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We love our Asian cuisine but know nothing about tempeh

West Linn chef Surja Tjahaja is holding an Indonesian Food Festival focusing on cooking Indonesia foods
by: submitted photo, Chef Surja Tjahaja will teach a series of Javanese cooking classes at West Linn Adult Community Center. The first class is Sunday. Sign up through West Linn Parks and Rec.

Last week was my son Dave's 23rd birthday, and, as is the Randall tradition, we had the family in for a special birthday dinner. Dave is a real fan of Koi Fusion's Bulgogi beef burritos. Bulgogi beef is Korean barbecue, and I found a recipe for it in Steven Raichlen's "The Barbecue Bible." It was simple to prepare and a big hit all around the table.

We Americans love our Asian cuisine. That is evident from the wide variety Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hawaiian and other Asian-influences restaurants, food carts and prepared foods available to us today. It must have something to do with that combination of sweet, salty flavors and the light, fresh flavors of the ingredients. So when I received word from my friend, West Linn chef Surja Tjahaja, that he holding an Indonesian Food Festival and teaching a series on foods from the island of Java, I was eager to share the news with you.

You might remember that Surja leads culinary tours of the Portland metro area Asian markets. I've toured with him twice and each time came away with new information and techniques I used immediately to kick the quality of my Asian cooking up a notch or two. Chef Surja has a passion for sharing his knowledge about Asian cuisines with the rest of us.

The Indonesian Food Festival will feature a Javanese culinary cooking class series that begins this Sunday, June 3, and continues July 15 and Aug. 5 at the West Linn Adult Community Center. The classes will meet from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and class participants share a meal of what they create.

The focus of the first class is "Gourmet Indonesian Tempeh" dishes. Tempeh is a food Surja says we know nothing about.

'You don't know tempeh,' he said. 'Tempeh in Indonesia, where it was invented, is considered a delicious and desirable protein used in many different recipes that are considered gourmet. It is not considered as a meat substitute or filler at all. … Tempeh is proven to be an excellent substitute for meat, easier for the body to digest, leaner source of protein and have a lower carbon footprint compared to other protein.'

Surja will showcase the tempeh manufactured in Hood River by Turtle Island Foods, makers of Tofurky. Chef Surja will make three easy-to-prepare tempeh dishes: curried, fried using tamarind and exotic spices and sautéed with a broth infusion.

The second class, called "Magical Miso," will showcase Portland-made Jorinji miso. Class participants will create an exotic miso paste blend from the mountains of Java for barbecuing banana leaf-wrapped fish. The same paste will be used to make a vegetable dip and stir-fry. Surja says that miso is also considered a gourmet food throughout Asia including Indonesia. It is used in numerous recipes beyond the obvious miso soup.

'It is a very good protein with high rate of antioxidant. Like tempeh, it is easy to digetst, lean, low carbon footprint and made locally,' he said.

"Exotic Asian Salad," the final class on Aug. 5 will see Chef Surja sharing his techniques for making gado-gado, an exotic Indonesian salad using cooked vegetables and other savories, topped with a gourmet peanut sauce and chips made from Javanese melinjo nuts. Surja tells me it originated in Indonesia and was popularized by the Dutch. It is a very popular dish in Indonesia and can be found on the table at all fancy gatherings.

'I am excited to showcase all these gourmet meals in easy-to-make recipes with ingredients that you can find plentiful locally and hope to bring joy to your home to share with your good friends and family,' Surja said. You will be missing out if you don't sign up,

The price of these tantalizing classes is a mere $30 per class for West Linn residents; $35 for us living outside the city plus a $5 materials fee. Friends, I can guarantee you can't eat this well for this price at any restaurant. Surja even offers a $5 discount for couples taking the class together. It doesn't get much better than this.

You can register for the series or individual classes by calling West Linn Parks and Recreation at 503-557-4700 or online at westlinnoregon.gov.

To get you primed for the exotic flavors of Asian cuisine, I am sharing recipes for the dishes I made for Dave's Korean dinner. Savor this until you take Surja's class on Sunday! Sign up right away!

Bon Appetite! Eat something wonderful!

Bulgogi (or as Steven Raichlen spells it, Bool Kogi)

Korean Sesame Grilled Beef

Serves 6

For the beef and marinade:

2 pounds boneless beef round steak or sirloin

½ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons sake, rice wine or sherry

2 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil

8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and minced

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

Garlic kebabs, recipe follows

Asian Pear Dipping sauce

1 head romaine lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed and spun dry

Slice meat into strips about ¼ inch thick. Place meat in a non-reactive baking dish and set aside while you prepare the marinade.

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the meat and toss thoroughly to coat. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the grill to high.

When ready to cook oil the grill grate. Add the garlic kebabs (if using) to the hot grate and grill for 4 to 5 minutes. Then arrange the meat on the grate and grill, turning with tongs until nicely browned on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Turn the garlic kebabs as the meat cooks. Transfer the meat to a platter when it is done and unwrap the garlic.

Pour the dipping sauce into 6 small bowls, one for each diner. To eat, take a piece of meat and grilled garlic clove and wrap them in a lettuce leaf. Dip the leaf in the dipping sauce and eat at once.

Garlic kebabs

Serves 4 to 8

2 to 3 heads garlic (for 24 large cloves)

1 tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break the heads of garlic into cloves. Peel each clove then skewer the garlic cloves crosswise on skewers. Brush the cloves with sesame oil and season with salt and pepper. Loosely wrap each kebab in aluminum foil.

Preheat the grill to high. When ready to cook, arrange the packets on the hot grate and grill the garlic until tender, about 5 minutes per side, turning with tongs to ensure even cooking. Remove the foil the last few minutes to allow the garlic to brown lightly.

NOTE: to loosen the skin of the garlic, gently flatten the clove using the side of a cleaver or a flexible tube-shaped garlic peeler.

Asian Pear Dipping Sauce

Makes 2 ½ cups

½ cup soy sauce

½ cup sake or dry sherry

¼ cup sugar

1 small Asian pear, peeled, cored and finely chopped

4 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed and the sugar is dissolved. Divide the sauce among as many small bowls as there are people, so each person has his own for dipping and serve immediately.

Recipes adapted from "The Barbecue Bible" by Steven Raichlen.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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