During our Easter holiday I picked up a heavily discounted copy of Indonesian Food by Sri Owen. It was a great buy, well timed. Our days by the beach were largely rained out so I had plenty of hours to browse the gorgeous glossy photos and read the text from front to back. Owen links the recipes and ingredients to the various phases of her life and a little of the local history and customs, from cooking with her grandmother as a child through to street snacks, the dishes of her student days, travelling all over (and eating and making ice cream!), setting up her own shop in London, writing book after book and modernising the recipes of Central Java.
There are a few vegetarian recipes scattered throughout (Indonesia is the home of tempeh after all!) and there are plenty more that I'm determined to adapt - the spice mixes are just too irresistible. (And did I mention the ice cream? Ahem.) The first recipe I've tried out is ready to go as-is: vegan and gluten free, straight up. Rempeyek kacang had me hooked the moment I read Owen's translated name: savoury peanut brittle. I wasn't even perturbed by the prospect of deep-frying.
This is essentially a thin batter made from rice flour, dotted with peanuts, and shallow-fried first into small rounds. Then the rounds get deep-fried for extra crispiness and deeper flavour. I had trouble getting the peanuts to stick within the batter (hence the free-floating ones in the picture above) - they just clumped in the centre while the batter stretched out across the pan, then fell off the dough as I transferred it to a plate. The reference picture was ruthlessly cropped and I wasn't quite sure what these were supposed to look like or if they were going to get crispy enough. There were totally crispy enough... just not containing many peanuts. Imperfect but delightful!
Next time I think I'll try spooning out the batter to fry and then spreading the peanuts on top, instead of mixing them directly into the batter. I might also try doubling the garlic. Owen notes that rempeyek kacang can have chopped chilli, garlic, chives, crushed peppercorns or shredded kaffir lime leaves stirred into the batter. The latter is going into my next batch for sure.
Peanut rice chips
(adapted slightly from the recipe for rempeyek kacang in Indonesian food by Sri Owen)
2 macadamia nuts
1 clove garlic (I'll double this next time)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra
100g rice flour
optional: chopped chilli, garlic, chives, crushed peppercorns or shredded kaffir lime leaves
Mush together the macadamias and garlic in a mortar and pestle to make a paste. Put them in a bowl and blend in the coriander and salt. Mix in the rice flour, then whisk in the water. Add any optional flavours you want. Sprinkle in the peanuts and stir them through the batter (or don't yet - leaving them to the dry-fry stage next time).
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frypan and have a plate lined with absorbent paper at the ready. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot pan and fry them for 1-2 minutes, then rest the fried discs on the paper-lined plate. (Next time I will try sprinkling the peanuts directly onto the frying batter discs before they set.)
When all the batter is cooked, transfer any remaining oil to a saucepan or wok; add more so that you can deep-fry and heat it all up. Line another plate with absorbent paper. Deep-fry a few discs at a time until they're golden and crisp, transferring them to the new plate to cool.
When you're ready to snack, transfer the chips to a bowl and sprinkle them with a little more salt. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.