Monday, 29 October 2012

Bami goreng (Ινδονέζικα νούντλς)

Food can be cheap, but it never needs to be as boring as something out of a packet.

Noedels bami goreng
Just add boiling water and oil and Serves 2, the wording stated on the packet of the VITASIA Bami Goreng Stir-Fry Noodles (which, coincidentally, cost more than twice as much as what is shown in the photo - the one-time offer took place at LIDL in Greece at the same time as in Holland and Belgium). Sounds good, I thought to myself, taken in by the exotic-looking photograph. I bought two packets (Produced in Switzerland) and decided to prepare them for that night's evening meal.

This didn't happen as I discovered my husband preparing a big tomato salad, swimming in oodles of olive oil and decorated with slices of pungent onion and aromatic pepper. The air was redolent with the aroma of crusty bread slices. The table was already laid, centred by a plate of feta cheese. I put aside the noodles and forgot about them until only just recently when the weather had cooled down and we had begun to run out of tomatoes. I decided to prepare one of the packets for a quick fix meal.

The food in the bowl looks almost like the photo on the packet - all except the vegetables. The complete meal packet did not even fill a whole soup bowl!

The instructions on the back of the packet stated that approximately 10 minutes were needed to prepare the whole meal (less than the time needed to prepare the recipes in JO's latest collection). Instead of a wok, I used a saucepan. As I tipped the finished meal into a serving dish, I realised the whole meal looked enough for one, not two meals. It was closer to a snack than a meal. The appearance of the cooked food (80% noodles, as stated on the packet) had lost its exotic appeal, possibly due to the cooking speed. The finely processed vegetables (6.4% of the total meal) resembled lifeless papery fragments - bits of dried orange peel instead of carrots, limp rotted grass for mushrooms, camouflaged slivers of onions and Savoy cabbage - temporarily revived by the warmth of the liquids, with a buzz of radiance provided by the oil. Only the celery seemed to remind me of its fresh self.

I knew I could have prepared a more appetising version of this meal if I had devoted just a little more time than I needed to cook it straight from the packet. Most of the ingredients listed are staples even in an urban kitchen (eg pasta, onion, garlic) while most are cheap to buy. They are also the kind that we normally keep in the fridge anyway (carrot, leek, tomato). Recipes on the internet for bami goreng (apparently a very popular dish in Holland from their Indonesian influence) make the dish sound very easy to prepare. I used the noodles from the second packet that I had bought in conjunction with one of those recipes, to prepare a more colourful and much more enticing meal (not just a snack) for the whole family.

Instead of ham and shrimp, I used smoked Cretan pork, and went easy on the coriander. Ground ginger was replaced by fresh and sambal oelek is now seen regularly on supermarket shelves marked 'tastes from abroad'. This is influenced possibly by the source of imported foods for each supermarket chain: AB Vasilopoulos, for instance, relies on DelHaize, a Belgian importer. 

Bonus trivia: The nutritional value of 100g of the packaged contents amounted to 169 calories. Each packet weighed 125g net, ie 211 calories per packet. Only water and oil are added in the cooking process. Water is calorie-less, while olive oil contains approximately 120 calories per tablespoon; the whole meal therefore contained approximately 450 calories. If the meal were divided into 2 servings, that's about 225 calories per serving. The average recommended daily calorie intake is 1940 for women and 2550 for men. If the meal is meant to serve 2, it would have to be supplemented by other foods to constitute a complete meal. A small steak (or juicy sausage) on the side would have complemented it quite nicely!

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