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Ayam Semur--Feast of Java : This Sweet, Tender Chicken Dish Is a Favorite of Indonesian Children

September 21, 1986|BARBARA HANSEN | Barbara Hansen is a Times staff writer.

Chicken and noodles are a traditional American combination. But if the noodles are bean threads and the chief seasoning is sweet-tasting Indonesian soy sauce, the dish becomes Ayam Semur , a specialty of middle Java. Ayam is the Indonesian word for chicken, which in this recipe is cooked with potatoes, carrots and tomatoes in addition to the noodles. Nutmeg goes in too--an appropriate addition because this spice is native to Southeast Asia. The recipe comes from Mary Djie and her daughter, Hilde, who run Dewi, an Indonesian restaurant and shop in downtown Los Angeles. Hilde Djie explains that Javanese children love Ayam Semur because it is tender and easy to eat. Hot chiles spice much Indonesian food but not this mild dish; its sweetness is typical of Java, and one should not substitute salty Chinese-style soy sauce in the recipe because that would spoil the effect. Indonesians might serve Ayam Semur as part of a buffet including many foods, but simple accompaniments such as a green salad or sliced cucumbers are also appropriate. And for a variation, the same recipe can be prepared with liver, which is popular in Indonesia, or with beef.

JAVANESE STEWED CHICKEN (Ayam Semur) 1 3 1/2-pound chicken 2 tablespoons margarine 1 medium onion, chopped 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice 1/2 cup Indonesian soy sauce (kecap) 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 2 ounces bean threads

Cut chicken into serving pieces. Discard wing tips. Heat margarine in Dutch oven. Add onion and cook until tender. Add chicken pieces and cook slowly to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomato wedges and cook with chicken until softened. Add potatoes, carrot, soy sauce, broth, salt, nutmeg, sugar and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer gently 40 minutes, or until chicken and vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, soak bean threads in warm water to cover until soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. When chicken is done, stir in bean threads. Bring to a boil, then turn into a heated serving container. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Indonesian soy sauce is found in Chinatown markets under the name kecap (pronounced ketjap ) . It is a bit sweet and is essential for this dish. Produced by Robin Tucker

Food stylist: Olivia Erschen

Flowers: The Kensington Garden, Beverly Hills

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