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 decided to try dozens of different kinds, in small portions, served with rice. Today, a rijsttafel consists of approximately 10–25 appetizer-size dishes, meant to be shared among a group of people. The ritual of describing the dishes is a ceremony in itself; pay attention to which dishes are described as the spiciest. Many Indonesian dishes are very pedis (spicy), but you can also add more heat in the form of a crushed chili paste called sambal. There are many different types of sambal, including the simplest one: sambal olek, made only with chilies. Other sambals include sambal badjak, which is chilies fried with onions, garlic, and sugar, which deepens flavors and minimizes heat. Other kinds of sambals incorporate different spices or crushed, dried, or fermented shrimp.

These are some items you might find in a typical rijsttafel:

Starters

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

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

Loempia: deep-fried spring rolls filled with bean sprouts, vegetables, and meat.

Saté: a skewer of bite-size pieces of babi (pork), kunding (lamb), or ajam (chicken) in a rich peanut sauce.

Meat Dishes

Babi ketjap: pork in soy sauce.

Frikadel goring: minced meat that is fried, often served in a sausage shape. Versions of this have become standard fare in Dutch snack bars.

Rendang: spicy Sumatran meat (often beef) stewed in 11 spices.

Vegetables

Gado-gado: a mix of cold, cooked vegetables such as beans and cabbage, 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 chili paste.

Sambal goring tahu: stir-fried wafers of fermented soy beans with sambal.

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

Seafood

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

Ikan Bali: baked fish in Balinese-style sauce.

Oedang blado: baked shrimp in spicy sauce.

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

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

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