Monday, April 03, 2006

Vegan Mini Rijstafel

Rijstafel is a Dutch word meaning 'Rice Table.' Rijs is pronounced just like 'rice' and tafel rhymes with 'waffle'. It is an elaborate meal of Indonesian side dishes served with steamed rice in a grand buffet style. It is not like any buffet I have ever seen since this meal can be consumed for hours. Yes, hours, that is if you have the time to go through each item in a GRAND buffet of 20 – 40 side dishes. Really, those are the numbers of dishes served in a Rijstafel. It's much grander than Las Vegas buffet, isn't it?
Rijstafel was originated in Indonesia under the Dutch colonial ruling. The idea was to demonstrate a variety of Indonesian dishes using all kind of spices that were grown in Indonesia such as coriander, cumin, cloves, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, etc. Indonesia was known as the ‘spice islands’ during this era. The Dutch exported these spices to Europe and other areas, so they want to boast the abundance of exotic spices and dishes to the visitors by serving them an elaborate meal with many samples of how the spices were used. Due to the long history of many traders from other countries who came and bought spices from the islands, the dishes have some influences from variety of cuisines such as Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Arab, and the Dutch itself.
The Dutch ruled Indonesia for 350 years so they brought back rijstafel to the Netherland when the Japanese won the war in 1942 and occupied Indonesia. The people who moved back to the Netherland at that time also brought the tradition, cuisines, and culture of Indonesia with them. Therefore, rijstafel is much more popular in Amsterdam now than any where else in the world. Rijstafel is usually one of the most populer items in the menu at Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, a few of many: Puri Mas Rijstafel and Menu of Djawa Restaurant.
However, rijstafel is not popular in Indonesia. The tradition died down after so many years. Yeah, who wants to cook 20-40 dishes? You will not find it in restaurants in Indonesia. What I know is the mini rijstafel that we called Nasi Rames (pictured) that my family serves during a gathering or birthday party. It is actually a miniscule version of a rijstafel on a plate. Instead of 20-40 side dishes, I only cooked 5-6 dishes. Ok, ok, you may call it a micro rijstafel. The dishes are served on top of steamed white rice on a plate for one person. Although, any Indonesian dish is good to be served with steamed rice, it is best if the dishes compliment each other. For example, the plate should contain at least one spicy dish, one on the sweeter side, one curry type (coconuty), one that is sour and refreshing, one that is ‘seafoody', one or two condiments, and something crunchy.
I veganized the Indonesian dishes with TVPs and tempeh or tofu to replace the meat and seafood. The most difficult to detect in Indonesian dishes in restaurants is the use of shrimp paste, which is called trasi in Indonesian language. Although, the restaurants in Netherland serve vegetarian rijstafel, I am not sure if they are excluding trasi in their dishes. You will have to ask them specifically when you order.
On the plate above, I served steamed rice with Javanese Stir Fried Tempeh, Sambal “Udang”(“Shrimp” Chili Paste) ,Perkedel Jawa(Javanese Potato Patties) , Sambal Goreng(Vegetables in Chili Paste and Coconut Sauce), Acar Kuning(Indonesian Vegetables Pickles), Serundeng(Roasted and Spiced Grated Coconut) and Emping(not shown) as something crunchy.
Javanese Stir Fried Tempeh
Javanese Stir Fried Tempeh
Serve 8
Printable Recipe

2 large pieces tempeh, cut in cubes, about 12 - 14 oz.
1/2 cup edamame
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shallots, sliced thin
1 slice galanga or ginger
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, sliced thin
3 red/green serano chilies, seeded, sliced thin
2 tsp canola oil
2/3 cup Tamarind water (I used a walnut size of tamarind pulp soaked in a 2/3 cup warm water)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
3 tbsp Kecap Manis or Substitution
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F while you are preparing the rest of ingredients. Spray a non-stick baking pan with oil and baked tempeh pieces for 15 minutes. The tempeh will become dry and brown. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a wok. Stir fry garlic and shallots for 2 minutes in medium high heat.
  3. Add laos/ginger, green or red bell pepper and green chillies for 3 minutes. Add fried tofu or tempeh, kecap manis, and 1/3 cup water, stir fry for 3 minutes. Add salt, sugar, and tamarind water and mix well. Continue to cook for 15 minutes until the sauce soaked to the tofu or tempeh. Add more water if necessary but not too much. The dish shoud be moist but not watery. Finally add the edamame and mix well for 3 to 5 minutes.
Nutrition Facts:
Nutrition (per serving): 139.6 calories; 39% calories from fat; 6.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 551.6mg sodium; 396.6mg potassium; 12.5g carbohydrates; 1.3g fiber; 3.0g sugar; 11.3g net carbs; 10.6g protein; 3.1 points.
Sambal "Udang"
Vegan Sambal "Udang" ("Shrimp" Chili Paste)
Servings: 8
Printable Recipe

2 cups dry ground TVP
1 tbsp low-salt 'chicken' broth powder or seasonings (Bill's Best Chik'nish)
1 tbsp dulse granules
2 tsp canola oil
1 large Nori sheet, cut into small pieces or flakes
2 tsp brown sugar or sugar
3 tbsp Tamarind water
1 tsp Salt or 1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt or to taste, optional
Sambal Ingredients:
6 cloves garlic
6 cloves shallots
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
3 dry red chilies, stemmed, seeded
1 large dry California or New Mexico Chili, stemmed, seeded
Tips: the use of California or New Mexico chili reduces the heat/spiciness of the dish. If you don't like hot and spicy food, you can replace the 3 dry red chilies with a New Mexico chili. The dish will be red and looks hot but it won't be.
  1. Soak the ground TVP in a 1 3/4 cup warm water to reconstitute it. Add 1 tbsp. dulse granules and 'chicken' broth powder, mix it well. Set aside for at least 20 minutes while you are preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Soak dry chilies in warm water for 10-15 minutes. Use a mini food processor, grind garlic, shallots, ginger, and chilies(sambal ingredients) into a paste. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the sambal ingredients into a paste.
  3. Preheat wok into a high heat. Lower heat to medium, add canola oil. Stir fry sambal paste in oil for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add soaked TVP ground mixture. Mix well for 1 minute. Add nori flakes, brown sugar or sugar, tamarind water or lemon juice, and vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce. Mix well for 5 minutes. Taste for saltiness and add salt if necessary. 
Nutrition Facts:Nutrition (per serving): 283.9 calories; 6% calories from fat; 2.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 352.1mg sodium; 1070.1mg potassium; 57.2g carbohydrates; 0.3g fiber; 2.6g sugar; 56.9g net carbs; 14.7g protein; 5.8 points.

Vegan Javanese Potato Patties (Perkedel Jawa)
Servings: 8

Printable Recipe

These potato patties are adaptation of Dutch Frikadels. The original recipe uses eggs but I managed to use chickpea flour to glue the potatoes and other ingredients together. Some people make these patties spicy, Javanese style, and use full flavor spices like chillies, coriander and cumin. These spices can be omitted to resemble the original recipe. It is a matter of taste.
I also pan fry the patties instead of deep frying to maintain my lower fat diet. The picture above is the result of pan frying. Of course, these patties are better deep fried.


1 lb Russet potatoes 2 clove garlic
6 clove shallots
1/2 cup dry ground TVP
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 tbsp Kecap Manis
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar or palm sugar (gula jawa)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chickpea flour (garbanzo flour)
oil for deep frying or oven frying

Javanese Style (optional):  2 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp ground cumin seed
3 dried red chillies or 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
  1. Soak the 3/4 cup dry ground TVP in a 3/4 cup hot water to reconstitute it. Soak the dry red chillies, if using, in hot water. Let both sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Steam the potatoes (unpeeled) until tender (about 40 minutes in a steamer) or steam it in a microwave (follow the timetable from manufacturer's instructions). I used my pressure cooker for 7 minutes on high and then quickly release the pressure. Carefully, remove the peel from the hot steamed potatoes. The peel should come off very easily. Let it cool slightly but make sure that they are still somewhat warm when they are mashed.
  3. While the potato is steaming, using a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor, pound the peeled garlic and shallots until it become a paste (process in the food processor for a minute). For Javanese style, add red chillies or sambal oelek and continue pounding or mixing it to a paste.  
  4. Stir fry the paste in 2 tsp. oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan for about 5 minutes on a medium heat.
  5. In a large bowl, mash the potato with a potato masher or pestle until smooth like making mashed potato. Add the reconstituted ground TVP, the garlic, shallots, and chili paste, ground nutmeg, sugar, and salt. Add the chopped celery. Combine the lemon juice and kecap manis, then, add it to the bowl. For Javanese style, add the ground coriander and cumin seeds also.
  6. With your clean hand, mix everything thoroughly making sure there is no more potato chunks.
  7. Add the chickpea flour to the bowl, mix to form a dough. The mixture will start to firm up and will stick to your hand. You can put a little oil on your hand so the dough will not stick. Form a ball the size of a golf ball and then flatten it between your hands. The recipe makes about 24 flattened balls.
  8. Heat oil about 1-inch deep in a deep frying pan until it reaches 350 F. Deep fry the patties until golden brown. Alternative method for low fat: Pan fry patties on a non-stick frying pan sprayed with oil.

Nutrition Facts (pan fried):Nutrition (per serving): 113.0 calories; 8% calories from fat; 1.1g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 394.1mg sodium; 433.1mg potassium; 21.3g carbohydrates; 2.4g fiber; 3.7g sugar; 18.9g net carbs; 5.6g protein; 1.9 points.
Tips: For a short cuts, I sometimes use store bought Indonesian fried onions (brambang goreng) instead of shallots but this will add the fat content too.


Dori said...

Wow what a feast! When I first saw the picture of all the side dishes I thought you have definetely went to alot of work. Now I see that you went through a little work compared to tradition. Interesting! I like reading your blog

Oh! The spring rolls, I am so glad I made them. I know why you have these often - They will be on my menu much more now. Yum!

Harmonia said...

WOW! Great pic! Wonderful info! Lovely post! Thank you!

Rachelle said...

I had rijstafel with my dad in Amsterdam over 20 years ago. For both of us, it was the most memorable meal of a lifetime. Until I read this posting I didn't know the name or tradition behind it, so thank you for sharing that!