an easy way to get the complex, multispice flavors of Southeast Asian dishes at
home: packaged Indonesian and Malaysian spice mixes. If you’re not familiar
with dishes like beef rending (a rich, thick Indonesian and Malaysian
coconut-milk curry) but love Indian curries, you have to try these.
Jarred Indian curry simmering sauces are becoming more and more common in
mainstream supermarkets, but you’ll probably have to go to an Asian specialty
store to find these Southeast Asian spice pastes, which come in foil containers
rather than jars and usually cost less than $3.50. Or order them from the
remarkable specialty-food site efooddepot.com. The amount of time
and spice-hunting these mixes save is amazing. Brahim’s rending sauce, for
example, contains lemongrass, galangal, ginger, tamarind, turmeric leaves, star
anise, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon—among other things.
packet generally forms the flavor-basis of a curry that will serve 4 or more
people. I like to start a curry with finely chopped onion, garlic, and ginger,
which I slow-cook until soft in a bit of oil, then add the spice mixes and
water or light coconut milk, plus meat or even
just potatoes and green beans. These mixes—you can get them for Javanese
chicken soup, for satay peanut sauce and dozens of other dishes—yield rich,
authentic flavor. The only drawback is sodium—they generally contain lots and
you’ll want to add no extra salt during cooking.