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‘Coconut & Sambal’: Recipe book with a dollop of nostalgia

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, July 24, 2020  /  04:39 pm
‘Coconut & Sambal’: Recipe book with a dollop of nostalgia

'Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen' by Lara Lee. ( Ispir/Cover courtesy of Bloomsbury)

If you’re lucky enough to have a living grandmother, then you may remember being pampered with a variety of delicious homecooked meals.

That’s the case with the half-Australian and half-Indonesian chef Lara Lee.

Growing up in Australia, Lee learned about her Indonesian heritage through her grandmother Margaret Thali, who came from Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.

In Sydney, her grandmother cooked Lee’s family a variety of Indonesian comfort foods, such as gado-gado (vegetable salad served with peanut sauce), chicken satay and Indonesian Peranakan dish babi kecap (pork belly cooked in sweet soy sauce).

In her book Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen, Lee shares these precious recipes as well as other family recipes that she discovered while traveling across the archipelago. Those recipes are treasured by many families and have been passed from generation to generation, leaving readers feeling nostalgic.

Published by Bloomsbury, the book features more than 80 authentic recipes, including the all-time favorite nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice), perkedel jagung (spiced corn fritters), tempe manis (sweet soy tempeh) and the essential part of Indonesian cuisine, sambal.

Each recipe also comes with a brief introduction to the dish, giving foreign readers a better understanding of the food, ingredients and cooking methods.

In addition to honoring family recipes, Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen also adds a modern twist to some of the classic dishes, such as broccoli in gado-gado, and a vegan version of martabak daging (stuffed fried pancake). In fact, half of the recipes are suitable for vegetarians.

Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen is available for purchase at Periplus bookstores.

Before flipping through the pages and feeling mesmerized by Lee’s recipes, you may want to try cooking one of the most popular savory snacks below. (jes/kes)

Read also: Gordon Ramsay's beef 'rendang' recipe for you to try at home

Martabak Daging

Origin: Popular all over Indonesia

Sambal suggestion: Caramelized shallot sambal

Makes: 30 pieces

  • 30 spring roll wrappers, 15 cm square
  • 1 banana or 1 beaten egg, for sealing
  •  Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for pan-frying, sunflower oil for deep-frying


  • 450 g minced lamb
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 8 cm piece of ginger (about 40 g), peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 bunch of chives, finely chopped 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 tsp sea salt
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground black pepper


  1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix well. Heat 1–2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the lamb filling and cook, stirring, until it is cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Line a tray with baking parchment. Place one spring roll wrapper on a chopping board, storing any unused wrappers under a clean tea towel so they do not dry out.
  3. Spread 1–2 tablespoons of the filling over one half of the wrapper, leaving a 1 cm border.
  4. Cut a thick slice of the banana with the skin on and rub the banana flesh over the edges of the wrapper to help seal the skin together (if you prefer, you can brush with beaten egg).
  5. Fold the other half of the wrapper over the filling and press all the edges down. Place on the tray. Repeat until all the filling has been used up.
  6. Fill a deep saucepan one-third full with sunflower oil and heat to 160°C. (If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, check the oil is at temperature by adding a cube of bread; it should turn golden in 25–30 seconds.)
  7. Fry the martabak in batches for 2–3 minutes until golden. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
  8. Cut the martabak in half so the filling can be seen, then serve.

Variation: Vegan martabak

  1. If you want to make the recipe vegan, replace the lamb with 225 g potato and 225 g butternut squash.
  2. Peel them both, removing the seeds of the butternut squash, and cut into 5 mm cubes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.
  4. Place on a flat baking tray, drizzle all over with oil, and season with salt. Place two garlic bulb halves on the tray to add flavor. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the remaining filling ingredients with 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until softened, then stir through the roasted squash and potato.
  6. Fill the spring roll wrappers, then cook and serve as described in the main recipe.