Jakarta. To welcome the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims all over the world will fast from dawn till dusk, Chef Stefu Santoso from Jakarta's Amuz Gourmet restaurant has come up with fresh twists for several standard Indonesian fares.
The chef, who has 19 years of experience in the food industry, says his Ramadan fares this time will feature a lot of apples, dates and potatoes, done in unconventional ways.
Stefu said one of the most common mistakes in modifying a recipe is assuming that a combination of good ingredients will "work," without trying them out. That's why he researched and trialed his new combos many times before he decided they were worthy to be included in his menu.
The chef uses American-grown ingredients for his new dishes, but every one of them is easy enough to find in your local supermarkets.
Here's how Stefu does it:
Apples are a dessert ingredient in Indonesia, but Stefu has decided to put them in gulai, a rich and spicy curry commonly found in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Gulai can be made with chicken, beef, goat, offals or seafood. Vegetarian version is also possible. The rich curry is made from coconut milk and a kitchenful of local spices.
"I put in blended Washington apples when I make the curry. It gives a natural sweetness and thickens the mixture," Stefu said.
"You can use whatever ingredients you want in a dish, as long as they taste good together. You can use different kinds of apple, with different textures and tastes. I also use Granny Smith apples because they're a good balance of sweet and sour," Stefu said.
Dates are a popular fruit during Ramadan, often the first thing Muslims eat when they break their fast.
The fruit is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine and when mixed in curry, almost tastes like sweet potato.
Stefu adds Medjool dates to his chicken curry while the sauce is still simmering to give it more flavor.
Stefu also puts dates in his desserts. Kue Dadar Gulung is a green pancake roll stuffed with a mixture of grated coconut and brown sugar liquid. Date compotes are added to the filling to make it even richer.
If you want a simpler dessert you can whip up quickly, try dipping ripe dates in yogurt or melted chocolate and freeze them. Serve them on a "dates platter."
Chef Stefu fills his lamb martabak (thick savory pancake) with potato granules to turn the snack into a full meal.
"Meat is pricey, we can use potatoes to turn this cheap and quick snack into something more substantial," he said.
The same potato granules can also be used in dessert, for example kue talam, a steamed cake with alternating layers of coconut cream and sweet potato.
"The potato granules keep these desserts moist, stop them from drying out," Stefu said.
Stefu's revamped kue talam has a grainy texture quite different to the traditional smooth cake. It's also much less sweet.
Some say you should break your fast with something sweet, but something healthy, if it tastes this good, would do as well.