I grew up in the Netherlands and as a child was exposed to what the Dutch call "Chinese Food", made popular by take-out "Chinese" restaurants. The quote-unquote comes from the fact that these chefs adjusted their food to the Dutch taste (spice) and locally available produce.
Another reason this food was so popular, lies in the not-good-at-all colonial past of the Netherlands. But culinarily the effect of colonializing the country now know as Indonesia brought potato-eating Dutch their first taste of the oriental kitchen.
On to the meal. For me, a good oriental feast consists of a combination of dishes, such as:
- Stir fried vegetables
- Noodles or rice
- Green string beans with a "sajoer" sauce
- Boiled eggs in a satay sauce
- Fried shrimp and red bell peppers
- Pickled cucumber
Prepping the vegetables is a very therapeutic thing to do. Have all your vegetables ready for the stir-fry just before you serve the meal.
I usually have mushrooms, bok choy, onions, bell peppers, some slices of a chili, garlic and spring onion in my mix. But, as mentioned before, work with whatever you have available.
Clean the green string beans and cook in salted water for a few minutes. Finish this part of the feast by frying in vegetable oil with a "boemboe", an Indonesian spice paste. Top with some crunchy fried onions.
As a student, I used to make Satay sauce by mixing some peanut butter, water, soy sauce and some hot chili sauce ("sambal"). The trick still works and you can adjust the heat to your own taste. But you can also buy a Satay dry mix or paste.
Hard-boil some eggs, halve them and add them to the satay sauce. Make this dish vegan by using tempeh instead.
Butterfly the shrimp (by cutting halfway through the back; this way the meat gets cooked faster). Stir-fry strips of red bell pepper in vegetable oil; add the shrimp and stir; add black bean garlic paste to spice this dish up. Make this dish vegan by replacing the shrimp by cubes of tofu.
I prefer to have some pickled cucumber on the side, for a change of palate. Thinly slice the cucumber, put in a bowl with freshly ground pepper, some salt, vinegar and mix. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Add some sugar to balance the flavors. You can add thinly sliced white or red onion, chili and much more if you feel like it.
Now to the stir-fry of the vegetables. I prefer to use toasted sesame oil for additional flavor.
Heat the pan to a good temperature, add sufficient oil and start of frying the hardest parts of the bok choy, chili slices and the onions first. Add the bell pepper strips and mushrooms. Add some frying sauce to flavor the mixture, for instance some oyster sauce. Add the rest of the bok choy and stir. Lastly, add the soybean sprouts last, stir-fry for another minute, put the spring onion on top and Bob's your uncle.