Although, like Beef Rendang, this thick curry dish originated in Western Java, it's now one of those dishes you'll find in just about any Indonesian restaurant. This style is very similar to thick Thai curries, but the tomato base as well as turmeric mark out more western and South Asian influences than you see in Thai cuisine.
Indonesia is a really huge country. The foods and cuisines vary widely from one part of the country to another. However, there are a few dishes that are available in just about every corner of this nation of 10,000 islands. One of these is Soto Ayam, which simply means “chicken soup”. You'll find street stalls selling it just about everywhere, and it's a big hit with foreign travelers as well.
I've never been able to find out exactly how this dish got its name, which in Thai is kwiteeo pat kee mao. Unlike Chinese 'drunken' recipes that I have known, there's no alcohol used in this dish, ever. The basic ingredients are similar to those used in stir-fried meats with garlic and holy basil, called pat krapao in Thai. It does appear that the name actually refers to the diner, rather than the dish. In other words, the name should be translated as 'drunkard's noodles' but that just doesn't have quite the same ring.
In Thai, this dish is simply called kwit-teeo pat see-eew, or rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce. You'll not it uses all three kinds of soy sauce commonly used in Thai kitchens. I think this dish goes best with pork, but you'll also easily find it on the street with chicken. Seafood is less common due to the over-powering tastes of the sauces.
This simple dish, called rat nha in Thai, is widely available throughout Thailand, where for many it's a 'comfort' food. In stalls, the gravy is usually prepared in a large pot and ladled out over bowls of noodles and kale. If you can't find Chinese kale, broccoli is a good match for the colour, crunchiness and taste of Chinese kale. Likewise, cornstarch can just as easily be used in place of tapioca flour (cassava starch) as a thickening agent.
Thailand has long enjoyed its own special style of fried chicken, made with their very own blend of 'secret' herbs and spices. Fried or grilled chicken is found throughout the kingdom with regional variations. For me, fried chicken always makes me think of the beach. Just about any stretch of beach in Thailand that is well visited will have a string of shacks selling fried or barbecued chicken, along with som tam and sticky rice. It's the perfect beach food, since you can eat it all with your hands and not care about how sticky your fingers get.
These little wrapped meatballs are quite a popular afternoon snack. They would make quite a good appetizer, or finger food for a party. Stalls will specialize in this and nothing else. As with noodle stalls that get a reputation, people will drive a long distance just to get to a good dumpling stall.
Freshly steamed dumplings still in the steamer
Don't let the relative simplicity of the ingredients fool you, with the full compliment of fresh ingredients, this curry can be surprisingly complex. That said, finding fresh kaffir lime leaves and sprigs of green peppercorns is probably the biggest challenge you'll face in making this dish, and it really won't taste the same without them.
Pork Red Curry
This meal was the result of having a lot of leftover ingredients from other recipes that I made for posting here. The main things I had filling up my 'fridge was a large chicken breast, a big packet of kaffir lime leaves and a half can of mushrooms. I decided to challenge myself to see what I could make.
I often think chicken and galangal soup (tom ka gai) is perhaps the best example of Thai cuisine. Unlike its more famous cousin tom yum the taste of this thick soup is more varied and sublime. The undercurrents given by the galangal, lime juice, lemongrass and pepper make this dish quite remarkable.
Chicken and Galangal Soup