Apr 27, 2014

KECAP MANIS... Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce

Island-Style... Roasted Turkey Tails
with Kecap Manis Sauce (recipe below)

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Kecap manis (pronounced ketchup MAH-nees) is a dark brown Indonesian soy sauce typically sweetened with palm sugar and seasoned with ingredients such as garlic and star anise. It has a sweeter flavor as compared to normal soy sauce, and is much thicker. This sauce is perfect for the Hawaii barbecue. Its sweet and savory caramelize sugar flavor makes the perfect grilling glaze or marinade for chicken, pork, beef, octopus, even turkey tails (see recipe below).

There are many Asian sauces that are staples in my kitchen; soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine), Sriracha hot chili sauce, Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce, and keycap manis, are my favorite sauces. 

Many meals in Indonesia are incomplete without the addition of kecap manis. They also use it in a spicy-sweet dipping sauce, mixed with chilies, sliced shallot and drizzled with a bit of lime or calamansi juice. There are many brands of keycap manis out there, the problem is finding it here on Moloka'i, however it can be purchased online for a price. I prefer the "Bango" brand which can be found in Asian markets and is the Indonesian favorite, or you can easily make something similar all by yourself, it's very simple (recipe below).

Kecap Manis Sauce 
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 piece star anise
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1-2 teaspoons of molasses for a richer flavor

Put the sugar in a small saucepan and place it over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar begins to clump together and then melt. Continue stirring until the sugar is completely melted, but do not allow to burn. Remove from heat–the sugar will continue to cook for a while–and allow it to cool slightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. CAUTION! The sugar is still hot, and the liquid may splatter.

Return the saucepan to medium heat, bring it to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency. Strain and let it cool. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Island-Style... Roasted Turkey Tails
Roasted turkey tails are little nubs of golden goodness. They are popular in many places around the world. Most people like them smoked, boiled, roasted or barbecued. I've even heard of turkey tail sashimi (recipe). Here in Hawaii, turkey tails are common, thank goodness. They are cheap, $2.09 a pound at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i, which is twice as much as they pay on the Mainland. Ask any Samoan living in Hawaii about turkey tails and their eyes will cross as they begin to drool... they are an island delicacy!!! Here's one way we prepare them in Hawaii, island-style:

4 fresh turkey tails
3 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup kecap manis (recipe above), hoisin garlic sauce, or teriyaki sauce

Clean turkey tails in water. Place turkey tails in a pot and cover with chicken stock. Bring stock to a simmer for 3 hours with the cover on. Remove the tails from the pot, and save the stock for another use. Cool the tails then coat the with sauce. Let them marinate in the refrigerator, covered, anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. Remove any quills on the tails if there are any, then place the tails on an aluminum foil covered roasting pan for easy cleanup, and roast in a 370˚F oven for about 30 minutes. You might want to turn then halfway through cooking and baste them with a little more sauce. To eat the tails, you need to remove the tail bone that runs down the middle of the tail with a knife. Serve with rice garnished with black sesame seeds. Makes 2 servings.

Note: Turkey tails are also delicious barbecued, after cooking them in the stock, coat with more sauce and grill until slightly charred and smoky. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. Another way to prepare them is the filipino way, adobo-style (recipe here), or here is a Hawaii recipe for "Turkey Tail Laulau".  I've even heard of marinating turkey tails in Jack Daniels whiskey infused with fresh rosemary and cayenne pepper, but I could never bring myself to waisting the whiskey. Cheers!

Glazed Salmon
2 salmon fillets, big enough for 2 people
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 slices fresh ginger
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1/4 cup kecap manis

Remove any pin bones from the salmon (press against the salmon fillet and if you feel a bone, use fingers or tweezers to remove the bones). Heat a frypan on medium heat. Add the oil and the ginger and garlic to the pan and fry for about a minute until it starts to soften and become fragrant. Add the salmon fillets, skin side down and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Turn salmon over and add the kecap manis and cook with the lid on for about 3-5 minutes (depending on whether you like your salmon cooked all the way through). During this time, occasionally baste the sides and non skin side with the sauce until nicely lacquered. Serve over jasmine rice sprinkled with sliced scallions, and sugar snap peas sautéed in butter and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Makes 2 servings.

Indonesian Chicken Skewers 
with Peanut Sauce 
(Chicken Sate)
Chicken ingredients:
1 pound chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground white pepper
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
24 bamboo skewers

Basting Sauce:
1/2 cup kecap manis
1 teaspoon of fish sauce
1 clove of thinly sliced shallot
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice

Peanut sauce ingredients:
1 cup water
5 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons kecap manis (sweet soy sauce, recipe above)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice

wedges of fresh lime for garnish

Soak bamboo skewers in water for several hours to prevent them from burning during cooking.

Combine chicken thighs, 3/4 teaspoon salt, white pepper, and canola oil in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Bring peanut sauce ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan; stir to combine. Remove from heat and add lime juice. Heat a charcoal grill. Thread marinated chicken onto soaked skewers. Mix together the ingredients for the basting sauce and brush the sauce over the chicken skewers. Arrange chicken skewers in batches on grill and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Continue basting the chicken until it is beautifully caramelized. Serve with peanut sauce, and garnish with lime wedges. Makes 4 servings. This dish is normally served with a simple cucumber/carrot pickle in Indonesia called Acar Timun. See recipe below.

Acar Timun
Acar Timun is the name of a simple Indonesian cucumber/carrot pickle that is usually served with barbecued chicken sate.

2 Japanese cucumbers
1 teaspoon salt for cucumbers
2 carrots
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 thin slices ginger, julienned
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise, leaving skin on and remove soft core. Cut into 1/4 inch thick sticks about 2 inches long. Mix 1 teaspoon salt into cucumbers, set aside for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze the cucumbers to extract as much juice as possible. Peel then cut carrots the same size and set aside. Heat oil in a deep pan or wok and saute ginger and mustard seeds until mustard seeds pop. Stir in turmeric and chili powder, then add in cucumbers, carrots, sugar and salt and saute for 2 minutes more. Take care not to overcook. Turn off heat, add vinegar and mix well. Chill pickles in the refrigerator overnight until ready to serve. Makes 4 servings.

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