Ketoprak, it is a meal which is truly more than the sum of its ingredients. First of all, I had salad, I hate meals with no meat, and I actually hate a lot of the individual ingredients of this dish. Yet, it is 100% true to say, that of all Indonesian street food, ketoprak is my favourite.
This is a salad with a difference. Salads as the West know them, are typically dressed with an oily vinaigrette, or some form of mayonnaise. With ketoprak, the dressing is a thick, salty, sweet peanut sauce with a light tang to it.
The actual components of the salad are very different too. Protein in the form of eggs and tofu, starch from bihun (vermicelli noodles) and ketupat (rice cake) and the vegetables are beansprouts and cucumber. Finally, it is finished off with crackers, and some glorious crispy fried shallots for that crunchy texture. And lets not forget about that thick peanut sauce.
All of these ingredients are simple, and on their own slightly bland, but when you bring them together and mix them together in this incredible sauce; you get the kind of meal that a deathrow convict would order for their final meal.
Most of these ingredients are simple to find anywhere, though it is possible you’ll struggle with the tamarind juice in the peanut sauce, and the starchy ketupat. Tamarind juice, or asam in Indonesian, is a tangy acidic liquid, and if can be processed directly from the tamarind fruit. Just ensure that it is the sour variety, and not the sweet one. If you can’t find it, then simply use lemon or lime juice which is watered down in water. Use a ratio of about 1:2; 1 part lime, or lemon, juice and two part water. Ketupat is an essential part of the dish, and some Asian superstores may sell packs which help you make your own, ask for ketupat or rice cakes. If its not possible to find it, it can be roughly substituted for boiled new potatoes, just ensure you remove the skin.
Ayo! Mari bikin ketoprak – Lets make Ketoprak.
500g peanuts – toasted, but not salted
2 cloves of garlic
2 birds eye chillies
1 tablespoon red sugar
watered down tamarind sauce – 2 parts tamarind, 3 parts water
sweet soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Salad ingredients – ultimately, the amounts are up to you, but this is a rough guide.
1/2 handful of bihun – vermicelli noodles
1/2 handful of beansprouts
5cm of cucumber cut up into chunks
8-10 bitesize pieces of tofu
1 clove of garlic
8-10 bitesize pieces of ketupat / 4 – 5 halved new potatoes
1 boiled egg (remove and this can be vegan – yay)
8 – 10 Asian crackers
fried crispy shallots to garnish
1. All of the ingredients in this meal are cold, so start of by boiling your eggs, and allowing them to cool before shelling. At the same time, in a pan, with about 1cm of oil in it and a clove of garlic, gently fry the tofu until the outside is browned.
2. Next make the paste for the sauce. Indonesian’s use a cobek and ulek – ulek, but you can use a mortar and pestle. I don’t recommend a blender, but if you’re lazy, don’t over blitz anything. Start of with grinding up the garlic and chillies with the salt. This does need to be made into a fine paste, and the salt helps do this.
3. Once the garlic and chillies are done, add in the sugar, follow by the peanuts. Don’t over grind the peanuts, some of its needs to be chunky for added texture. Now the paste is complete.
Note: This paste will actually make 3-4 portions of ketoprak, it is simply easier to make too much and then freeze it until next time.
4. Take about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the peanut paste, and add it into your serving bowl. From here add about 2 tablespoons of kecap manis / sweet soy sauce, and three tablespoons of the tangy tamarind water. Mix together thoroughly, and you should have a thick salty and sweet sauce. From here, add more of sweet soy sauce or tamarind water depending on your preference, what it is currently is my personal preference.
5. Once your sauce is made, lets begin assembling the salad. On top of the sauce, add the tofu and ketupat first.
6. Then on top of this add the bihun and beansprouts, and then scatter the cucumber. I then like to add a little more sweet soy sauce to the beansprouts and bihun, and then mix it all together.
7. Finally, sprinkle a few pieces of the crispy shallots, and add boiled egg, cut in half. Serve with the crackers on the side.