Monday, February 9, 2009

Tempeh, Tofu, and Petay; Foods of Ultimate Deliciousness

Before I explain the title of this post, I guess I should briefly discuss my herritage. My father is Hispanic (Mexican), but born here in the United States, and for the most part, not as knowing of the Mexican culture as others, though he can speak Spanish. On the whole other side of the spectrum is my mother. She's Chinese, but was born and raised in Indonesia (which is quite common, actually. About 20% of Indonesia's population are Chinese, the other 79% are Native Indonesians, while the other 1% are other). Her mother, my Grandmother, still held onto her Chinese heritage (fyi, I don't know what part of China they are from, but they don't speak Cantonese or Mandarin. They speak Hokian), while my mother also recieved some of the Indonesian culture (she is also trilingual; she knows Indonesian, Hokian, English, and knows a bit of Cantonese, which is amazing. You wouldn't be able to tell, her English is very good, the best of all of my relatives on her side!). Because of this, I have a fairly culturally diverse background, taking from not 2 very different cultures, but four, including the American culture.

Anyways, one of the things I've been taught since I was a little kid was to be open minded when it came to food. Food is pretty much the doorway to other cultures. I never realized how different I was in that aspect than other kids; while they became picky and only ate PB&J or Macaroni and Cheese, I was chomping down on Masago Sushi, Pig Kidneys, Fish Heads, and Tongue. And amazingly enough, I enjoyed them all. My mom never had to force me or my brother's to eat, ever since we were little she established that this is what we had to eat. I find it greatly impacted my eating habits now, which I am greatful for. For example, the other day I walked into the kitchen hungrily and found a container of god knows what. It was orange, thick, looked like carrot sticks but had the consistency of a slug. Chopped green onions were sprinkled on top. Other kids, at this would elicit an "Ew!" response. I, on the other hand? Grabbed a fork, took one of them and chomped it. I found it greatly amusing because I have the "What is it? I better eat to find out" mentality, as opposed to a cautious one. And I'm glad I did, because it turned out it was some sort of noodle dish, very spicy and fairly tame, considering what my family has eaten before.

Anyways, enough rambing. Yesterday was New Years and my mom made an elaborate, Idonesian dinner. Sticks of chicken Satay (kabobs) with peanut sauce, a spicy fried potato and shrimp and "petai" (pronounced like pate, though the "a" is pronounced like a softer "e") they look like this (FYI, they are called Stinky Beans, and for good reason too! I find it's one of those things that you either love it or hate it with a passion):

as well as cornish hens simmered in tumeric and other spices then deep friend, and my favorite, Tempeh and tofu cooked the same as the chicken. In the last couple of years tempeh has grown in popularity, mainly with vegetarians. I find it amusing because many people are trying to cook it in these extravagant ways, while I remember them cooked in my childhood in such simpler ways; either deep fried (tempeh goreng) and eaten with rice and ketchap manis (sweet soy sauce) or with green beans, shrimp, and petai (stinky beans). Yesterday though, before frying, my mom simmered them in tumeric and other spices, turning them this yellow color and giving them a delicious smell and taste. Of my whole family, everyone loves or at least likes tempeh, except for my dad! It looks like this before uncut:

Most people don't like tempeh, or they eat it to get protein, as a meat substitution. I'm not a vegetarian, but I just love eating tofu and tempeh because I like the taste.

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