Babi Tore (Crispy Pork Belly Instant Noodles) for a weeknight dinner and was completely blown away by the complexity of flavor and texture with such little prep. Slices of pork belly are lightly marinated in vinegar, salt, and pepper before frying until golden and crisp. They are tossed in batches with cooked instant noodles red chillies, garlic, greens, and a kecap manis sauce. I dove right in and completely forgot to add any the garnishes I had set aside (chopped roasted peanuts, cilantro, and Kerupuk- prawn crackers).
My kids were immediately drawn to the Kue Perut Ayam (Indonesian Cinnamon Doughnuts) from Kupang, Timor and had such fun making them. These coiled doughnuts literally translate to “chicken stomach cake” due to their shape. After whisking together the batter and allowing it to rest for about 30 minutes, it is piped into hot oil in a spiral shape and fried until golden. The pieces are immediately tossed in a bowl of cinnamon sugar before serving.
Soto Betawi (Betawi Beef and Coconut Soup) Recipe
Excerpt from Coconut & Sambal
Soto Betawi (Betawi Beef and Coconut Soup)
- 1.2 kg beef brisket trimmed of any fat and cut into 3cm cubes
- 2 lemongrass stalks bruised and tied in a knot
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste or 1 tablespoon lime juice mixed with 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 700 ml coconut milk
- 200 ml whole milk
- 3 medium potatoes peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 3 tomatoes quartered
- 2 spring onions thinly sliced on the diagonal
- Lime juice to taste
- Sea salt and white pepper to taste
- Coconut oil or sunflower oil for frying
For the Spice Paste:
- 4 small banana shallots or 8 Thai shallots peeled and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 2 candlenuts or macadamia nuts or 4 almonds or cashews, toasted for best flavour
- 2 cm piece of ginger about 10g, peeled and sliced
- Lime wedges
- Cucumber, chilli and shallot pickle optional
- Place the beef brisket in a deep saucepan with the lemongrass and bay leaves. Pour in 1.5 liters water, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, carefully skimming off any scum that rise to the surface.
- Meanwhile, place all the spice paste ingredients in a small food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the spice paste and cook until fragrant, about 10–15 minutes.
- After the brisket has simmered for 1 hour, add the tamarind paste, coconut milk and whole milk, along with the spice paste. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for another hour or until the brisket is soft and tender.
- Add the potato chunks for the final 30 minutes of cooking, then add the tomatoes and spring onions for the last 10 minutes. Continue to simmer and reduce the broth until it is thick and full flavoured. Season to taste with the lime juice, salt and pepper.
- When ready to serve, divide the broth between four bowls and serve with the lime wedges, pickle and sambal, if using.