Truthfully, Indonesia doesn’t have it’s own style of lasagna – the recipe is actually my dad’s, and he’s from Arkansas, but I thought it might be fun to share the ‘joys’ (Note the hint sarcasm) of trying to create a Western meal in an Eastern country. So here we go:
Step 1: Gather the Ingredients
Meat: Normally, I put some kind of sausage in my lasagna, adds a different flavor to it that I like. I prefer a Sage or Italian kind, but Indonesia is 80% Muslim, and they believe that pork is an unclean food, so pork products are extremely rare and for all realistic intents and purposes non-existent.
Second choice then would be hamburger, or minced beef, as they call it here. Minced beef can be found in 4 of the legitimate grocery stores here (There are 5 total.), but you need to make sure that you go as soon as they open because they let the meat sit out uncovered. Technically, the grocery stores open at 10 a.m., but realistically, they open whenever they feel like it, so it could be 10:15 or 10:45, but rest assured it will NOT be by 10 a.m. Also, the highest quality of beef that you’ll get in the grocery store would probably equate to 80/20 – not that it’s marked, it’s a surprise! Yay! (Note a slightly stronger hint of sarcasm.)
Come to find out, the best place to buy minced beef isn’t a grocery store at all! It’s the distributorship that supplies the high-end hotels! Of course! (Yet another, slightly stronger hint of sarcasm) Once you have found said distributorship, make sure to call before you go up there, because there is no guarantee that they will have any minced beef available. If they do, they only sell it in 2-kilogram packs –which for my conversion averse friends is 4.4 lbs per pack.
Alright! We’ve got 1 ingredient! Are you having fun yet?
Lasagna Noodles: This one is surprisingly easy; all five grocery stores carry no cook lasagna noodles! Sweet, moving on!
Pasta Sauce: Another surprisingly easy one! All 5 stores carry at least one brand of pasta sauce; so I would say take your pick (of grocery store) and take what you can get (whatever pasta sauce they carry). I feel like we’re on a roll now.
Spices: I like to jazz up my pasta sauce to my taste, so we’ll need Italian spices, like basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, - these are not found fresh anywhere on the island, so we’ll go with the dried version, of which you can find in 2 of the 5 grocery stores and consistently only in one. I also love garlic, but pre-minced garlic is not in any of the grocery stores, so we’ll buy a couple of cloves and get ready to have sticky, garlic-y fingers.
Fresh Veggies: I also like to pack my lasagna with good veggies. The only lasagna worthy vegetable found in the groceries is carrots; I have found celery two times in the 3 months that I’ve lived here, but I wouldn’t count on it. So in order to get good fresh veggies, we must go to the market, the Wet Market as the locals call it. It is an open aired market that offers everything – fruits and vegetables, fresh beef, fish, chicken, etc., and when I say fresh, I mean caught or butchered this morning and hanging out on the table; they do try to cover the fish in ice, but the whole (head and claws included) chicken and half a cow are just sitting out on a table. So go early in the morning, wear closed-toe shoes, and be prepared to haggle because they will triple the price because of lack of Indonesian language skills.
Mozzarella Cheese: 2 of the 5 groceries carry mozzarella cheese; one of which carries pre-shredded cheese, but it is literally 3 times more for one cup of pre-shredded cheese than for a ball of mozzarella cheese, so get out your cheese shredder (which you brought with you from America because they don’t sell them on the island either).
Ricotta Cheese: 1 of the 5 stores sells ricotta cheese, but unfortunately it’s not consistent, so let’s just hope we get lucky the day we go shopping!
Parmesan Cheese: Fresh Parmesan cheese is not sold on the island, for that you will need 4 hours and a ferry ticket to Singapore – and keep in mind that Singapore is the 5th most expensive city in the world. If you are willing to settle for bottled Parmesan cheese, it cannot be found in any of the grocery stores; it can be found at a grocer distributorship – not the same one that you bought the meat at, mind you, a second one.
Alright, I think we have finally scavenged for all of our ingredients! To summarize: We went to the fresh Wet Market first thing in the morning, then to 2 grocer distributorships, and 5 grocery stores.
Step 2: Order Delivery from Pizza Hut (Yay!) because you’re too tired from running around all day to cook! Ha!
Now after all that, I wouldn’t leave you without a proper recipe! So below is my dad’s version of lasagna, Enjoy and Thanks Dad!
Italian or Sage Sausage – about 1 pound
Lasagna noodles – cooked according to directions if not “No Cook”
Large Jar of Pasta Sauce
Chopped Garlic – to taste
Seasonings (basil, oregano, thyme, etc.) fresh or dried – to taste
Fresh chopped Veggies – like carrot, zucchini, and eggplant
Mozzarella Cheese – 3 to 4 cups, shredded
Ricotta Cheese – to taste
Parmesan Cheese – to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brown sausage, drain grease. Add pasta sauce, spices and chopped veggies and garlic. Heat on medium until heated through then simmer on low for as long as you want; my dad normally simmers his all day to let all the flavors come together, but 30 minutes is just fine too.
In a rectangular oven dish, spoon a little of the pasta sauce in to the bottom of the dish and spread evenly – this helps the lasagna not stick to the dish. Then place a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, then add another layer of sauce, then add a layer of mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese, then a layer of noodle, a layer of sauce, then mozzarella and parmesan cheese – continue like this until you reach the top of the dish. Finish off with a layer of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how deep your dish is.
I don’t have a photo of this lovely recipe, (I was too tired to make it, remember – I should have taken a photo of the Pizza Hut box! HA!) so I will leave you with a photo of lovely Batam!
Cheers and Enjoy!