January 20, 2014

Asinan Jakarta

Asinan Jakarta is simply a vegetable salad with sweet and sour dressing, which is very popular in the capital city of Indonesia, and is widely sold almost in any corner of local suburbs. Whether it is offered as street food, served at traditional warung (food stall) or even restaurants, Asinan Jakarta is very refreshing and delicious. 

There are options available for choosing which vegetables to go with the dressing, but using fresh vegetables will make a huge different. I'm pretty lucky to have a large garden and have time to manage and grow our own vegetables, so my option is to use whatever I have in the garden, freshly picked.

I have mustard cabbage in my garden, so I brined them last night. This is to substitute the salted cabbage required in the recipe. I also use our organic carrots, chillies, cucumber, cabbage, chives, and kale sprouts to add an interesting crunch. 

I use Pak William's recipe on ACMI website (http://acmi-indonesia.org/masakans/view/1/Asinan%20Jakarta#.UtxTaH_XeSN). Pak William W. Wongso is an Indonesian culinary expert whom I have admired for such a long time. Luckily, Facebook is able to bring our distance closer, so we can occassionally have a 'chat' about Indonesian food. 

ACMI is the shortened of Aku Cinta Masakan Indonesia (I Love Indonesian Cooking/Food) which provides information on wide variety of Indonesian food. If you only know beef rendang or sate ayam to be Indonesian food, then you only know too little. Think about this, Indonesia has thousands of islands and each island has its own culinary uniqueness which I don't think I will be able to taste them all in 10 years to come!

There are many Indonesian food I don't recognize or never have eaten before, including Asinan Jakarta. I've been to Jakarta many times and lived in Depok for quite sometime but I have never ever eaten or made Asinan. When Pak William posted a bowl of Rujak Aceh Noodle on his Facebook, I was involved in a short conversation with him about it which led me to my kitchen and made Asinan Jakarta instead of Rujak Aceh. Rujak Aceh needs certain type of mangoes, which is called Kweni or Kueni--the most scented variety ones, and it is impossible to get it in New Zealand.

So, yes Asinan Jakarta it is.

I have never had this flavour combination in salad before. Eveything tastes really beautiful and fresh and exotic and WOW. The dressing enlivens the dead saliva after too much greasy meals, and Pak William's suggestion to have this Asinan as an appetizer will be a wonderful experience.

What's more can I ask? The vegetables are crunchy, the dressing delivers pleasing sensation accompanying every bite, making it not just an accessory on the plate. In fact, the dressing acts as the super star in this matter. 

I think this is what Ayurveda wisom of life Deepak Copra ever mentioned in his cookbook [The Chopra Centre Cookbook]:
"Ayurveda suggests that a little sweetness adds delight to life, whereas too much can be cloying. A touch of sour adds interest, but too much makes us grimace. A little salt provides endurance but too much raises our blood pressure. Bitterness, pungency and astringency add spice and complexity to life, but too much may cause us ro feel irritable, resentful and withdrawn. The flavours of life in the right proportion add richness to both our food and our experience".

That's it. This salad confirms those statement. Trust me. 

Asinan Jakarta
By ACMI (www.acmi-indonesia.org)

I must omit centella asiatica leaves since I haven't got them in my garden, and had to make my own brined cabbage using mustard cabbage the night before I made this. 

200 gr tofu, cubed 1 x 1 x 2 cm
100 gr cabbage, thinly sliced about 1 cm
150 gr bean sprouts, trimmed
200 gr  brined cabbage, washed, drained and sliced 2 cm
150 gr  cucumber, sliced ½ cm
150 gr  carrots, grated coarsely
100 gr chive bulbs, trimmed 
50 gr  centella asiatica, trimmed, optional (I used kale microgreens, instead)

Asinan Dressing: grind all of these ingredients to make paste, except vinegar

3 to 4 red chillies or red bird chillies, 
1  Tbs dried shrimps, soaked in hot water,
5 Tbs  roasted/fried peanuts
300 g sugar
3 to 4 tsps salt
1000 cc boiled water
3 tsp vinegar 

150 gr roasted/fried peanuts
7 to 8 noodle crackers
8 Tbs palm sugar syrup (it's palm sugar and water, cooked and cooled)


  1. Clean and trim all the vegetables.
  2. Asinan Dressing : cook all the ingredients until boiled through, removed from the stove. Cooled, and then pour in the vinegar. Mix well.
  3. Arrange vegetables on a plate, bowl or other container, pour the dressing over. Keep in the fridge to let them settle for a while, about half day.
  4. Remove from the fridge and served sprinkled with peanuts, crackers, and palm sugar syrup.