There is something deeply gratifying about coming home to a warm stew on a rainy winter night, and all the more so when the ingredients needn't be cooked to a pallid sodden shadow of what they were before they left the grocer's custody. When the calorie count is inversely proportional to its come-hither index, you know this one's a keeper!
That's what I thought when I had my bowl of Sayur Lodeh:
Frankly, I'm no authority on whether it should be considered a curry or a stew, if these are even mutually exclusive food groups. The flavour is evocative of a curry, but the cooking method is what I'd term stewing. At the verge of a boil, carrots, string beans and cabbage (in that order, since carrots take a notoriously long time to cook) are plonked into the fragrant curry thickened with just enough coconut milk to make the broth translucent. The whole vat should then simmer until the vegetables just start to lose their crunch.
Fried tofu squares and softened glass noodles are added towards the end as well as more coconut milk if desired. I'd like to say "Serve immediately", but as with all curried things, I'm often inclined to let Sayur Lodeh sit around and age so that the vegetables imbibe the character of the curry and shed some of their inherent individual flavours. If you live in a tropical climate, do let it sit in the fridge. 2 days is my minimum prescription.
How to: I'm not sure everyone has patience for this. Write me! :) I'm still trying to work out the shortcuts!
Variations: Adding cakes of compacted rice (called ketupat in Malay) turn this into a one-dish meal, and transforms its name to Lontong. Hard-boiled eggs and shrimp go quite well with it, too.
Body count: probably 20 or more tiny prawns perished to provide a tablespoonful of belachan for flavouring the curry.