Friday, December 02, 2005

The kitchen at Cilik's Beach Garden

The kitchen is "no secret place" according to the English translation of the German literature left for guests by the owners, and Miss K and I hung out there while Miss K's ikan dalam daun (fish in banana leaves, not the thing in the picture) was being prepared. The cooks do not speak any English, and one of the other staff translates. I ground up the spice paste according to the wristy technique I had learned at Casa Luna cooking school in the big shallow mortar and pestle used there. We watched coconut milk being made, from grated coconut and water, the gratings squelched with bare hands. The method for folding up banana leaves was quite different, and considerably more elaborate than the version taught by Janet de Neefe. It beat me. Another time, we saw how sate sauce for chicken is made: chilli, shallots, tamarind goo (but this smelt more like molasses than anything I have tasted in Melbourne), tiny roasted peanuts with their skins on, and water. The paste was somewhat pale, and we learnt that chopped shallots and kecap manis, the sweet and thick Indonesian soy sauce, are added before serving. The satay sauce was quite different but equally good, on a tomato base.

It was good to be in the kitchen because it made us appreciate how much work went into everything on the menu, not all of which was always available whenever you wanted it. Most dishes involved taking raw ingredients and grinding them for a long time using manual labour into a paste which was then fried, or a mash which was steamed in banana leaves. The cooks worked from early in the morning until the evening.


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