Key Ingredient: Ketjap Manis
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Lorna Yee recently discovered the sweet joy of cooking with ketjap manis, an Indonesian soy sauce
What it is: Ketjap manis is a thick, syrupy Indonesian soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar and flavored with ingredients such as garlic, star anise and coriander. It is a versatile condiment, lending itself readily to marinades or as a dipping sauce.
How I discovered it: A few years ago, I was hanging out in a friend’s kitchen as he prepared dinner. I had little knowledge of his native Indonesian cuisine and noticed various ingredients on his pantry shelf that were new to me. One of them was a bottle of ketjap manis. The food he prepared was extraordinary in the way simple, home-cooked food can be, but what intrigued me most was the addictive, sweet-savory taste of a simple ketjap-manis- and butter-basted piece of broiled fish.
How to use it in the kitchen: Use ketjap manis as you would dark soy sauce in dishes where a touch of sweetness is welcome. For a simple, three-ingredient dish, combine it in equal parts with melted butter to brush onto fish or chicken (serve with lime wedges). Or make a dipping sauce for dumplings by combining it with chopped chiles, ginger and garlic. Use it in for an easy beef and vegetable stir-fry, or as part of a braising liquid for Asian fried tofu puffs. This month’s recipe for grilled fish with a sweet-and-sour ketjap manis dipping sauce was inspired by the focus on seafood in this issue’s Best Restaurants (page 61).
Where to find it: In many Asian grocery stores, including Uwajimaya (International District, 600 Fifth Ave. S; 206.624.6248; uwajimaya.com), about $2 for a 10-oz. bottle.
Grilled Striped Bass with Ketjap Manis
For the fish:
2 lbs. whole striped bass
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp finely minced ginger
kosher salt and pepper
For the dipping sauce:
¼ cup ketjap manis
juice of half a lime (or more, to taste)
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 tsp finely minced ginger
1 tsp sambal oelek (or your favorite Asian hot sauce, optional)
Cooked greens, such as escarole, cooked simply in olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
Clean the fish and make a few slits on both sides of the fish. Rub the fish with olive oil, garlic, ginger, and season with salt and pepper.
Grill the fish for about 7-8 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dipping sauce. Taste for balance, adding a little more lime juice and/or hot sauce if you desire. Serve the fish directly on the sautéed escarole, with the sauce on the side.
VIDEO: LORNA'S KETJAP MANIS DIPPING SAUCE
Originally Published in April 2010