Javanese black soup-stew.
Originally published here:
One pound stew beef or lamb chunks.
One onion, chopped.
One stalk sere (lemongrass), bruised.
Three to five cloves garlic, mashed, and an equivalent amount of ginger, ditto.
One teaspoon ground coriander.
Half a teaspoon each: turmeric, cayenne, cumin, langkwang powder.
Half a dozen soaked kluwak nuts, mashed up in a little hot water.
A few daon parot (kaffir lime leaves).
Pinches salt, pepper, sugar.
Scallion and cilantro to garnish.
Gild onion in oil, add the garlic and ginger, stir briefly, add the spices, then the meat. Cook, stirring, till the meat is no longer pink and the fragrance rises. Seethe with a little water and add the mashed kluwak, stirring to dissolve. Add everything else, plus water to cover generously. Simmer for about an hour. Garnish with scallion and cilantro.
Sere: Lemongrass (sere, serai, sae). A tropical stalk-grass that smells like candied lemon. Available in S.E. Asian markets. Keeps away bugs, so worth growing in your backyard.
Langkwang: Galangal (lengkuas, laos); related to ginger, has an old-fashioned almost medicinal smell. Do not use the dried LengKeung available in Chinatown, though - while it is a close relative, it is more suited for cooking bushmeats (!) as tonic than regular meats as dinner table food. The proportions used are also different.
kluwak nuts: The seeds of the Kulape tree (Kepayang; Pangium Edule). Kluwak which are available in the west are thoroughly processed and have been dried - they must be made soft by steeping in a little hot water for about ten or fifteen minutes, whereupon they may be mashed to a smooth paste with ease. They add a nice 'rusty' fragrance to dishes, and change the colour to brown-black. Very delicious.
Daon Parot: Kaffir lime leaf; a leaf that adds a fragrance between tea-rose and citrus. No substitute, but not absolutely essential. It can be purchased in markets catering to a Thai and Indonesian clientele.