Arem Arem Mie

Instant noodles lend themselves well to this recipe because they absorb the coconut milk and their starchiness helps them to set as they cool, making arem arem mie a perfect snack to eat out of hand. Use Indomie, the brand of favor in Indonesia which can be found at most well-stocked markets specializing in Southeast Asian ingredients, if at all possible (while you’re at the market, pick up also a package of tempeh, Indonesian fermented soybean cakes).

Makes 8 pieces

  • 2 three-ounce packages Indomie brand Mie Goreng instant noodles, any flavor (The sweet chile sauce, kecap manis, and fried onions packets can be used for dipping the arem arem mie but the seasoning packets are not needed for this recipe.)
  • 1 cup unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Indonesian bay leaves, sometimes called Indonesian or Balinese laurel, optional (Do not use regular bay leaves.)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 1 large (1 ounce) shallot or 1/4 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 fresh red jalapeño (or serrano) peppers or more to taste (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon or more of bottled sambal oelek)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup shredded (or diced) cooked chicken meat (or sautéed ground chicken)
  • 3/4 cup tempeh, crumbled or diced and blotted dry
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/4  cup finely diced carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • Fresh or frozen banana leaves, cut into 16 8-inch squares
  • Vegetable oil for greasing the leaves
  • 16 toothpicks

Boil the noodles for 3 minutes; drain well. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a boil with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the bay leaves, if using. When the liquid boils, add the noodles and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing the filling.

In a mortar (ideally, an ulek ulek or flat Indonesian mortar) or a small chopper, grind the garlic, ginger, shallot, pepper and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt into a smooth paste; set aside.

Heat the oil in an 8-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Toss the tempeh pieces with cornstarch until coated and fry until golden. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Remove the oil from the pan, leaving only a thin coat of it on the bottom of the pan and put it back on medium-high heat. Fry the paste until fragrant, then add the carrots and the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick. Add the chicken, the fried tempeh, continue to fry for another minute, and remove from the heat; leave to cool.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into the cooled noodles and mix thoroughly. Bring water to a boil in a steamer.

Lightly brush the dull side of the banana leaves with a little oil. Place 2 squares of banana leaves overlapping, oiled side up, with the ribs in the leaves parallel to you. Spread 1/8 of the noodle mixture along the edge closest to you, leaving a least an inch on either side. Top with 1/8 of filling. Roll the leaves like a mat into a cylinder, gathering up the noodles and filling as you go so the filling is encased inside the noodle mixture. Fold one end of the tube you have just formed into a triangle, them fold the triangle down towards the body of the tube, and secure with a toothpick. Close the other end and in the same manner. Repeat the process with the remaining banana leaves, noodle mixture, and filling.

Place the packets in a steamer and cook them for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then eat warm or at room temperature, with the reserved sauce packets and fried onion, if desired.

Note: You can also grill the steamed packets of noodles on both sides over hot coals until the banana leaves begin to char. This is called arem arem mie bakar.

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