Cookbook 134: Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food (and revisiting cookbook 115)

I’m quite behind in writing these up, so they are not going to be in a particular order, and i may forget what I thought about recipes. 2018 has been a year, and I’ve been flat out for most of it. It’s not been bad for me personally, but it has been from stressful to bad for many people I love and care for, so my energy has been taken up helping and caring where I can. So, let’s review.

Because my sister doesn’t want material things while she is waiting for her house to be built (she doesn’t have anywhere to put them), I offered to cook her a two to three course meal for her birthday. Her partner grew up in Indonesia and was hugely excited to find that I had Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food cookbook as she is considered the go-to cookbook expert for Indonesians, and so he wanted me to cook a couple of dishes from that, and my sister wanted some recipes from Curry: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to complement the other recipes, and a meal was born. I’m going to detail the recipes from Curry, but not put as much effort into them as I am Indonesian Food, because that is the focus for this review. FYI Sri Owen was also involved in writing Curry, so the whole meal was tied together by one recipe author.

I really liked Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food cookbook. To start with, it’s actually gorgeous. Mine is hardcover, a purple background with gold embossed batik style patterns. The photos in the book are lovely, and the book is broken up into different periods of Sri Owen’s life, where the recipes are from “grandmother’s recipes” and “street snacks”, details on staples and basics, and methods and techniques. It’s easy to follow, the recipes I cooked were delicious, and I’d happily cook from this book again. 4 out of 5 stars.

Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food

Klepon (glutinous rice-flour cakes with brown sugar filling)



  • 225g glutinous rice flour
  • 3 tbsp very thick coconut milk/cream
  • 2 – 3 drops pandan essence (optional)
  • 80 – 115g palm sugar or muscovado sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Sift the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the middle, and pour in the very thick coconut milk, and add the pandan essence, if using. Start kneading to bring together the dough. Continue to knead, gradually adding 60ml of cold water, a little at a time, until the dough is pliable but not sticky.
  2. Take a knob of dough, about as big as a small marble, flatten it on a pastry board, and fill with a small piece of palm sugar of 1/2 tsp muscovado sugar. Shape into a ball, with the sugar inside. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
  3. Bring a saucepan, half-filled with water and a pinch of salt to the boil. Drop in the klepon one by one until you have 10 – 12 in the water. Boil for 10 – 15 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander.
  4. Once all the klepon are cooked, mix the salt and shredded coconut, and roll the klepon in the coconut until they are well coated. Arrange on a serving dish, sprinkling any remaining coconut on top. Serve warm or cold as a tea-time snack.

Notes on the recipe:

  • Prior to boiling the klepon, the dough is very fragile and you need to handle it carefully when shaping it into a ball. It’s pretty forgiving, but care is required
  • These were nice and sweet and chewy, and would be great with icecream if served hot (we served them cold because we were making multiple dishes).

Rendang daging (beef long-cooked in coconut milk with spices)

Rendang daging


  • 6 shallots, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2.5cm piece of turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped, or 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 6 – 10 fresh red chillies, deseeded, or 3 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chopped galangal or 1/2 tsp laos powder (ground galangal)
  • 2.3 litres coconut milk
  • 1 salam leaf or bay leaf
  • 1 fresh turmeric leaf of lemongrass stem
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.35 kg buffalo meat or beef (preferably brisket; otherwise chuck steak or silverside), cut into cubes of about 2cm


  1. Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric root or ground turmeric, chillies and galangal or laos powder in a blender with 4 tablespoons of the coconut milk, and puree until smooth. Put this paste and the coconut milk in a large wok or saucepan (it is generally more convenient to start in a pan and transfer to a wok later). Add the meat and the rest of the ingredients to the pan, making sure that there is a enough coconut milk to cover.
  2. Stir the contents of the pan, and start cooking, uncovered, over a medium heat. Let the pan bubble gently for 1.5 – 2 hours, stirring from time to time. The coconut milk will then be quite thick and much reduced.
  3. If you started in a large saucepan, transfer everything to a wok and continue cooking in the same way for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. By now the coconut milk is beginning to reduce to oil, and the meat, will soon be frying. From now on, the rendang needs to be stirred frequently. Taste, and add salt if necessary. When the coconut oil becomes thick and brown, stir continuously for about 15 minutes until the oil has been more or less completely absorbed by the meat. Take out and discard the salam or bay leave, turmeric leaf or lemon grass. Serve hot with lots of rice.

Notes on this recipe:

  • We substituted chicken for beef in this recipe (as my sister doesn’t eat red meat) and as you can see from the image it pretty much disintegrated. No one complained about that though, it was very tasty.
  • There is plenty of forgiveness in the timing in this recipe. We cooked it much longer than suggested (with the chicken) and it was still good.

Curry: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia

Kootu sambar (Vegetables with lentils)

Kootu sambar


  • 100g split yellow lentils
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 onions, cut into small pieces
  • 100g carrots, peeled and cut into 2.5 pieces
  • 100g green beans, cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 3 tomatoes, quartered
  • 100g potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 4 tbsp tamarind water, made with 1tbsp and 4 tbsp water
  • salt

Spice Paste

  • 100g freshly grated coconut or desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 red chilli

For tempering

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 3 dried red chillies


  1. For the spice paste, roast the coconut and spices until brown. Leave to cool, then grind in a food processor, gradually adding about 250ml water to make a fine paste.
  2. Bring 300ml of water to the boil in a saucepan and add the lentils, turmeric, chilli powder and onions. Simmer until the lentils are well cooked.
  3. Add the carrots, beans, tomatoes and potatoes and stir well. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the tamarind water and salt to taste. Cover and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the spice paste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to moderate and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. For tempering, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. As they begin to pop, add the curry leaves and dried red chillies. Pour this over the curry and gently stir through. Serve hot.

Chana pulao (Chickpea pilau)

Chana pulao


  • 500g basmati rice
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 115g thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tsp fresh root ginger cut in slivers
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 black cardamom pods
  • salt
  • 115 dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender, or 400g canned chickpeas, drained

Fried brown onions

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced


  1. Thoroughly wash the rice in running cold water, then leave to soak in a bowl of water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry until golden brown. Add the ginger, all the spices and salt to taste and stir for about 1 minute. Add 750ml water and bring to the boil. Add the soaked rice and cooked or canned chickpeas. Cover the saucepan, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes for about 15 minutes or until the rice is about 90% cooked.
  3. Dampen a clean, thick kitchen cloth with water. Remove the lid from the saucepan. Cover with the cloth, then put the lid back on tightly and set the pan on a very low heat (you can place the saucepan on a thick frying pan to reduce the heat further). Cook like this for 25 – 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook until dark golden brown and crisp. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Garnish the pilau with the fried brown onions and serve.