I’m in Bogor, Indonesia for two weeks doing a consultancy for a forestry research institute. I’ve been staying at the institute’s guesthouse and it’s a bit of a quiet and empty place (they move me to a hotel tomorrow). Not many people around and since I Ieave the office at 6 pm and, thanks to lingering jet lag, am generally awake for most of the night, I have a lot of time on my hands. Due to some quirk of technology or censorship, my TV only gets two channels: E! Asia and the Asian Food Channel. I was pretty excited about the latter because who doesn’t want to learn more about the wonder that is Asian cooking? As it turns out, E! Asia and the Asian Food Channel are exactly the same as the regular channels, albeit with Chinese subtitles (and a Chinese Ryan Seacrest imitator who pops up from time to time on E!).
Last night, having overdosed on watching endless Kardashians on E! (what is the deal with those people?), I saw about 6 hours of cooking shows: License to Grill with Robert Rainford (“I loooovvve to play with anchovies”), A Cook’s Tour (Bourdain does Vietnam), Chuck’s Day Off, the Naked Chef, and others too numerous to mention. The only Asian show was Iron Chef Japan where one of the Iron Chefs challenged his rival to a face-off, so scandalized was he that the rival used olive oil in his cooking (and might I mention that he took the upstart dowwwntowwn)! That show is very entertaining if you’ve not seen it. There’s a lot of bowing, and quaint translations and discussion of innards (not gratuitously: they were on the menu).
While my Food Network-watching orgy did not leave me much the wiser about the intricacies of Asian cuisine, it did leave me with a powerful hunger. Luckily (since I was still watching at 5 am due to the aforementioned jetlag), I did not have long to wait.
Breakfast at the guesthouse was a sort of noodle soup with bitter greens in which swam a hard-boiled egg and some sort of meat in ball form. It was very nice but the best thing was the industrial strength juicer, available for use by guests. The juicer sits next to a big bowl of fruits and vegetables, only some of which I recognized. I feel a research project coming on. At the end of the day, unless it’s durian (which is hard to mistake), it’s all good. I just chucked a bunch of stuff in and started juicing!
Lunch was spicy chicken brochettes and gado-gado: a salad of shredded, chopped, or sliced green vegetables (cabbage, young boiled jack fruit, bitter melon, chilis, bean sprouts, sliced cucumber and lettuce) served up with a peanut sauce (also used in satays). The sauce is sophisticated, hot, sweet and altogether delicious. I am looking around for the perfect recipe and will post it when I find it.