Come Into My Kitchen

Cooking with spice: Try Indonesian Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce

Erik Hulse and his mother, Else Hulse, pay tribute to their Indonesian-Dutch heritage with dishes such as Babi Kecap or Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce served with rice and various other sides.
Erik Hulse and his mother, Else Hulse, pay tribute to their Indonesian-Dutch heritage with dishes such as Babi Kecap or Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce served with rice and various other sides. along@kcstar.com

Erik Hulse isn’t one to trumpet his cooking abilities without giving credit to his Indonesian-Dutch mother, Else Hulse.

A retired Overland Park police detective, Erik is catching his second creative wind playing trumpet for a number of venues and serving as executive director of the Kansas City Wind Symphony.

Married to Tracy for nearly 30 years, Erik regularly creates spicy showstoppers in his Lenexa kitchen.

Cultivating close relationships with her grandchildren is also important to Else.

“When Erik’s daughters Rachael (25) and Kelsey (23) were younger, I traveled with them to the Netherlands,” she says. “Now they are busy pursuing creative careers — Rachael dances and Kelsey sings — and I couldn’t be prouder of my family.”

Q: Do you have any plans for Father’s Day?

A: I am going to leave any formal planning up to my wife, Tracy Adriano Hulse, as we will also be celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary on Father’s Day, too. The wonderful thing about our family is that it is the embodiment of so many cultures and customs blended together, and my children take pride in their varied heritage.

Tracy comes from a large Mexican family. When we celebrate with her side of the family, there are so many people gathered together, and there are so many authentic homemade Mexican dishes to eat.

My side of the family is smaller, with Dutch-Indonesian heritage, but food is also very important to our culture. My mother was born in Indonesia and moved to Holland at age 10, after she and her family were released from a Japanese concentration camp after World War II.

I grew up eating Indonesian food, and as my mother says, the dishes can be spicy, but there is an importance placed on using fresh ingredients and spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, ginger and chilies. There is a story that my grandmother brought her Indonesian mortar and pestle with her to the Netherlands because it was so important.

Q: There is so much rich history between the Dutch and Indonesian people because of the spice trade.

A: There were many people who after the war went to live in the Netherlands as expatriates. The Dutch East India Company in Indonesia started in the 1600s. The islands, known for their spices, reside near the Philippines and Malaysia, just north of Australia.

My mother was born on Sumatra, a large Indonesian island west of Java and south of the Malay Peninsula. It was also hit hard during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and those surviving that terrible natural disaster show the resiliency of the Indonesian people.

I have never traveled to Indonesia, and my mother does not want to go back. However, my mother visits the Netherlands often, and we had a wonderful vacation last year traveling the Dutch and Italian countryside.

The lesson I learned during that trip is that people spend a lot of time cooking and preparing food for dinner, so eating together is a culmination of a day’s work. Dinner is not something to be rushed, it is to be relished and shared.

Q: Do you feel as though your personal musical style is also reflected in the way you cook?

A: I do like to create food that is appealing and draws people to the table. The same is true when I play my trumpet, in that people are also drawn to music.

I am classically trained on the trumpet and don’t really specialize in improvisation. I tend to play music exactly as it’s written, and the same is true with how I like to cook. I like using tried and true recipes and don’t like to stray too much from them. This recipe comes from the Dutch book my mother has, which is called “Oma Keasberry’s Indische Keukengeheimen.”

Q: It was harder than usual for you to choose just one recipe to share. Why was that?

A: I originally wanted to share about five recipes, which is just a fraction of the number of dishes normally included in an Indonesian Rijsttafel, which is a Dutch word that translates to “rice table.” This is an elaborate meal that can include 50 dishes and will require days of preparation and cooking.

Along with the Babi Kecap, we also have served Sambal Goreng Telur or Eggs in Spicy Chili Sauce; Serundeng or fried coconut flakes; and Kerupuk or Shrimp Chips. For a little extra heat, you can also stir in some Sambal Badjak, which is a spicy condiment.

One of the most wonderful parts is being able to serve this food on our dining room table, which after we decided to purchase it, realized it was made in Indonesia. It was a full circle moment.

Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at pepi@kc.rr.com to nominate a cook.

Indonesian Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce or Babi Kecap

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound boneless pork chops or pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cubed

8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1/2 cup sweet Indonesian soy sauce or Kecap Manis

3 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms

2 cups prepared basmati or jasmine rice

Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat on stovetop. Add pork, garlic and ginger root to pan and saute until pork is browned on all sides.

Stir in Kecap Manis, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn to low and simmer for an hour, or until pork is fork tender.

Add mushrooms to pan and continue to simmer another 30 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

Serve mixture over prepared rice and garnish with spicy Sambal Badjak, fried coconut flakes or Serundeng, and shrimp chips or Kerupuk, if desired.

Chef’s note: Kecap Manis, Sambal Badjak, Serundeng and Kerupuk can be found at most local Asian markets or ordered online.

Per serving: 678 calories (17 percent from fat), 13 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 67 milligrams cholesterol, 110 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 1,864 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

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