Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mie Kopyok/Mie Lontong Semarang

Mie Kopyok Semarang

Phew! I (almost) busted the tiny little brain cells I have left thinking of what to do for this (Almost) Forgotten Indonesian Culinary Heritage event.

I bombarded our sweet host, Rurie, my family, my blog friends, my friends and even my friends' friends with gadzillions of questions. Is galantin almost forgotten? Is es marem doable? What the heck is kue rangi? Does es puter count? How about mie jowo? Don't tell me you haven't even heard of sate kerang? Has anyone ever heard of krupuk sambel kinca? Or is it just my imaginary childhood snack?...

Questions turned to discussions. Discussions turned to arguments. Arguments turned to cat fights....but they've all humoured me. Kindly, with extra patience. :)

Finally, I settled with...
Mie Kopyok/Mie Lontong Semarang

Why? Because I take everything personally.

It may not be the greatest life philosophy, but I just find everything more meaningful when they are relevant to me.

I have a very fond memory of mie kopyok. It transports me to my gloomy second floor bedroom, my troublesome, yet colorful teenage years. Those where the years when I was still a spoilt little princess; who never set foot in the kitchen; never thought that cooking was a necessity, not to mention an enjoyment; and never had the passion to learn a thing about her culture's culinary heritage.

Those were the years when I took mie ayam tjandra, bubur telo gang baru, ayam goreng min koncer, es puter cong lik, es krim soda florian, kue bandung jagalan, soto bangkong, lumpia gang lombok and mie kopyok for granted, due to the fact that I could enjoy any of them, at any given day. The furthest was just 15 minutes drive away from home, or in the case of mie kopyok, I could simply holler and order when I heard the vendor banged their wooden stick (kentongan) every afternoon.

Absence indeed makes my heart go fonder. Who would've thought that one day I would be crying out screams of frustration over failures to recreate those dishes in my Hong Kong kitchen?

So, what exactly is Mie Kopyok?

I had a very hard time finding information sources for this dish. Does it mean that it is really rare? Does it mean that it is vanishing quickly like an endangered species? I don't think so. This dish may not be available in other places in Indonesia, but in Semarang, where it was originated, I believe it does not only exist, it is still well loved by its avid fans. Its lack of information indicates that just like me, people probably take this dish for granted.

When I finally found something on the history of mie kopyok from this wonderful article about Semarang by Slamet Purwanto, I was jumping around with joy. I found that mie kopyok is a no-pork evolution result of mie titee, a Chinese Indonesian noodle dish consists of yellow noodles, spinach, and fatty pork leg.

Mie kopyok is a humble, simple, and yet comforting dish. It is typical Indonesian, which is indicated by its component of carb, carb and more carb (noodle, rice cake and rice crakers); enriched with protein (sprouts and tofu); full of interesting textures (the elasticity of the noodle, the softness of the rice cake, the different crispy bites of sprouts, fried tofu, rice crackers and celery garnish); with clean flavors of a clear soup base, green chilli paste and a drizzle of kecap manis.

Coming back from recipe search empty handed, I had to recreate the dish based only on my faltering memory of its flavors, and replaced some ingredients with what's available in Hong Kong.

(serves 4)
Noodle and accessories
- 1 pack of yellow oil noodles (yau min), quickly wash with hot water and drain just before serving, or you can use instant ramen
- 1 cup fried tofu (I dump them in 180C oven for 10 minutes to crisp before serving)
- 1 cup of krupuk gendhar (rice crackers, or you can replace with other crackers with neutral flavors)
- 1 stick of lontong (rice cake, best if you can find an instant version, or double wrap cooked rice with aluminum foil and boil them in water until softened and let cool. Thanks for the tips, Pepy! Worse comes to worst, you can go without)
- a bunch of Indonesian celery (they are dark green and thin), chopped. Since I could not find this, I've replaced it with freshly chopped corriander
- 2 cups of bean sprouts (wash and drain)
- kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)

Soup base
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 cloves shallot, crushed
- salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil, water

Green chilli paste
- 5 green chilli, chopped
- 1 clove or garlic, crushed
- 1 clove of shallot, crushed
- salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil
Crush and turn them into paste using mortar and pestle, or you can make a bigger batch using food processor

In a dish, place noodle, sprouts, fried tofu pieces, and bite sized rice cake, and pour some soup base over, not too much. Add crackers and celery/corriander, and drizzle with kecap manis. Serve the chilli paste on the side.

I've realised that back then, I had failed to appreciate the perfect combination of flavors, and had always ordered mine with NO lontong, NO taoge and NO celery.

Now, I enjoy every bit of the dish, with an icy cold box of teh botol, a fond memory of hometown, and a pleasant discovery that I've grown into someone who appreciates her culinary heritage (hmm, maybe a little to much).

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