World Bento Tour: Indonesia

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Given we have taught a couple of Indonesian Cooking Classes, it seems fitting that we showcase our Indonesian recipes as part of our World Bento series.  The great thing about Indonesian food is that you can easily adjust the chilli/spice level down in the recipes to suit the kiddos and the adults can compensate by eating large amounts of spicy condiments (like I do!).  In fact, sometimes, it feels like I am having some curry with my spicy sambal. 🙂

Our Indonesian bento consisted of some savory, delicious, creamy and super flavorful chicken curry with potatoes (kari ayam), stir fried string beans with fluffy and fragrant steamed jasmine rice and fruit for dessert.  The condiments of sambal, fried crispy shallots and Indonesian pickle (acar), just make the whole set-up “pop” in appearance and taste.

The “acar” recipe below is absolutely yummy.  “Acar” is the Indonesian word for pickle and it is a typical condiment served along many main dishes.  It is usually made from small chunks of cucumber, carrot, shallot, chilli and even pineapple or mango.  You can add lemongrass and ginger as well.  The marinating liquid is a sweet and sour solution of sugar and vinegar.  This pickle also works very well in almost any kind of sandwich and I am sure you will have no trouble coming up with other creative uses for this verydelicious condiment.

Acar – Indonesian Pickle



  • Shallots & carrots, diced — 1/2
  • Chile pepper, slit open down one side — 1
  • Sugar — 3 to 4 tablespoons
  • Salt — 1 teaspoon
  • Peppercorns — 2 or 3
  • White vinegar — 3/4 cup
  • Water — 1/4 cup
  • Cucumber, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds — 1


  1. In a plastic/glass container, add cucumber, shallot, carrots, peppercorns and chilies. Sprinkle sugar and salt. Cover the lid, shake the container (don’t shake too hard) and leave it for 5 minutes. Then, open up the lid and add vinegar and water.
  2. Close the lid and store it the fridge.

Labor of Love: Indonesian Chilli Sambal

I know this is a kids’ food blog but sometimes all of us get bored of eating “spiced down” food and this fiery condiment is the perfect antidote to that issue.  We have been eating increasing amounts of this sambal, since we have been forced to spice our food mildly (post-Ria showing up).  This is the quintessential sambal in Indonesia (we make it minus shrimp paste) and we learned how to make it at a cooking class at Casa Luna in Bali.

It is a little bit of a time-consuming and injury causing (burning fingers, teary eyes if you touch your eyes post chilli slicing, you will regret it) cooking project that I usually manage to con my husband into working on. However, this last time I made it myself with my mother’s help because the hubby was busy and we were out of our stash of sambal.  The end product lasts a while, so it is well worth the effort.   Unless you are like our neighbor and friend, Chuck who adds it to everything he eats – his eggs, plain rice, chicken etc. – and finishes it in a hurry.

We are pretty generous when it comes to sharing food we make with others, except when it comes to this sambal.  If you have been lucky enough to receive even a small quantity of this “precious” condiment, be assured that you are on our A-List. 🙂

Indonesian Chilli Sambal – adapted from Fragrant Rice by Janet De Neefe


1 whole head of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

2 cups sliced shallots

1 cup sliced chilli of choice (serrano, thai bird’s eye, jalapeno or habanero (almost inedible with habanero, we tried it once.)  Red chilies are better in terms of color and presentation but tougher to come by in the US

1/2 cup vegetable oil and more to top off jars



  1. Slice shallots and garlic as thinly as possible.  Chop the chillies finely.  (All this take a while)
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan
  3. Fry the sliced shallots and garlic up 5-7 minutes till they are pale, golden brown color.  If you slice your ingredients a bit “thicker” it can take up to 10 minutes.  Season with salt as you fry
  4. Add the chillies and fry for another 2-3 minutes
  5. Once cooled transfer to a jar for storage.  Top with a layer of oil to keep longer.  We store ours in the fridge.  If you keep the top covered with oil and wipe the sides of the jar down, it will last up to a month

Try to make some and you will be hooked and will soon be eating this with non-Asian food as well.  I recently started using this with burgers and sandwiches!

You can make this sambal with red or green chiles.