The Culinary Traveler: Indonesian Rice Bowl

Sunday September 4, 2016

classic rijsttafel table-the Dutch version of Indonesian celebration banquets

Indonesia is the land of spices and herbs. This was the main reason the Dutch, Arab, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, and British wanted to colonize Indonesia. This also meant that while they were there, they all have influenced Indonesian cuisine a lot as well in reverse cross pollination. The Dutch wanted a monopoly on the spice trade and conquered Indonesia for more than 300 years, exporting nutmeg, cloves, mace, ginger, and black pepper back to Europe.

The Dutch colonial plantation owners of Indonesia put their own spin on the local nasi padang feast, an array of small dishes served with a heaping helping of rice. It became an instant hit and tradition among the Dutch and they exported the tradition back to The Netherlands. Today, the toned-down rijsttafel is more popular abroad than in Indonesia itself, and is served to cater to tourists in local restaurants. The enormous “Rijsttafel” Rice Table has been what made Indonesian cooking famous. Contrary to European cuisine, which was mostly plated, small portions of Indonesian dishes were always served in the center of the table surrounding a large basket of steamed white rice.

From one of the Bay Area’s favorite food writers, backyard gardeners, and seed purveyors, Renee Shepherd, comes this satisfying one-dish meal adapted from her book Recipes From A Kitchen Garden (Ten Speed, 1993). This simplified version of the rijsttafel table, a popular full rice meal in Indonesia, looks incredibly festive served with all the condiments. This is a great recipe to use up leftover chicken or use rotisserie chicken.  The popular peanut sauce is one of the definitive tastes of the Southeast Asian and Thai cuisines along with the fragrant jasmine rice.


Machine:  Medium (6 cup) rice cooker

Yield:  Serves 5 to 6


  • 1 cup white Thai jasmine rice
  • 1 1/8 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cup fresh or frozen baby peas (2 pounds fresh unshelled)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded poached chicken breast meat
  • 1/2 cup hot chicken broth (canned or homemade)

Thai Peanut Sauce

  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, white only, minced (save the green tops for garnish)


  • Chopped green tops from the green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

Condiment Tray

Separate small bowls of chutney, sliced bananas, raisins, shredded dried coconut, minced cilantro, mandarin oranges, chopped apples, plain yogurt


Coat the rice bowl with a nonstick vegetable spray.  Place the rice in the rice bowl.  Add the water into the rice bowl and stir a few times.  Close the cover and program for the REGULAR cooking cycle.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the Peanut Sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients.  Cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until a sauce is formed.  Cover and keep warm.

When the Keep Warm cycle begins, open cooker and immediately sprinkle the peas and chicken on top of the rice.  Close the lid and let steam 20 minutes in the residual heat of the Keep Warm cycle.

Turn the rice mixture out onto a warmed serving platter with sloped sides.  Pour the hot chicken broth and peanut sauce over the rice. Gently stir to combine the peas and chicken with the hot chicken stock and the peanut sauce.  Serve sprinkled with the green onion and peanuts.  Serve immediately with choice of condiments.

Excerpted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2003, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016.

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

Vegetable Love--an Indonesian farmer's market

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