It’s Time We Catch Up On the Sauce of Indonesia – Kecap Manis!

Monahan's Seafood Market | Fresh Whole Fish, Fillets, Shellfish, Recipes, Catering & Lunch Counter-Ann Arbor, Michigan

Just when I thought that my Asian condiment pantry was complete I came upon a sauce while surfing the web called kecap manis. I learned that in Indonesia kecap means fermented sauce, manis means sweet and that kecap manis is a sweet soy sauce that’s pretty much the national sauce. A country that is made up of 13,466 islands and is the fourth most populated country in the world and I had never heard of this famous and historic sauce! Apparently there are hundreds of varieties of different flavors from this huge archipelago. The sauce is very thick and besides being made from fermented soybeans and palm sugar it can have garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise or other spices added. It’s used as an ingredient in many Indonesian dishes, sauces and dips.

asian ingredients

Not being familiar with Indonesian cuisine, I wasn’t sure how to use this sauce, but after reading about its fame, I had to give it a try. Knowing that it had a more complex and sweet flavor than other soy sauces, it would have to be used with maybe a rich and flavorful fish such as salmon, mackerel or bluefish. Since we’re into the bluefish of summer, let’s go for it!

The first taste of kecap manis was intense. Thick, full flavored and very sweet with a flavor, among other things, of molasses. I love the flavor of molasses but probably not on my fish! Maybe my recipe plans with this ancient (but new to me) sauce would not be so great. Heat and sweet can be very tasty, but at first taste, wow!, maybe too sweet! As the recipe was coming together, the sweetness was toning down with the heat of the peppers and sambal oelek, the pronounced ginger flavor and the tart acidity of the lime. The flavors were wonderful and I was beginning to think that we were in for a treat.

Originally this dish was going to be a grilled. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) it was raining the only time we had this week for the photo. We ended up pan searing indoors instead and I’m glad we did ‘cause it really came out great! Not that it wouldn’t be delicious simply grilled and served with this sauce, but the crispy skin of pan searing was marvelous.

By the way, did you know that ketchup was originally made with fermented vegetables, not tomatoes, and that the name probably came from, that’s right, kecap?

Here’s the recipe: Pan Seared Bluefish with Ginger Kecap Manis

 Enjoy!

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Monahan's Seafood

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