Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021
Bookmark and Share

Spiced tamarind lamb (Kambing bacem)

Bacem is essentially slow cooking. Tahu (tofu) bacem and tempe bacem are common, but this way of cooking is also used for meat, poultry and offal (variety meats). Such dishes were then sold all over Central Java, as street food, in food shops and in the public markets of every small town and big city.

This recipe is a lovely way of cooking either a largish joint or a lean rack of lamb. Lamb cooked in the way described below should be served hot from the pan. You can, of course, reheat leftover meat by pan-frying it, but this toughens the meat a little, and serving it cold is preferable.

3 lb. (1.5 kg) leg or shoulder of lamb, trimmed of fat, or 1 rack of lamb, cut into 2 cutlets per person

2½ c. (625 ml) tamarind water (made from a curved brown bean pod that contains an acidic, juicy pulp; available from Asian grocers; instructions follow)

3 shallots, finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tbsp. (15 ml) ground coriander

1 tbsp. (15 ml) ground cumin

3 large fresh red chilies, seeded and finely sliced

1 tsp. (5 ml) fresh ginger, chopped

1 tsp. (5 ml) lemongrass, soft inner part only, chopped

1 tsp. (5 ml) galangal (it resembles ginger, but it is slightly hotter; available from Asian grocers), chopped

1 tsp. (5 ml) soft brown sugar

1 tsp. (5 ml) salt

1 tbsp. (15 ml) dark soy sauce

2 kaffir lime leaves or bay leaves

Put the lamb in a saucepan that will accommodate the leg or shoulder lying flat, or the cutlets in a single layer. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, add 2½ cups (625 ml) water and pour over the lamb. Put the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and continue boiling —not on a rolling boil, but just bubbling gently. Cover the pan and cook for 50 to 60 minutes if using leg or shoulder, 20 to 25 minutes if using rack of lamb.

Transfer the meat to a warmed serving plate. Slice the joint thinly and discard the bone; the rack can stay as is. Boil the cooking liquid until reduced to a nice thick sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed, and pour the hot sauce over the meat. Serve right away with potatoes, rice or pasta. Serves 4 to 6. 

For the tamarind water

If you’re using a lot of tamarind water, it is worthwhile boiling a whole 7-ounce (220 g) block of tamarind in about 2¼ cups (560 ml) water. Boil for 20 minutes, using a wooden spoon to stir the tamarind often and break up the block.

After 20 minutes or a little longer, put the tamarind and its cooking water into a sieve set over a glass bowl, and allow to pass through. You will now have a bowl of thick brown tamarind water. This can be stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for about 10 days before it gets mouldy.

You can also freeze tamarind water in ice-cube trays; it will keep in the freezer, with no loss of flavour, for up to 2 months. Put a measured amount — 1, 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls (15, 30 or 45 ml) — of tamarind water in each ice-cube compartment, and when the cubes are frozen, transfer them into a self-sealed freezer bag. Then it’s easy to take just one cube to go straight into your cooking pot.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


Post a comment