The first time I saw the bright orange, strange-looking thing, I had no idea what to think. Was it some kind of cheese? Was it even food? “Oncom,” my Indonesian tutor Niar said. Pronounced on-chom, this isn’t cheese. Oncom is an Indonesian staple closely related to the soy bean product tempeh. Oncom is made from all of the leftovers from tempeh and tofu and then it’s fermented. Since it is made from byproducts, it’s very cheap. A large slice of oncom at my market costs about 20 cents, if not less. Oncom is meaty and hearty and I think this will be the next big thing in soy bean products if it ever reaches the States.
I’d been dropping lots of clues to Niar during our Indonesian tutoring sessions and so one Saturday afternoon she came to my apartment and our tutoring lesson became a fun cooking and cultural class. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had seen oncom. The next time I went to the market I immediately spotted it and said, “oncom,” out loud. I delighted my vegetable lady who was surprised that I knew what it was.
Niar showed me how to make a light tasty batter and then we fried the oncom. It’s best eaten hot and it really is filling. See the recipe at the end of the post.
Well dear readers, I’ve decided to start a new, somewhat regular feature called: what’s for dinner? (I ask myself this question everyday as soon as I finish lunch). Since I’ve been back home in California the last few days, friends and family have been asking me about Indonesian food, so I decided that from here on out, I will ask more friends and co-workers for recipes.
Gado-gado comes in many different varieties and is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes because it involves fresh vegetables (every now and again you need a break from fried foods) and delicious peanut sauce. Gado-gado is a salad dish and the name means hodgepodge or mix-mix.
The recipe I am listing below was from my first week in Indonesia when I cooked lunch with a teacher at language school. The amount I made at school was enough to feed over six people. So, I’m going to list the ingredients, and you can eyeball for the portion size that you need. I will list the peanut sauce amounts for six people. If you are making this for one person, you will have left over sauce. I’ve eaten many versions of gado-gado since my first week in Indonesia and not all of them include all of the ingredients listed below and some include others. So take a look at some other recipes before you start, here and here, if you are curious.