What’s so special about Latasha’s ‘Favourite Child’?
This blog is dedicated entirely to my star performer paste, Indonesian Turmeric Kari. First released in October 2013, I honestly didn’t give the paste much thought apart from the fact that I required a traditional bumbu-style Indonesian rustic paste; to complement my growing family of Southeast Asian pastes.
Now this was a paste that I was already demonstrating and teaching in my Indonesian Padang cooking class. It was well received for its beautiful creamy rich yellow colour. This was largely due to the use of fresh turmeric roots and coconut milk. In those days, however, turmeric didn’t really have the elevated status it currently holds. Mildly spiced as a paste, it worked well when paired with a variety of ingredients. From poultry, seafood and other animal proteins to mixed vegetables, it was a fairly easy paste to make and use immediately. Thus, it was not really a paste I was particularly attached to; rather just one that I enjoyed making as part of my repertoire when developing recipes for my other curry pastes.
What I didn’t anticipate when it came to bottling this particular gem was how rich, mature and magical it would become. Hopelessly I got deeply attached to its flavours as I adjusted and perfected the recipe over time and watched how wonderfully it worked, every time I made it. Whenever new customers asked for a recommendation, I couldn’t go past it. I realised I was playing favourites with my family of pastes and even felt guilty at times as though I was neglecting my other ‘children’.
Over time this paste has developed a cultish following, with many fans buying three or six jars at a time. Nearly every other day I get a call from someone searching for it at a stockist’s. It’s not unusual to find them ringing, texting or messaging me to see which stockists have got it.
This makes me such a proud mama. Yes, it can be a difficult paste to find at stores because those who know about it go hunting and grab what’s available. It’s also the first one we run out of at every market or event we attend. When I conduct in-store demos, this paste can sell out within half an hour! What’s wonderful is the magic is in the paste, made with fresh ingredients and beautiful, premium quality, mellow spices. Fans don’t need much convincing and many refer it to their family, friends and colleagues, and end up buying extra for them too.
At markets and demos, when our fans provide us with feedback about my Indonesian Turmeric Kari Paste, I see them clasping their hands together, eyes tightly shut with their hands held over their hearts. When they talk about their experience cooking with this paste, I can see that it’s absolutely got something extra special about it. I can’t begin to articulate what their feedback does for me.
Versatility that surprises even me!
A few months ago, I called this paste ‘my perfect child’. I have literally thrown everything at it – chicken and quail eggs, fish, prawns, mussels, chicken, duck, beef, lamb, goat. I’ve tried cabbage, carrot, eggplant, corn, mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, baby corn, peas, green beans and a mix of these, and still the result was simply stunning. It simply never disappoints and is great for both novices and experienced cooks to explore with. Even the owner of my contract kitchen calls it his favourite and every time I cook a batch, he waxes lyrical on the flavour and bags a few jars to take home. As he tells me, they are manufacturers, and rarely do they do this, so I take the compliment proudly.
The best part is that you just have to add one minced onion at the beginning of cooking, then a quarter jar of paste, a splash of water, 500 grams of your choice of proteins, 200 ml coconut cream and 200 ml water. Then just wait for the aromas to waft and the magical taste to set.
I have also used this paste to make an Indonesian-style rendang or satay. For making rendang, follow the same steps above but also include some toasted coconut which you need to grind or pound to a paste. Simply toast one cup of fresh or frozen coconut in a frypan until dark golden brown (about 20 minutes). Pound and add half to the paste and the rest to the cooked proteins towards the end of cooking time. This binds the curry as a natural thickener.
For the satay version, again follow the basic steps, then add two tablespoons of Pic’s Crunchy Peanut Butter – any good quality peanut or other types of nut paste (macadamia, almond or cashew nut butter) will do, of course, cook well then add palm sugar and equal quantities of coconut cream and water. Add more peanut paste for a thickish satay sauce if using for basting purposes.
To recap, use this paste when making mild curries, or in a gulai where a lighter style curry is preferred. Turn the paste into a marinade, use it for stir fries, fried noodles and rice, or in omelettes or soups. This paste nails it every time and I’m so proud of it that I have recently released a powdered version called Turmeric Spice Magic. And a Simmer Sauce for even easier cooking. Early reviews are in and they are all music to my ears.
Indonesian Turmeric Kari Paste was a Silver Medal Winner at the Australian Fine Foods Awards in 2017. The judges commenting as follows:
“A very good example of a base rempah for a range of Indonesian kari’s, rendang and as a coating paste. Smooth texture jam packed with excellent freshly roasted spices and rhizomes as per the tradition. Great taste and aroma, a nice versatile starter product for those exploring Indonesian cuisine.”