Daily Archives: August 16, 2007

Tomorrow: Julia’s

Tomorrow, August 17th, is Indonesian Independence Day. I admit, it wasn’t on my calendar either, but yesterday, when I made my second trip to Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen, a new little mom-and-pop joint across the street from Whole Foods in Ravenna, Julia had put a little sign up. So now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

At Julia’s, half of the battle is learning when and when not to go.

Go when you want good, hearty Indonesian comfort food like deeply satisfying Javanese fried chicken, or risoles, essentially Indonesian chicken hot pockets that deserve a smothering dip in peanut sauce before you shovel them down.

Certainly do not go if you you’re in a big rush.

Go when you feel like you should eat a salad, but don’t really feel like all the healthiness that the word salad implies; in this case, order Julia’s gado-gado betawi, crisp lettuces topped with egg, tofu, puffy onion crisps, and a peanut sauce spiked with floral kaffir lime leaf.

Don’t go if you you’re afraid of fried foods, because if you walk in the door, you’ll need to order a plate of the supermoist Ayem Goreng Kremes Tante Julia (just order S3) for the table. (This is not optional.) This is another fried chicken, and it’s different from the Javanese-style chicken: it’s first braised, then fried, and served with hundreds of little shards of what tastes like a fried version of that miraculous fatty layer between a chicken’s skin and its meat, but is really chicken stock mixed with flour and deep fried. These bits, tiny, crisp versions of the very best part of a well-roasted chicken’s crackling skin, should be bottled and sold as a salad topping, if you ask me. After our meal (and a delicious black rice pudding), I found stray crispy chicken bits stuck to my forearm, where I’d pressed it into the glass tabletop. I ate them, of course. I’m pretty sure I’d eat them off the floor, given the opportunity.

Go if you want to speak Dutch. Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, after all, and the owner’s husband still speaks well. The first time, I went with a friend who lived in Holland until age 3, and she got a good earful.

Don’t go if you’re trying to lose weight: Even the lunch-size portions of the rijstafel are pretty filling.

Please, give me a call, and go when I go: On both occasions, I found Julia’s completely deserted, which surprised and disappointed me, given how much I liked most of the food. I think I’d enjoy it a whole lot more if it felt like a place more people wanted to go.

And for God’s sake, please don’t go via bicycle. That’s what I did. Made for a tough trip back up our hill. Fried chicken is not a cyclist’s best friend.

So now you know. You should probably also know that Julia is a friend’s mother, which is why I went (and tried Indonesian food for the first time) in the first place.

But go – it’s cheap, filling, and delicious, and the owners couldn’t be more excited about bringing Indonesian food to Ravenna.

Julia's Indonesian Kitchen in Seattle

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Filed under review, Seattle

Eat with your hands

I find eating with my hands so gratifying. I’m not sure whether it’s just that I don’t do it as frequently as perhaps I should, so I’m not used to the textural experience, or if it’s because it makes me feel like I’m doing something a little naughty. Either way, I love it. Try wrapping big, healthy lettuce leaves around juicy stir-fried pork tenderloin and vermicelli, and I think you’ll agree.

preparing rolls

Peanut Pork and Vermicelli Summer Wraps (PDF)
Recipe 228 of 365

This recipe, inspired by one in the June 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine, is relatively flexible: make it as is, or omit the peanut butter, or add an Asian chili sauce to the pork, for some heat. Serve wrapped in lettuce, as I do here, or pile the pork mixture over rice or just over chopped lettuce. And be sure to prepare appropriately: have all ingredients chopped before you turn on the stovetop.

TIME: 35 minutes
MAKES: 3 to 4 servings

2 small (50 grams each) packages vermicelli (bean thread noodles)
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced, then divided in half
1 pound pork tenderloin, chopped into 1/2” pieces
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup bottled teriyaki sauce (such as Trader Joe’s Soyaki)
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
Asian chili sauce, such as sriracha, to taste (optional)
12 large lettuce leaves (Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Oak Leaf, or French Crisp work well)

Prepare the vermicelli according to package instructions. Rinse well with cold water after softening and set aside in a strainer to drip dry.

(This is what my package looked like:)

Rice vermicelli

Heat a large skillet (or wok) over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the oil, then add the ginger, garlic, and half the scallions. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add the pork, and cook, stirring and breaking the pieces of meat apart, for 2 minutes, or until almost no pink remains. Add the water chestnuts and teriyaki sauce, and simmer until the sauce is very thick and caramel-like, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the peanut butter, and season with sriracha, if desired. Stir in the remaining scallions.

To assemble, arrange a small handful of noodles and a few scoops of the peanut-pork mixture inside a lettuce leaf (along the spine of the leaf, so that when you roll it the spine doesn’t break), and roll it up like a burrito.

Summer Roll Taco

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Filed under appetizers, chinese, Pasta, pork, recipe, stir-fry