From amongst the wide range you will find in the south east Asian region, one of my favourites is serundeng, a side dish of spicy sweet and intensely aromatic fresh coconut shreds, that is unfortunately not prepared or seen as commonly these days, except around Hari Raya (Eid).
Once upon a time, no self respecting lontong seller would serve his lontong without a generous sprinkle of serundeng atop the rich and flavourful melange of rice cakes and tender vegetables stewed in spiced coconut milk. Its rich golden hue, speckled with flecks of green and red, make it as beautiful as it is delicious. I'm not certain if serundeng originates from Malaysia or Indonesia, though most believe it should be credited to Indonesia. You will find it in both countries though, as well as here in Singapore, in each case, with slight variations.
rendang, paru goreng (spicy fried beef lung) bergedel (potato croquettes) complements acar and sambal belacan, and is a heaven appointed match with glutinous rice. In Indonesia, it's also a common garnish for dishes like mee soto in addition to being a favourite topping for rice.
In my next post, I will show you my favourite use for serundeng, and the one dish that is guaranteed to derail any diet I try to stay on, even more so than cheesecake or anything covered in chocolate. So, I make it very infrequently as a very special treat, when I have been very, very good, or when I want to show off Singapore's culinary treasures ;)
serundeng (spiced grated coconut)
prep 35 mins cook 25 mins serves 15
8 fresh red chillies
3 onions, peeled and cut
8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut
4 cm length fresh turmeric, peeled and cut
3 thick slices peeled galangal, thinly sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, discard coarse outer leaves and thinly slice soft, pale inner core
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
6 tbsp dried krill, rinsed, squeezed as dry as possible
6 kaffir (makrut) lime leaves
2 slices tamarind (actually dried garcinia slices, not tamarind pod pulp)
600g (6 cups) fresh grated, skinless coconut, lightly dry roasted until light gold
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp red sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
2 small turmeric leaves, ribs discarded, leaves finely shredded
Combine all spice paste ingredients and process or pound to a smooth paste.
Heat 5 tbsp oil in a pan or wok and when moderately hot, add the krill, lime leaves and tamarind. Fry for 3 minutes or until krill is golden and beginning to crisp.
Add the spice paste and fry, stirring constantly, until oil seeps out and the mixture is fragrant. Add the coconut, brown and red sugar and salt.
Stir continuously over moderate to low heat until coconut is evenly coloured, light and fluffy. Don't stop stirring for longer than half a minute as coconut is oily and burns very easily.
Do not cook for too long or the coconut will be too dry and grainy. If preparing as a topping for savoury snacks, leave the coconut a little moist so it will adhere and not crumble off easily. When coconut is almost done, add the shredded turmeric leaves and stir through for about 2 minutes.
Turn off heat and keep stirring until bottom of pan is no longer hot to prevent the coconut at the bottom from over browning. When cold, store in a clean, dry, air tight container and keep refrigerated until consumed.