Canadian Expat Mom

Indonesian Cooking in Africa

Indonesian Cooking with Marina and Dewi

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.

“Apa kabar?”

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:

Soto Mie

Before I arrived, Marina had beef boiling in a pot for broth which was ready to go.

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.

We started by toasting the candle nuts, which were imported from Indonesia, but likely found at an Asian grocery store.

The toasted candle nuts, along with 1-2 tbsp of dried shrimp went into a food processor.

We scooped out the big chunks of beef and cut them into bite size pieces and then put them back in the pot.

Meanwhile, put oil in a pan and add a heaping tbsp of minced onion or shallot and 2 tbsp of minced garlic.

Smash the ends of a couple stalks of lemongrass, as well as the chunks of ginger. We used a mortar, but you could use whatever you have on hand if you don’t have one.

Add the candle nut and shrimp mixture, along with the lemongrass, ginger, bay and lime leaves to the pan and let those flavours mingle a bit.

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.

Add the onion/garlic mixture to the broth with salt, pepper and mushroom flavouring to taste. I hadn’t seen mushroom flavouring before but it was almost identical looking of granulated garlic.

Now’s the time to cut up cabbage, tomato, celery(stalk and leaf), green onion, lime and set them aside in bowls.

I learned a new method for cooking rice noddles from the ladies. Before you put them in hot water, soak them in cold water for about 15 minutes, then hit them with the hot water.

We made two different kinds of noodles.

When all the spring rolls were done, they got fried in oil until crispy, then cut into pieces.

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)
-green onions
-candle nut
-dried shrimp
-bay leaf
-lime leaf
-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.

Spring Rolls

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!

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