I’ve known Chandra since the early 2000’s. First from the now-defunct Indonesian design forum GF, then it moved on to Flickr where we had lively conversations over food pictures for many years, and followed by meetings in person in Jakarta where we ate sate (what else?) and he invited me to speak at one of his FreSH! events.
The father of two certainly keeps busy. Between running different companies, he still has time to organise community events, run a food blog and cook for his family. That and being an all-around insightful guy, I thought he’d make a great first participant for the “Man in the Kitchen” series! So without further ado, I present Chandra in the Kitchen…
How did you start cooking? How did you grow to be the cook in the marriage? One day when I was 10-11 years old living in Leicester with my family, I came home hungry and my mom wasn’t home so I just put a bunch of stuff together in a bowl and put it in the oven.
Moving out for college helped, because I cooked a lot then. I used to sell sate ayam (Indonesian barbecued, skewered chicken) in Utrecht, Netherlands, the city where I studied. Then when Rika and I got married, the cooking just fell on to me since she didn’t cook. She’s learned to cook since, and is looking after the day to day feeding of the family, but I’m still the “cook” in the marriage and my kids love it when I cook for them on weekends.
Like the technology sector, gastronomy and cuisine is still a male-dominated field, even though it’s common for women to do most of the cooking at home. Why do you think there’s so few women in restaurant kitchens? The general pattern in Indonesia is that with street food and the more typical down-to-earth eateries, there seems to be an equal number of women and men doing the cooking, if not more women. There’s the cultural slant, where in Javanese eateries, most of the chefs are women, and in Padang eateries, most of the chefs are men.
Then, there’s the “Western”-style eateries, and the chains/franchises to the fine-dining establishments that in Indonesian large cities are still located within hotels. Those are definitely male-dominated. So the male domination in those kitchens could be an inheritance from foreign/Western hospitality industries.
Remember that the Indonesian-style homestays or “losmens” are often still family-run, in which case the woman/wife of the household would oversee the kitchen and take care of feeding the whole household.
Advice you’d give a homecook enthusiast or first-time dad starting out with cooking? Start with rice. It’s not as easy as you think! There’s always the rice cooker, but that’s a cop out.
Funniest kitchen incident? Singe-ing/burning my eyebrows during a cooking course in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The cooking course was Chinese wok cooking over an open fire.
Favourite kitchen equipment/gadget? Hand blender.
Favourite cookbooks? “How to Cut Meat” I bought at 13 years old, at Sainsbury’s. Because I wanted to make my own gravy, from post-roast drippings, and this book had a section on that.
Any favourite food blogs or food films? “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” … a gem of a movie. If you haven’t seen it, go go go!
Are there any foods that you just don’t like? Durian! Everyone in my family loves it though.
What’s your “Last Supper”/deathrow meal? Sate ayam, with those delectable little burnt bits and peanut sauce.
Thank you, Chandra!
More on Chandra:
- Chandra runs a blog called “Emergency Recipes”.
- You can also connect with Chandra on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Chilli Crab ala Chandra, republished and translated with permission from his original blog entry.
Mise en place
8 heads of garlic, peeled and left whole. 12 red chillies, sliced. 2 tomatoes. 1 stalk spring onion, sliced thinly. ½ tablespoon black pepper. 1 tablespoon sugar. 1 tablespoon oyster sauce. 1 teaspoon sesame oil. 1 teaspoon salt. 1 teaspoon corn flour.
Other things you need
- 1-2 crabs, cleaned and cut into 4 quarters: I used 1 kilogram of fresh crab
- 2-3 tablespoons of room-temperature butter or vegetable cooking oil
- 1 egg
- 150ml lukewarm water (more if you prefer it with thinner/soupy sauce)
With a pestle and mortar (or blender, set to the chop/rough setting), mash together the garlic, tomatoes, half of the red chillies and half of the spring onions.
In a large cast-iron pan, heat up the 2-3 tablespoons of butter or oil over a medium fire. Then add the crab pieces, along with the remaining sliced chillies and spring onions. Cook until the soft cartilages turn a bit yellow/cooked. Add the garlic-and-chilli paste from the mortar, along with the salt, black pepper, sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil.
Mix everything so that the crab pieces are all evenly coated in the sauce. Turn down the fire, and let simmer for around 15 minutes. In a cup, mix together the corn flour and the water.
Push the chilli crab to one side of the pan, and add the egg. Quickly scramble it, and mix together with the chilli crab. Finally, add the corn flour mix and bring to a boil, and stirring once more to ensure it’s all evenly mixed. Turn off fire.
Serve over steamed white rice, or with fried/steamed mantou. Enjoy!
Finger-licking delicious! I served this to the handsome-and-talented husband (who, ever since I introduced him to Singaporean chilli crab, makes sure we eat it at least once on our annual Singapore trip), Phil who never had it and Astrid who loves Singaporean chilli crab.
We loved it with hot steamed white rice, and ate with our hands, cracking and slurping the crab to get every last bit. It could be spicier, said Astrid — she took some home to her husband, Abi, where they ate it with mantou and the feedback was that Abi really loved it!
I’d say this was a successful first edition! Woo! Chilli crab FTW!
- For a spicier version, I’d substitute up to a quarter-to-half the amount of chillies with Thai bird’s eye chillies.
- Best is to use fresh crabs. Place them in your freezer for about 15 minutes; this will make them drowsy and sleep. Then, boil a big pot of water and once it’s on a rolling boil, gently add your crabs to the water. Keep the lid on, and boil for roughly 12 minutes per kilo of crab before fishing them out and placing them in an icebath.
- This site has a great step-by-step instruction for cooking and cleaning live crab.
Hope you enjoyed this as much as we have! See you in the next episode of Man In The Kitchen!