Indonesia – Garang Asem

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by Fauzan Anandika

There are various kinds of traditional food all over the world that can found easily. They usually have iconic characteristics of how to cook, the ingredient, or the story behind it. In a tropical country like Indonesia, using banana leaf as a cooking sheet is a common thing to see. Banana leaf creates a tasty smell when steamed or grilled, even we can’t eat it, but banana leaf increases you’re eating appetite.

In Semarang city, Central Java province of Indonesia, there is a special dish that uses a banana leaf to wrap it, known as Garang Asem. The word Garang Asem refers to the way to cook and its taste. Garang Asem is a side dish wrapped with banana leaf and steamed (digarang). It can contain different kinds of fillings like chicken, fish, mushrooms, or tofu. It tastes a little bit sour (asam). 

In the past, Garang Asam only serves the rich people. At that time, organic chicken prices are so expensive, and only the rich could afford to buy it. But now everyone could eat Garang Asem even it still become the most expensive dish on the restaurant menu.

Garang Asem price indicating the long process of cooking, it cooks for 2 hours, and if there is a mistake in the process, it will turn into a chicken curry instead of Garang Asem. Spicy and fresh-sour are the dominant taste of Garang Asem, and tender meat texture as the result of 2 hours steamed. But don’t overthink it, if you follow step by step you can get this tasty dish for your dinner. 

This recipe is to make five portions.

Ingredient

  • Half organic chicken
  • Thick coconut milk from the first squeeze half coconut, 250 ml
  • Clear coconut milk from the second squeeze half coconut, 750 ml
  • 3 cm galangal, bruised
  • 2 bay leaves, torn into five parts
  • 2 lime leaves, torn into five parts
  • 2 stick lemongrass, use only the white parts. Bruised it
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • Banana leaves for wrapping

Sliced spice

  • 12 clove shallot
  • 8 clove garlic
  • 5 Bilimbi fruit
  • 4 green tomato
  • 6 red cayenne pepper, don’t slice it

Others spice

  • 5 cm young galangal, thin sliced
  • 3 bay leaves, torn it
  • 4 lime leaves, torn it

How to cook

  1. Wash clean the chicken and cut into small pieces.
  2. Boil clear coconut milk with bay leaves, lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, salt, and sugar.
  3. Add chicken, cook until tender and the water shrink. You can add more water if the chicken not tenders yet.
  4. Pour thick coconut milk, stir slowly until boiling and soak the chicken. Remove the chicken and divide into five, set aside.
  5. Prepare all the sliced spice in one medium bowl, divide into five, set aside.
  6. Pick two banana leaves, stack them into one.
  7. Put bay leaves, lime leaves, and thin-sliced galangal. Put one portion chicken and one portion sliced spice, then pour with boiled coconut milk.
  8. Wrap it and steam for 30 minutes.
  9. Garang asem ready to be served
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