Tine would have accompanied her as best as she could have, and she would have spoken about kitchen matters, about sambal-sambal, about pickling ketimun (cucumber) – but without Liebig (meat extract), by all Gods !-

At the end of chapter 13 of what is probably the most important novel in Dutch literature ” Max Havelaar or the Coffee auctions of the Dutch Trade Company”  finally food is mentioned. Food was ,at that time, what major parts of the population of the Dutch East Indies, the former colony now known as Indonesia, lacked.  The intention of Multatuli, pen name of author Eduard Douwes Dekker, in publishing his first novel was to report the cultivation system of crops suited for export imposed by Dutch colonial authorities, causing large periods of famine in this  ”wonderful empire of INSULINDE which is there around the equator, like a belt of emeralds…”

Impressive to see how a novel could have such an immense impact over the years, as the name Max Havelaar is used nowadays to certify fair trade products, but  indirectly triggered of the decolonization process almost hundred years later. When the contents of the novel hit Dutch society in its publishing year 1860, thus influencing public opinion widely, authorities were obliged to abandon the cultivation system. To compensate, important reforms in the colony were put into action, one of them being the introduction of education for locals; thus resulting in the fact that almost all revolutionaries who eventually proclaimed Indonesian’s independence in 1949 were educated at Dutch universities! This decolonization process was one of the main triggers for others on the African continent in last century’s sixties.  








Still left is an impressive literary work, mingling different stories seen under the perspective of the novels main characters: beautiful and very sad as well the love story of  Saïdjah and  Adinda!


Below you will find the recipe of one of many sambals of Indonesian cuisine, its most simple version being the sambal ulek: fresh red chillies crushed with salt and a little water in a cobèk (the Javanese mortar). The recipe we are going to make is called sambal bajak (or badjak), a fried and cooked sambal. Sambal is used in Indonesia to accompany all meals and spice them up. Right now this is a ‘hot and trendy’ ingredient among foodies. Once cooked you can keep refrigerated for 7 days in your fridge.

One of my guilty pleasures would be eating me a peanut butter sandwich with abundant sambal.  Other members of my family observing me in shock!



  • Chili peppers                                     10 pieces (150 grs.)
  • Onion                                                  Half piece (200 gr.)
  • Garlic                                                   3 cloves
  • Tomato                                                1 piece (100 grs.)
  • Vegetable oil                                        5 tablespoons
  • Terasi (fermented shrimp paste)    1/2 teaspoon
  • Galangal root                                      1 piece nutsize
  • Bay leaf                                                1 piece
  • Lemongrass                                        1/2 sprig
  • Palm sugar                                          1/2 piece (30 grs.)
  • Tamarind concentrate                      1 teaspoon
  • Salt                                                        as needed

How to make 

1. Take medium sized red chilis, not the Thai bird chillies as being too hot. Take of the stems and break or cut  into even pieces, as well as the onion , the garlic and the tomato.

2. Blanch in boiling water for about 5 minutes.

3. Drain from the water and add to a blender, blend at full speed for about ten to 15 seconds, adding some additional water if necessary.

4. Heat up the oil in a frying pan, add the shrimp paste, give it a quick stir to let the flavors come out and then add the blended mix.

5. Add the galangal root, the lemon grass (previously crushed with the back of a knife) and the bay leaf.

6. Let reduce completely at moderate heat until all liquid has evaporated and the oil starts coming out of the sauce. Then add the palm sugar, previously cut into small pieces and the tamarind concentrate.

7. Cook some more until the sambal becomes shiny and oil comes out at the borders. Add some salt if necessary. Take out the lemongrass, the bay leaf and the galangal.

Gives a nice oriental glow to all your dishes: be careful heavily addictive!