I have been chronicling my impressions here, about places i have visited , talking about cities and sanctuaries situated here and there.
But the "Kitchen Treasure Hunt" announced in the blog "-Amma's Kitchen" tempted me to write this "travelogue" about a place as interesting and exotic as Kathmandu or Lucerne . And thats my Ibu's Kitchen in our residence in Indonesia.
Ibu (meaning Mother) is the traditional form of addressing the housekeepers in Indonesia. These ladies are very efficient homemakers and a couple of years spent under their pampering care can spoil one for life ! The mistress does not need to lift a little finger by way of housework or even basic non-chores like getting a glass of water.
The Ibus wash, dust, mop, iron, shop , cook, organise parties, re-stock bottled water, cooking gas and Fresh milk upon depletion, take over baby-care fully and when needed ,even give traditional massage for the mistress who sprains her foot by sheer couch-potato-ing 24-7.
The Kitchen is Ibu's Fortress. She will work with any utensils provided but will ask for only two implements specifically, without which she is handicapped.
One is the tall aluminium RICE STEAMER or DANDANG. Modelled on the traditional "Woven Basket in Iron Wok " contraption (Kukusan) used widely even today in the countrysides to prepare rice . Rice steamed in this is devoid of starch and very healthy. The basket steamer is also used for steaming corn , veggies and fish.The Dadang is just a drum with a deep colander fitting into it. There are variations like double steamers etc. Half boiled rice is drained of the starch content and then steamed in the colander.
The other implement is the grinding stone called " COBEK and ULEK". ( pronounced "Cho-bek) Though they use modern electrical mixies, when it comes to grinding our masalas, their sambals, marinades, spice powders, and chutnies, the Ibu folk rely on the COBEK and will not consider any modern alternative.
The mortar and pestle ( COBEK-ULEK) are made from hard basalt stone and though they look smooth finished, are really rough enough to grind even pandan leaves and coconut to extreme fineness. The mortar is heavy, circular and cut shallow like a saucer. The pestle is short with a rounded head and is curved or bent at the opposite side. This is a unique ergonomic design, making it fit into the palm snugly so that maximum pressure can be applied on the work without straining the arm.
New Cobeks have to be " prepared " before being put to use. First both pieces are washed in warm water. After draining well, sea salt crystals, 2 pods of garlic and a handful of coconut shavings (or bread crumbs) are spread all around the mortar and everything is ground well in circular motions for 10 minutes. The grinding action should cover the whole inner surface, not just the centre which is the part generally used. The paste is left on for a few hours with the head of the pestle too fully covered in it. Finally it is washed well and sun dried. Ready .
I have found the cobek to be extremely efficient in turning out very fine quality pastes and powders. Cobeks made of palm wood are also sold, but they are merely light weight and attractive but not really efficient.
Here's an interesting extract ( quote):
Why Foods Taste Better Prepared In a Mortar And Pestle
Grinding ingredients in a mortar and pestle actually extracts more flavor than does fine chopping in a blender or food processor. This phenomena is explained by UC Berkeley chemist David King.
"There's a phrase in physics called 'shear force,' " he says. "When you shear the matrix that encloses the flavor molecules, you release the flavor." The mortar shears ingredients; the blender cuts them into infinite pieces. "Under the microscope, there's a real difference between something that's been sheared and something that's been cut infinitely."
One other thing Ibus use in the kitchen is the traditional round winnow, a large, shallow disc of basketry( about a foot in diameter). This is used for winnowing, spreading out condiments to dry and to drain washed greens.
PS: another Traditional Indonesian kitchen implement is The KETUNGAN. (Not used in the home ofcourse. ) It is a long wooden pestle used for pounding paddy to dehusk it. The mortar here is a long, boatlike bin dug out of a tree trunk. Four or five women can stand around the bin and pound large quantities of rice. Of course, in modern times, rice is rarely hand pounded. But the Ketungans are not forgotten. Now they have assumed a new role: As musical instruments in Bali ! The percussion set up by five Ketungans pounding into the wooden bin can sound as racy and foot tapping as drums !
(Picture of Ketungan Orchestra !)