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Indonesian Rice Tables

Holland's famed rijsttafel, or rice table, was the ceremonial feast of the Dutch colonists in Indonesia centuries ago. The Dutch are famously pragmatic; when originally confronted with the many dishes that came from the thousands of islands that made up their former colony of Indonesia, they simply decided to try dozens of different small portions at a time, and serve them with rice. A rice table consists of approximately 10-25 appetizer-size dishes, meant to be shared among a group of people. When you sit down and place your order, the staff will bring a number of hot plates, warmed by candles, to the table. The ritual of describing the dishes is a ceremony in itself, and one should pay heed to which dishes are described as the spiciest. (And perhaps order a tongue-soothing witbier to wash it all down.) Once you face the dizzying array of platters, put two spoonfuls of rice in the center of your plate and limit yourself to one small taste of everything. Otherwise, you're licked from the start. Then repeat.

The following is a guide to some of our favorite items.

Starters

Soto ajam: a clear chicken broth with vegetables and rice noodles.

Krupuk: crackers of dried fish or shrimp meal fried in oil.

Loempia: deep-fried rolls of bean sprouts, vegetables, and meat; basically a much larger take on the Chinese egg roll.

Saté: a skewer of bite-size morsels of babi (pork), kunding (lamb), or ajam (chicken), drenched in a rich peanut sauce or a sweetened, thick soy sauce.

Meat

Babi ketjap: pork in soy sauce.

Frikadel goring: fried minced meat. A watered-down sausage version of this has become standard fare in all Dutch snack bars—it's almost as popular as frites (french fries).

Rendang: Sumatran spicy meat, often beef, lovingly stewed in no fewer than 11 spices.

Vegetables

Gado-gado: a mix of cold, cooked vegetables such as beans and cabbage, drowned in a spicy peanut sauce.

Paksoy: a leafy green that is often steamed and sprinkled with sesame oil.

Sambal boontjes: butter beans or French beans spiced with a chili paste.

Sambal goring tahu: stir-fried wafers of fermented soy beans with a sauce of sambal (crushed chili paste).

Sayur lodeh: vegetables cooked in a coconut cream broth, which helps take the bite out of peppery spiciness.

Seafood

Ikan lada hitam: baked fish splashed with black pepper and a spiced soy sauce.

Ikan Bali: baked fish in a Balinese-style sauce.

Oedang blado: baked shrimp in a spicy sauce.

Oedang piendang koening: grilled jumbo shrimp in a sweet-and-sour sauce and lemongrass.

Sambal goreng cumi cumi: baked squid in a spicy sambal made of hot peppers.

Updated: 11-2013

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