The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my food 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.
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 favorite memory, using this partnership, was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre: 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, which 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 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 Moroccan 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-the stove wasn’t working! The true test of my creativity came. However, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates. The meal came off triumphantly: I, in a 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. Still guests participate in dinner-theatre-type-events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful story.
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 an Indonesian rijsttafel, which 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.
Serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is also compatible with Indian curries; acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre; and, my favorite, it provides the crowning touch to salads! Keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand. Make a double batch and keep it in a sealed storage bag. The beauty of this topping lasts indefinitely.
Serungdeng Kacang Yields: 3 cups. Total prep time: 1 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.
6 tbsp yellow onion, minced (You will need a medium/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)
6 medium/large garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 tbsp sugar (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)
1 tsp salt (Real Salt is important; available in the health section of local supermarkets.)
1 tbsp oil (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality.)
2 cups unsweetened coconut chips (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 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 (see photo). When onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife.
- Start by measuring 6 tbsp of minced onion; save rest of onion for other cooking. With a mortar and pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt. When this is a thick puree, set aside. (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
- Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium/low heat. Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it turns brown, 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; stir well to coat coconut with oil; cook 20 minutes, or until golden brown in color and slightly wet. Stir every 5 minutes, so as not to burn. (Let it cook for full 5-minute increments, however; this allows for the coconut to brown.)
- When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice now. Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the pan.
- Remove from heat and be sure to cool in skillet; this completes the drying process. (See top photo for finished product.)
- Keep in a sealed storage bag, lasts for months.