We closed 2012 with the Indonesian restaurant Dapur Babah Elite, and that basically summarizes my biases in terms of flavors. So we begin 2013 with rendang--strong, rich and pungent. I am one to immerse myself in anything that has been glossed by the color of stuff like turmeric, cinnamon, lemongrass, coriander and chili. There are billions of curry and curry-like flavors out there, and out of the few thousands I have tried so far, only a few have been disappointing--and that's mostly because of fear of strong flavors.
What I like about curry and similar dishes is how their personality changes. A teaspoon of fish sauce makes a world of difference. So does a teaspoon of chili. Even adding chicken broth, coconut milk, milk, wine or even tomato paste instead of water can spell something new. The same curry sauce or mix changes drastically with the use of a different protein.
This is how I came about my Lamb Rendang with Turmeric Rice. I chucked the traditional beef for lamb, added coconut milk and kaffir leaves, and finished it off with a healthy dose of lime. While the rendang base is fairly simple (ginger, galangal, lime, turmeric, chili, shallots, coriander, cumin and tomatoes in a blender or mortar, beaten or mashed to a pulp), I have also used pre-mixed rendang packets. It has been my best friend in my thesis nights when I didn't seem to accomplish much except for protracted dinners that went on until four in the morning, and every trip to the kitchen spoke of some kind of deliverance from being stuck in the same sentence for hours, even days. Paired with rice cooked in coconut milk and a dash of turmeric, my lamb rendang is my absolute favorite food-related memory of 2012.
Happy 2013! This year, I resolve to blog at least once a week. At least. The other resolution is to eat more adventurously as I have noticed I get lazy more these days and would often revert to the more than familiar places in trying to avoid frustration. For every great restaurant out there, there's a couple of dozen like it that are mediocre and hundreds that are simply atrocious. Most restaurant experiments have only led to the latter. Hopefully, we as consumers learn to discern between establishments that give us fads and gimmicks to earn a quick buck from those that give us really good food.