The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my varied dishes in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana. In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.
A rijsttafel is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.
Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.
For me, serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is compatible with Indian curries, acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre, and-my favorite-provides the crowning touch to salads!
I always keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand, by making a double batch and storing it in a sealed storage bag. The beauty of this topping is it lasts a long time, if you are disciplined.
Prior to my doing this rijsttafel, I presented a gala event, a Moroccan affair, which was to become one of my favorite memories in the history of my business; it best defines what my work entailed back then.
I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well. As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables. Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation. An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.
My most treasured memory using this partnership was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre, in which I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”. The five winning tickets, from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs.
This large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca. It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, while the dining room consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen. The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene. More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the sumptuous meal to the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.
Broadway arts resulted! Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on. Talk about fun.
My part was the researched African meal. That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival, for the stove wasn’t working!
The true test of my creativity came. Nevertheless, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates. The event came off triumphantly, as I, in Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.
I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence. That night in “Casablanca” best exemplified what I did with my work then.
Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences, but still guests participate in dinner theatre type events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful stories.
Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school. However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions. Among these many thematic experiences was this Indonesian rijsttafel, from which today’s entry originated.
Serungdeng Kacang Yields: 3 c. Total prep time: 1 hr, plus 1 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.
6 tbsp yellow onion, minced (You will need a med/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)
6 med/large garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 tbsp sugar (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)
1 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)
1 tbsp oil (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality here.)
2 c unsweetened coconut chips (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)
1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts (Also available at low cost in bulk at our local Winco.)
- An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction. After onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife (see photo).
- Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
- Measure 6 tbsp of minced onion and place in a mortar; save rest of onion for other cooking. With a pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt. When this is a thick puree, set aside. (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
- Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it begins to turn brown, immediately lower temperature to med/low; oil is ready for cooking. Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl. Make sure coconut is completely coated.
- When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; mix well with spoon to evenly coat fruit with oil.
- Cook about 20 minutes (over med/low heat), or until golden brown in color and slightly wet, stirring every 5 minutes, so as not to burn. Let it, however, cook for full 5-minute increments, without stirring; this allows for the coconut to brown. As you stir it, carefully scrape bottom of pan with a spatula.
- When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice in this last 5-minute period. Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the heat-retentive cast iron pan.
- Remove from heat and be sure to leave in skillet to cool; this completes the drying process. (See top photo for finished product.)
- This lasts for months, kept in a sealed storage bag.