One of my early memories of my mother’s kitchen is recalling that my mother always puts aside the red onion (bawang merah/shallots) peel in a ‘besek’ (wicker basket) at the corner of the kitchen. When we kids helped her peeling the little tear-jerking little red things, she will call out to us,
“Save the peels and put it in the ‘besek’! Yes, all of them, don’t throw them out. We will use it to make Telur Pindang!”
Last Thursday, when I was cooking for #Weekly_Canteen, I can hear her voice saying the very thing to me. As I industrially proceeded in peeling about 100 red onions, I consciously put all the red onion peel aside. Little by little the peel mounted up and at the end of the process, I ended up with an equivalent of big udon bowl of red onion peel.
The only correct answer to that question now is to then do what Mama says endlessly: make yourself some Telur Pindang! Pindang is an Indonesian traditional method to preserve food, usually employing fish (ikan) and eggs (telur). The technique is native to Java and Sumatra islands (two out of the big 5 islands in Indonesian archipelago). To pindang something is a cooking process where you boil the ingredients in certain spices – usually salt, soy sauce, teak leaves, or other spices. The process gives the food dark brown color and last longer compared to plainly boiled food.
Mama walked me through the process over text messages with her typical directions: with low heat boil some eggs with a lot of salt with red onion peel, salam leaves, guava leaves and you can also add some tea leaves to make the color really red. Crack the shells midway to create the marbly coloring and so the flavor could seep through.
When inquired how much of the ingredients I should use for how many eggs, her answer was simply,
“Ya dikira-kira saja…”
(loosely translated, “Just use your own judgement, just enough…”)
So, I take this as a challenge. Yesterday was a slushy snowy day in Tokyo, I took it as the perfect opportunity to spend indoors and make this little gems. I tried three different ways to finally come to the below recipe. For your benefit I have measured and timed it so you don’t need to go wild in doing the guessing game that Mama suggested. I have also adjusted the recipe to ingredients that are readily available in ethnic supermarkets in Japan (or non tropical countries).
Telur Pindang (Indonesian Marbled Eggs)
Adapted from Mama Widayati Suwarto
Tools: sauce pan and spoon
Total cook time: 5 minutes prep time, 90~120 minutes cook time
- 8 eggs
- 1.5 Tbsp salt
- 4 salam leaves (if available), or substitute with bay leaves
- 4 guava leaves (if available), or substitute for 4 white/ black/ green tea bags**
- a handful of red onion peel
- Wash your eggs!
- In a saucepan, combine all ingredients
- Add enough water to cover them, bring slowly to a boil
- From the point of water boiling, after 15 minutes, lift the eggs out and place in cold water
- When cool enough to handle, using the back of a spoon gently crack the shells all over, creating a spider web looking cracks. Do not peel!
- Return the eggs into the pot – check if you need to add water to make sure everything is in the brownish concoction
- Continue to simmer (low heat!) for about 75~105 minutes, stir occasionally. Add some water when you feel the water is gone too quickly, the eggs need to be in the water to produce a rich web/marbly coloring.
When done, remove eggs from saucepan and place in cold water. Peel eggs now and, if possible, serve with Indonesian dishes like Mama’s Mie Goreng.
**Like me – where it’s close to impossible to score any teak leaves or guava leaves, then I resort to using tea. Make sure that the tea bags of your choice don’t have strong smell like earl grey so it does not over power the other ingredients when boiling. My personal preference is white or green tea. White tea has no strong smell but green tea produces a much brighter marble web.