Colorful Pecel Bento, Rainbow Pecel & An Interview with Sambel Pecel Kemangi
The common vegetables used in Pecel are amaranth, kangkung/kangkong (water spinach/water convolvulus), long green beans, cassava leaves, cabbage, bean sprouts, and bunga turi/Sesbania grandiflora (especially in East Java). While for the Sambel Pecel (Peanut Sauce), it’s made from roasted peanuts, bird eye chilies, kencur (Kaempferia galanga), kaffir lime leaves, garlic, tamarind, coconut sugar, salt, and sometimes terasi/belacan (dried shrimp paste). The prominent characteristic of Pecel sauce is the spicy and sweet flavor.
The most popular Pecel variation according to region are Pecel Malang, Pecel Blitar, Pecel Madiun, Pecel Kediri, Pecel Tulungagung, Pecel Banyumas, and Pecel Tegal. The first two are the most familiar to me. Sambel Pecel Malang has typical Eastern Java sauce; strong and spicy flavor with roughly ground roasted peanuts texture. Slightly different from Sambel Pecel Malang, Sambel Pecel Blitar has softer texture, little bit greasy, sweeter, tasty, and savory. My friend from Blitar often brings me Sambel Pecel when she comes visiting me. For Indonesians, it might sound weird, but I REALLY love to eat Sambel Pecel as it is, without any companions like cooked veggies or crackers. Yes, I eat it just like spicy sweet candy! This is my odd habbit since I was a kid. When my playmates had lollipops, then I had Sambel Pecel lollipop! Yes, I’m not kidding. I love to shape Sambel Pecel in round shapes then arrange them on a skewer and enjoy the spicy aromatic lollipop LOL :D
About two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Mr. Aditya Susilo of Sambel Pecel Kemangi. In his e-mail, he said that he is very interested in the ideas behind my food blogging (Indonesian food, bento, and the food blogging world itself). For that reason, he asked me for an interview. I didn’t need to think twice to welcome the invitation as I will be always passionate to talk and share about the love for food blogging, cooking, Indonesian food, and bentoing. As Sambel Pecel got so many positive review and comments from some Indonesian blogger fellows both on blogs and facebook, I was really curious to try it that I ordered for 1 kilo. Some days later, I got the package and Mr. Susilo was super kindly added the package with one extra kilo. Thank you very much, really like your Sambel Pecel Kemangi :D. Now I know that my foodie fellows who had tried your Sambel Pecel Kemangi said the right thing about your Sambel Pecel, it does taste really good :D. And friends... this is the interview with Sambel Pecel Kemangi :D. Enjoy it before seeing and reading my creations with Sambel Pecel Kemangi, a famous Sambel Pecel product from Blitar ^^
An Interview with Sambel Pecel Kemangi
1. Who is the woman behind Bonita’s Cooking & Bento Worderland?
It’s me; Yunita Rahmasari aka Tata :D. Some also call me Tabong, Bon, Bong, Nit-Nit, Nita, or Unik (Unique). So many nicknames, eh? I’m 20-something. Ah yeah, if you read my previous bento post about my birthday, then you’ll know what 20-sumthin exactly is ^^. I was born, grew up, and live in Malang, East Java. I’m a junkie of anything cute, daydreaming princess, and professional bathroom singer LOL. In everyday life, I’m a teacher. Obviously, not a bento teacher ;D
2. What is the best part of being a food blogger?
As a blogger, in general, I love the opportunity to express and share. In food blogging, besides being able to share my cooking ideas or my cooking journey, I can get so many culinary inspirations from other foodie friends to bring in my kitchen. Food blogging benefits me with new knowledge of other countries’ culinary. I feel so cool when I know about new foreign food recipes and be able to bring those international flavors in my kitchen :D. I’ve never been in South Korea, Turkey, or Spain, but the happiness of remembering the time I cooked Kimchi, Bulgogi, Bibimbap, TexMex Chicken, Dugun Yahnisi, and Paella always makes me smile :D. I know it sounds exaggerating, but by only cooking the food has already made me feel the countries. Even I could imagine to eat the food with Lee Min Ho or Jorge Lorenzo – have I told you that I’m a daydreaming princess? LOL. It’s a kind of unique excitement that I could get from a new culinary experience :D. Not to mention, being able to have so many new sweet friends worldwide is one of the best parts – we are just like sisters :D. Food is universal, magical, and able to unite us due to our same passion :D.
3. How do you spend your time outside cooking and bentoing?
I’m a kind of person that does enjoy to spend time in the house, or around the house. Yup, it sounds boring, but I’m just a sort of that person. Most of my time is drawn for teaching. When I’m not teaching, I use my time for cooking or bentoing. Apart from kitchen activities, I have a good time drawing and designing my bento, reading good books, tinkering with photoshop, and adventuring with my camera to satisfy my interest in photography, especially food photography :D. When I need to go outside, of course, I’ll go to the cinemas or malls with friends to watch new movies or yes... to buy new books (at many times recipe books ;p). When I’m home (not in boardinghouse), I love to spend time gardening or going to sawah (paddy field) with my grandma :D
4. How long have you been blogging? Who has inspired you to start a food blog?
I’ve been blogging for about 5 years, but I blog food for almost 4 years. I started a food blog in the late 2008 when I was in my senior year as a university student :D. Yup, as another activity besides finishing my thesis :). Well... The ones who have inspired me to start a food blog are Mbak Ayin of AG’s Food and Mbak Pepy of Indonesia Eats :D. They are so productive to post many simple, homey, and authentic recipes (most are Indonesian recipes) with mouthwatering and clear photos. I am their big big fan; they are truly inspiring food bloggers :D. I always believe that what they’ve done is really cool, and I just want to do like they do haha. I was also inspired and motivated by other great food bloggers. Food bloggers are just fantastic :D
5. What is your childhood most memorable food experience?
Sambal. I was born and raised in a village at the food of Kawi Mountain whose people do like to have their meal enjoyed with sambal or anything spicy. Growing up surrounded by a society fond of eating with sambal and chili, I was naturally “trained” to get familiar with sambal since I was little. I had even enjoyed Nasi Goreng (fried rice) with bird eye chili slices when I was five. No one forced me to eat it, I just loved it :). I heart spicy food and always crave for it!
6. What does “bento world’ mean to you?
For me, bento is a passion and a need - not a trend. And I’m still trying to make it as a part of my life style. Making bento creates me a fun opportunity to assemble my imagination, creativity, love of cooking, passion in doing artsy zest, and love of food photography. Bento also had helped me to reduce my carb intake and jack up my fondness for fresh veggies :D. As the good news, even though only for a few kilos, having bento has helped me reducing weight :D. Before, I loved to put frozen food in my bentos as I was a frozen food junkie. But now, I’m trying to reduce frozen food consumption. But yes... It’s still hard to resist beef sausages to be honest ;D. If you see my bentos with pretty portion of frozen food in the future posts, yes, they belong to my old bento collection that I haven’t posted yet. Don’t copy the menu; if you love the charaben/decoration idea, then go copy it for yours :D. Now I also try to put my favorite local menu on my bentos. So far, an idea to stop making bentos never crosses my mind, I will always love to make bento. Even when I’m home free from working and don’t need bento, I will still love to make bentos. I NEED to spill out the bentoing ideas dancing in my head. Still, making bento for me is a refreshment and entertainment :D
7. Why is bento your favorite food blog topic?
Simple answer: Because my mind is always haunted by bento ideas that I want to make bento, bento, bento, and more bento LOL. Ya ya ya, I want to make more people know and love bento :D
8. Which bento is the best in your blog?
It’s difficult to decide which bento is the best since every bento has its own special story. But, I must say that the most special and memorable one is my very first bento. It’s like the first stepping stone marking the beginning of my bentoing journey. It elevates my curiosity, passion, and motivation to stay on the bentoing track.
9. What is your suggestion to your readers, who want to make a pretty Bento like in your blog? What should they do?
If you encounter bento, fall in love with it, and want to make it, just go for it! When you think: I’m not creative enough to create cute bento, or I don’t have any special bento tools to help me; quickly hammer those discouraging thought! There are plenty bento blogs that will assist you to stock unlimited cute ideas. Even, those unlimited ideas will confuse you about which you’re going to make first ;p. For the tools, yes, they are made to ease you making cute bento without much effort. But, don’t limit yourself with the tools. Remember that your creativity and imagination are way bigger and go wilder than the tools. When I started making bento, my two greatest heroes were only knife and scissors. But it didn’t discourage me, I kept going on and I did it. So... you do :D
10. What is Indonesian Food Party? What do you want to say to all of your audiences?
IFP (Indonesian Food Party) is a monthly foodie event (now it’s bi-monthly :D) that my friend Monica of Deserve Desserts and I have arranged. Being a food blogger flares up our curiosity about our country’s rich culinary diversity. We realize we only know a very little, that’s why we want to learn and explore more :D. Besides, we want to introduce Indonesian culinary. Mbak Pepy of Indonesia Eats was highly responsible for this idea :D. Thank you Mbak Pepy ^^. Everyone can join this event. We don’t have special theme for every round. The participants just need to go with Indonesian recipes that they have cooked and blogged. For more info, you can click this link :D
11. What is your favorite restaurant or food stall that not much people know about that place?
I come from a family that highly appreciates home cooking. I must say we rarely go to restaurants. So when I am asked about my favorite restaurant, I often get confused to give the answer :D. But since I live in a boardinghouse and sometimes don’t have time to cook for myself, I must say that my favorite eateries are the two near my boardinghouse (Malang, Tegalgondo, near UMM Campus 3). The first is LOX; I really like its spicy fried rice with generous addition of fresh bean sprouts and cabbage, and its fabulous tasty Ayam Bakar Jimbaran (Jimbaran Style Grilled Chicken). The second is Barokah, an eatery that I always crave for its Nasi Pecel (3-5 times a week :D). I really love to enjoy its nasi Pecel with tongkol kotok (spicy tuna), tahu/tempe goreng (fried tempeh/tofu), tempe mendol, and kerupuk or rempeyek :D.
12. What do you think about Sambel Pecel Kemangi?
It’s one of the best Sambel Pecel (peanut sauce for Pecel) that I ever tasted! I’m not boasting. I’m a true Pecel lover and this Sambel Pecel has succesfully made me closed my eyes, smiled, and said “yuuuummmmm....” when I was enjoying it :D. I ordered 4 different levels of spiciness; mild, medium hot, hot, and extra hot. And you know what, I finished 1 kilo only in three days without any companions (cooked veggies or crackers). I just ate it as it is! Once again, just like a candy that I said before. Yes, my spicy Pecel candies and lollipops! My friends in boardinghouse said that I’m insanely insane hahahah ;D. Because they saw me totally fine with no diarrhea and enjoyed the extra hot level quickly with happy face LOL. If you are not accustomed to spiciness, don’t try this at home ahahah. The spiciness levels of Sambel Pecel Kemangi are not just level labels. If you choose to have hot and extra hot, then you’ll have the level of spiciness suggested by the labels. I could taste that Sambel Pecel Kemangi is made by selected and good quality ingredients. For me, the consistency of the dough, the measure of the spices mix, and the sweetness are just perfect. It’s really tasty and savory. It tastes just the way Pecel Blitar does. I especially love its choice in using genuine coconut sugar. I could taste that its coconut sugar just tasted the same with the old one usually wrapped with banana leaves that I really loved to enjoy when I was a kid (again, as candy :D). Now, it needs extra effort to find the original old one in markets. The terasi (dried shrimp paste) used is also great. I have no doubt that it’s the good quality one.
I’ve planned to make Pecel bento for some times ago. So, when I got the Sambel Pecel Kemangi package, I didn’t need to delay making it. You can see the common look of Pecel in this link. To make it looked more colorful and fancier with a fresh look, yes, I tried to make it into colorful bento Pecel and Rainbow Pecel :D. I am really happy with the creations. Yes, to be honest, I never thought that Pecel could be so pretty and colorful just like that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a kind of narcism, I’m just happy with the result :).
For my Colorful Pecel Bento and Rainbow Pecel, I added colorful ingredient like thinly sliced egg sheet and some colorful vegetables like carrot, bitter melon, purple cabbage, broccoli, cherry tomato, and sweet corn kernels besides the common ingredients - amaranth and bean sprouts. I also added toasted white and black sesame seeds for the sprinkle. I processed the bitter melon quite well that I got it tasted not bitter. For the bento, I made the rice into onigiris and enjoy the Pecel bento with Rempeyek Kacang and Sambel Pecel Kemangi. For the Pecel rice bowl dish, I arranged it just like the one you can see from the photo below. My friend from Ambon, who is totally not a fan of vegetables, was very happy to eat this and said that it was the prettiest Pecel she has ever seen and eaten :D. She said, “I eat rainbow and I’m happy!” :D. What a prize for me ^^. To enjoy Sambel Pecel Kemangi, mix it with sufficient warm or boiled water. Don’t forget to refrigerate it after opening.
I submit this as my entry for Indonesian Food Party (IFP). Have you submitted yours? ;D. I also made another food creation with Sambel Pecel Kemangi. I’ll post it next time :D.