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What Is Pecel?

Beef is a common ingredient in pecel.
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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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Popular in east and central Java, pecel is a traditional Indonesian dish consisting of green vegetables and peanut sauce. The peanut sauce is made from a spice paste and ground, toasted, peanuts. The vegetables vary, but generally are leafy choices combined with bean spouts. Normally, pecel is served with some type of meat, white rice, and crackers.

Sometimes compared to salads in other parts of the world, pecel often uses green leafy vegetables. Spinach, cabbage, kenikir, or chrysanthemum leaves are often used in place of salad lettuce for this dish. A combination of these vegetables may be used as well. Bean sprouts are also a commonly added to pecel. Usually, one type of bean spout and at least two types of leafy vegetables are included.

To complement the vegetables, a peanut sauce is added to the dish. The sauce consists of a spice paste and ground peanuts. Although peanut butter may be used, the peanuts are often ground by hand using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. They should be either purchased roasted or roasted before they are ground.

The spice sauce for pecel consist of bird's eye and red chilies, garlic, and kaffir lime leaves. Dried shrimp paste, called terasi, is normally added. Tamarind, first combined with water then drained, is also included. Sugar, either white or brown, combined with palm or coconut sugar is necessary as well. A type of ginger, called kencur, is normally included in the paste, and sometimes sweet soy sauce is added.

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When preparing pecel, the paste ingredients are first ground thoroughly. The peanuts are ground separately and then combined with the paste. Once the paste is complete, water is added to produce a thick sauce. The consistency of the sauce is variable and is determined by the taste of the cook who prepares it.

Most of the vegetables are blanched, or cooked briefly in boiling water. Some vegetables, such as chrysanthemum leaves, are more flavorful raw, and so are not cooked. Any meat included is cooked throughly. Chicken, fish, or beef are all common meat choices. For vegetarian options, tofu or tempeh can easily replace the meat.

Pecel can be placed on a plate or in a banana leaf and is normally served with white rice and a type of peanut cracker called rempeyek. It may also be served with fried egg or sliced cucumber. This is normally considered a low cost dish.

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