I’m generally obsessed with condiments. While I was in Bali recently, I discovered kecap manis (first word sounds like “ketchup”), the thick and syrupy Indonesian soy sauce. Basically, it’s soy sauce reduced with palm sugar— the consistency of honey and the color of molasses. It’s a bit salty and darkly sweet. I especially like it mixed with chile sambal, so that you get sweet, spicy, salty and garlicky all at the same time.
Use it as a dipping sauce, add it to stir fries, or drizzle it over fried rice or noodles as a finisher. There’s also a common breakfast dish of bland rice porridge, garnished with bits of fried tempeh, fried shallots, sliced chiles and scallion, with kecap manis stirred in at the end. At home you could easily do the same thing with cream of wheat.
To use it: Here’s a good recipe for nasi goreng (fried rice) with kecap manis.
To buy it:
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 11, 2008