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Indonesian and Australian chef Lara Lee wants to take you on a culinary journey. And her cookbook “Coconut & Sambal,” does just that, transporting readers to the tropical Southeast Asian islands dotting the Indian Ocean. Armed with Lara’s book, you’ll be able to travel the world through the simple acting of reading recipes, imagining yourself laying out on a sandy beach, fruity cocktail in hand, or weaving your way through narrow streets, reaching for bowls of nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) from local vendors. 

Related Reading: 11 Perfect Sides to Serve with BBQ Ribs

The book was compiled after Lara’s own travels through Indonesia, featuring an assemblage of recipes from local cooks, as well as dishes gathered from her grandmother, passed down through generations. Revel in the warmth of a spiced meatball soup (Obama’s favorite dish from his trip to the country); gnaw into sweet coconut sticky rice balls; and bite into crackly chicken and garlic spring rolls, ready to be dunked into bowls of red-stained sambal, a classic Indonesian chili sauce.

Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen, $31.50 on Amazon

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Along with recipes, Lara also introduces newcomers to the pleasures of the island nation in the context of her own family history. The rest of the book is divided into a number of sections, including savory snacks, soups & rice, vegetables, tofu & tempeh, fish & seafood, poultry & eggs, meat, sambal, sweets, and basic recipes, like fried shallots and dumpling dough, which often make an appearance in a host of dishes throughout the book.

Ahead, Lara shares a recipe for Balinese sticky glazed pork ribs. The recipe doesn’t require a grill, but instead relies on a hot oven and a few minutes under the broiler to barbecue the pork. You’ll paint a rack of ribs with a marinade bound by kecap manis (a fermented soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar), chilies, garlic, ginger, banana shallots, rice vinegar, palm sugar, and salt, and let it roast in the oven for a few hours until the meat begins slipping off the bone. The ribs will get finished off under the broiler, accompanied by more of the marinade, until it’s sticky and caramelized. Serve immediately with more of the sauce for ample dipping.    

Reprinted from Coconut & Sambal by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright © 2020, Lara Lee.

Balinese Sticky Glazed Pork Ribs Recipe 

Barbecued pork ribs is one of the most popular dishes in Bali: a smoky, juicy and tender meat feast that is glazed in sweet and sticky kecap manis and grilled over charcoal. You would be hard pressed not to be drawn to Bali’s barbecue restaurants, with their grills strategically placed at each entrance to fill the pavements with the aroma of the marinade.

This version is slow cooked in a kecap manis, ginger, garlic and chilli marinade that is caramelised under the grill to produce an irresistibly sticky rack of ribs. It can be made in advance and reheated, making it a great choice for a dinner party. It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge; reheat it in the oven at 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3 for 10 minutes, covered with foil. I love to serve the ribs with sweet potato wedges or Fragrant stir-fried morning glory and Fried shallot and coconut rice.

Balinese Sticky Glazed Pork Ribs

Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 8 long red chillies, roughly chopped (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 12cm piece of ginger (about 60g), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 120ml rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 140ml kecap manis
  • 100g palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 2 x 700g racks of pork spare ribs
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3. Blend all the ingredients except the pork with 120ml water in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Line a roasting tin with four long layers of foil in the shape of a cross – two horizontal and two vertical – with enough excess foil spilling over the sides to wrap the ribs. Lay the ribs onto the foil and pour over half the marinade, massaging it into each rack. Wrap the ribs with the foil and roast in the oven on the top or middle shelf for 2 hours.
  3. While the ribs are roasting, pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until it has thickened, roughly 5–10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. To check if the ribs are done, test an end rib – when you tug the end bone, the meat should start slipping off the bone. If they are not yet tender, return to the oven and test again after 10 minutes. Once the ribs have finished roasting, remove from the oven and turn the grill to high. Open the foil and brush some of the reduced marinade onto the ribs, reserving the rest as a dipping sauce. Place the ribs under the grill for 5–7 minutes, uncovered, until they darken in colour and the marinade caramelises. Serve immediately, with the remaining marinade in a dipping bowl.

Header image courtesy of "Coconut and Sambal."

Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.
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