Skip to main content

Southeast Asia FLAS fellows Kacey Rackowitz and Shannon Bush attend an Indonesian feast

May 12, 2016

Bu (Mrs.) Briggi

Southeast Asia Center FLAS fellows Kacey Rackowitz and Shannon Bush write about a feast hosted for UW students of Indonesian by Senior Lecturer Desiana Pauli Sandjaja and her friend, Bu (Mrs.) Briggi:

Bu Briggi

Bu Briggi

“First, second, and third year students of Bahasa Indonesia, taught by Bu Pauli Sandjaja, had a unique opportunity to celebrate the end of fall quarter and of 2015.  Bu Briggi, a friend of Bu Pauli’s since college who now lives in the Seattle area, invited students to share an Indonesian feast that the two prepared.  Although Bu Briggi had only met a few of us before we converged on her home last December 19th, she welcomed us all like family and cooked so many dishes that the party became a course in Indonesian cuisine.  For readers who would like to try them at home, recipes for two of those dishes follow.

When we arrived, Bu Briggi had just finished frying tofu and tempe to a perfect golden brown, which she served with homemade sambal.  There was also undang bakar (grilled shrimp, recipe follows), ayam goreng (fried chicken), rendang (a dry beef curry), gule ayam (chicken curry), and sup sayur asam (a vegetable soup), to name a few.  Bu Pauli was in charge of dessert and made agar-agar (vegan gelatin with fruit, recipe follows), bitterballen (virgin rum balls), klepon (sweet coconut rice balls), and ketimus (cassava with grated coconut wrapped in banana leaves). For Indonesian parties, it is typical that the host (in this case there is an exception because Bu Pauli helped) is the one who prepares all the food. Potlucks are usually reserved for more intimate get-togethers between family members.

After everyone arrived, the crowd immediately moved to the kitchen. We thanked Bu Briggi for all the delicious homemade food. She humbly responded in the traditional Indonesian way by apologizing for not serving enough and that it was not a big deal. She is just thrilled to have the opportunity to throw a party for Bu Pauli and her students. After every person took a heaping plate of food for the first round, there was still enough food that it appeared barely touched. Bu Briggi’s home went silent. To people who are more accustomed with American party culture, this may seem strange and maybe on the brink of being rude. For Bu Briggi, “hearing” that silence gave her joy because it is a sign that the food is delicious.

Undang bakar, ayam goreng, and rendang

Undang bakar, ayam goreng, and rendang

We found that Indonesian parties are also not just for the foodies, but introverts as well.  The only thing a guest should get exhausted from is a food coma. If you want to engorge yourself with a third plate of food and maybe six more of those mouth-watering bitterballen in the corner of the room, nobody is going to judge you. You are also not required to track down various people all night to justify that you are a social person. At Bu Briggi’s, the guests naturally split into three small circle groups throughout the home. In these groups, two or three people may be the main people of the conversation while everyone else is listening and nibbling at their food. If a person wants to see other people, they can leave the group to go to another one without any problem. If the conversations do lull to the point that it is a bit awkward or there isn’t enough “mixing,” it is not the responsibility of the guests to get things going again. It is the responsibility of the host, or in this case, Bu Pauli as well because most of the guests were her students.

The stories, the food, and the atmosphere that day all compressed the distance between the “Emerald City” and the “Big Durian,” and gave students a taste of Indonesia’s social world.



Agar-agar is a natural vegetable gelatin, so it is vegan-friendly.  It is usually sold in packets in powdered form.

-170 grams agar-agar powder

-1/3 cup of granulated sugar (or to taste)

-1 cup of coconut milk (not coconut water)

-1 cup of orange juice

-3 cups of water

-1 can of mixed tropical fruit, drained

Pour the drained fruit into a 9×9 Pyrex dish and set aside.  In a separate pan, boil 3 cups of water and add the sugar to dissolve.  Once dissolved, add the coconut milk then the orange juice.   Slowly add the agar-agar powder a little at a time, continuously stirring.  Pour the contents over the tropical fruit in the Pyrex dish and let sit until the liquid solidifies.  Put in the refrigerator and when it is nice and cool, serve and enjoy!

Indonesian Style Grilled Shrimp (Undang Bakar)

– 1 pound of shrimp, deveined and skewered.

For the spice paste:

– 6 cloves of garlic

– 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

– 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric (2 inches if using fresh)

– ½ stalk of lemongrass (optional)

Grind ingredients, add 1 tablespoon of water to facilitate mixing.

For the BBQ sauce:

– 3 tablespoons of butter

– 3 tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce)

– 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

In a cup, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add 3 tablespoons of kecap manis. For more flavor, add 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Mix well.

For the shrimp:

Combine spice paste with shrimp, “massage,” cover and marinate at least 4 hours in the fridge. Marinating overnight gives the best results. Heat a grill pan. To make sure it is hot enough, add a drop of water. If it sizzles and evaporates right away, the grill pan is ready. Arrange shrimp in one layer. Brush with BBQ sauce generously and grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve with jasmine rice and sambal.


Sambal is a chili paste condiment that comes in many different varieties. An Indonesian meal is incomplete without it.

  • 4 slices jalapenos (For less spice, remove seeds. For extra spice, add 2 Thai peppers)
  • 1 tomato
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ½ stalk of lemongrass, bruised
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of terasi (Indonesian fish paste, optional)

Fry all ingredients until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Drain (using a steel colander). Mash or pulse using a blender (make sure to not make the mixture too fine). For extra flavor, add a dash of salt, a squirt of lime, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast.

Indonesian foodShoppers can find the ingredients needed for Southeast Asian dishes in many area markets including Viet-Wah Supermarket in Seattle’s International District, HT Oaktree Market in North Seattle, and Waroeng Jajanan in Edmonds.

Selamat makan! (Enjoy your meal!)

FLAS Fellowships are funded by the International and Foreign Language Education office of the U.S. Department of Education.  FLAS fellowships support undergraduate, graduate and professional students in acquiring modern foreign languages and area or international studies competencies.   Students from all UW departments and professional schools are encouraged to apply.  Find out more about the FLAS Fellowship here.