Marina and I met back when we lived in Pau, France; but even though we both lived there for four years, we didn’t cross paths until just before she was moving to Congo. Yikes! I thought to myself, not knowing that I wasn’t too far behind her.
Fast forward a few years later and our daughters were in the same class here in Pointe Noire when we arrived last year. Marina is once again on the move, heading back to her home country, Indonesia. I was telling her about the idea I had to get into the kitchen with some of the ladies in our community and I asked her if she wanted to be the first to cook with me since she’d be leaving soon.
She immediately said yes and told me her friend Dewi would join us because she loves to cook. Dewi fit our pattern perfectly, having previously lived in Paris for two years. This meant there very likely would be terms thrown around the kitchen in three languages. And I was right, we all referred to spring rolls as nems(French), even though that’s not what their called in any of our first languages.
“Selamat Pagi!” I called out after I knocked on the door to Marina’s place.
After ‘Good Morning’ and ‘How are you?’ my fluency in Bahasa Indonesian drops off rapidly, which Marina knew, so we moved right into English after that.
I asked if we’d be making the ever popular Nasi Goreng, again, putting forward the little bit of Indonesian culture that I have. The ladies said the chicken and rice dish was ‘too boring’ and instead we’d make Soto Mie, which I would consider a beef soup, but it’s not that easily categorized by Indonesian standards.
So, without further ado…. I present:
Dewi arrived right after I did, with the spring roll batter already prepared because it needed to rest for awhile after being mixed. They were prepared!
Marina went searching for our ingredients in her kitchen and I loved that she had the Indonesian equivalent of the Costco supplies I had imported and stashed away in my kitchen. Instead of maple syrup and taco powder, her freezer was stocked with Indonesian bay leaves, lime leaves and candle nuts: all things I would have explained to me as we worked our way through the recipe.
While that’s going on, in the oiled pan next door, add a small ladle of the spring roll batter to the pan and wait for it to bubble, like you would for pancakes. When the bubbles come through the batter, start rolling the batter to create an empty spring roll. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
At this point we were all set. With all the fixings lined up, and the noodles piping hot, we were ready to assemble our soup.To put the soup together, think of it like make your own pizza night, but with soup. Each of us filled our bowls, starting with noodles and then adding all the veggies and spring rolls.
After that, take a giant scoop of beef and add broth.We finished by topping it off with some Indonesia-style fried garlic Marina had on hand,(hot sauce if you like) and finally a little squeeze of lime.
As we sat down to eat, I could close my eyes and be brought back to the soup Ibu Ida used to make us in Indonesia. I swear it was like sitting down at our dining room table in Borneo.A HUGE thank you to Marina and Dewi for giving this Canadian girl a sneak peak into an Indonesian kitchen, right here in Africa. I had a great time.
Directions for Soto Mie
-noodles-rice noodles and Chinese style(see pictures)
-5 tbsp flour
-1 tbsp rice flour
-salt and pepper
Boil beef cubes in water until tender. Take them out and cut them into bite size pieces, then return to the pot.
While the broth is cooking, toast candle nuts, then put them in a food processor with 1-2 tbsp of dried shrimp. Set aside.
Heat a generous ‘glug’ of oil in a pan. Add a big tbsp of minced onion or shallot and 2 tbsp of garlic. Using a mortar, smash the ends of lemongrass, as well as the two chunks of ginger and add that to the pan, along with the candle nut/dried shrimp mixture and lime and bay leaf. Transfer this mixture to the pot of broth and let simmer.
Salt and pepper to taste and at the end, optionally, you can add a spoon full of mushroom bouillon.
For the batter:
5 tbsp of regular flour
1 tbsp of rice flour
1/2 tsp of salt
2 cups of water
Mix together and let stand for about 2 hours. Then add 1 tbsp of oil and mix until combined.
In a hot, non-stick pan, add one scoop of batter. Wait until bubbles form on the top, then flip(like pancakes). After about a minute, use the spatula to roll into a spring roll and set aside. Repeat until batter is done. Add enough oil to the pan to fry all the spring rolls at the same time. Keep them in the pan until they’re crispy, then remove and cut into bite sized pieces.
Toppings and Noodles
Dice tomato and celery(stalks and leaves) and put into separate containers. Then slice cabbage and do the same. Prepare any other ingredients you would like to add to garnish your soup(lime wedges, deep fried garlic, hot sauce).
Prepare noodles according to package instructions.
*Pre-soak rice noodles in cold water for 15 minutes first*
Each bowl is prepared individually, starting with the noodles on the bottom. Then add cabbage, tomatoes, celery. Head over to the pot of brother and add a generous scoop of beef and top with broth. Garnish with lime wedge and enjoy!