Over this past weekend, I was scheduled to appear at the latest Perfect Health Retreat in Wilmington, North Carolina as a guest chef. I had a whole day’s worth of recipes planned for the 20+ attendees and staff members, most of them based on traditional Indonesian or Malaysian dishes. I was very excited, and had even devoted the previous weekend to practicing and tweaking the recipes to get everything perfect. And then life struck. My son Oliver started feeling very sick last weekend, likely a gift from one of his pre-school classmates, and by Tuesday I was feeling the full brunt of some relentless flu symptoms.
So I spent last week and this past weekend drifting in and out of a feverish state, catching up on several seasons’ worth of Archer and Portlandia episodes, and trying to find new ways of incorporating bone broth into my diet (hint: developing recipes while under the influence of flu medicine is never a good idea). I’m happy to report that Oliver and I are both on the mend, but unfortunately I missed out on my opportunity to cook at the retreat. So that these recipes don’t disappear from memory, I wanted to share two of them with you this week.
The first recipe is Sayur Bening Bayam, a clear Indonesian soup made with a variety of vegetables, but always includes spinach (and often corn – see my note below the recipe). I chose this soup as one of my dishes because it’s dead simple to make and serves as an appetizer in the most literal sense – its simple tastes both satisfy and whet the appetite for a main course.
Sayur Bening Bayam (Indonesian Spinach, Carrot, and Tomato Soup)
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 shallots, chopped
1.5 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups beef broth
3 cups water, more if needed
2” galangal or ginger, peeled, sliced and crushed, wrapped in cheesecloth or put in a tea ball
1 lb carrots, coarsely chopped
1 lb tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 lb spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
salt and white pepper to taste
1. In a stockpot or saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat, then add the shallots. Sauté until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the broth, water, and galangal. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer until fragrant, about 6 minutes.
2. Add the carrots and cook until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the galangal. Add the tomatoes and return to a simmer, then add the spinach; remove from heat once the spinach is bright green. Add the fish sauce and season with salt and white pepper to taste, then serve.
** The more common variation of this dish includes sweet corn, and is called Sayur Bening Bayam Jagung; since we don’t eat corn very often in our house, we opted to leave it out. If you’d like to try it with corn, break 2 ears of corn into 4 parts each, then add them to soup when you add the carrots.
** Traditionally, this dish uses fingerroot, a root similar to ginger but hard to find outside of Asia. Fresh galangal or ginger are fair substitutes, and if you don’t have fresh roots to work with, 1/2 tsp ground ginger will work in a pinch.
** For some extra protein, you can turn this into an egg drop soup. To do so, beat 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk together, then add them as you add the spinach. They will be fully cooked at about the same time it takes to cook the spinach.
These pictures are from a test run I did of the soup, before I started chopping the spinach; chopping it up before cooking takes an extra minute of prep time but makes for a much more pleasant eating experience (swallowing a big glob of spinach isn’t fun).