Ketjap manis-make your own

Shoulder of pork stew with keçap manis and ginger
These days you can make a home made version of almost any food product that is on the supermarket shelf.All it takes is a little time to research recipes online and then sort out which is the best version of what you have found. If you've eaten Nasi Goreng—or had your eye on Nigella Lawson´s Thai noodles with cinnamon and prawns—or if you are searching the internet in vain for a Hairy biker pork stew with ginger recipe, you'll already be familiar with  kecap manis (though maybe you've seen it spelled ketjap manis).
Pronounced kuh-CHOP MAH-nees, it translates to "sweet sauce": "Kecap" is a catchall term for the five essential Indonesian fermented sauces (and yes, it's related to kê-tsiap, the distant fermented-fish-sauce ancestor of our beloved ketchup), and "manis" means sweet (in this case, the source is palm sugar).
Syrupy where Japanese soy sauce is thin, caramelly and slightly smoky where shoyu is salty, kecap manis is, by many accounts, the most popular sauce in Indonesia.Add it to marinades, stir-fries, soups, barbecue sauces, glazes, or anywhere else you'd normally use maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, or agave to counter the saltiness of Japanese or Chinese soy sauce. Nigella Lawson, who describes it as "treacle-ish soy sauce," recommends replacing 1 tablespoon of kecap manis  with 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar if you can't find it.
I have to disagree with Ms Lawson here.Kecap manis adds a layer of flavour (as well as a sticky richness) that a hacked version does not.So…what’s the difference between soy sauce and kecap manis?
The obvious difference is soy sauce (or light soy sauce) is salty with a consistency of water; whereas kecap manis is sweeter and has the consistency resembling maple syrup.You can use light soy sauce in replacement of salt and kecap manis for colour and sweetness. You can also use these two sauces along side each other  to balance the savouriness and sweetness of Asian recipes.
my bottle of home made kecap manis with a cheekily printed off label I downloaded
I’m aware not everyone has a bottle of kecap manis in their kitchens and may not feel like investing in a whole bottle for an one-off recipe,but while you can pick up a bottle from any well-stocked Asian aisle of your supermarket, making a good imitation at home is simple, much like reducing balsamic vinegar: or if you are  a saucepot like me save your pricey fine balsamic vinegar for another day. It will be near-irresistable  for you to simply want the satisfaction of making sauces at home.
Either way, I thought you may be interested to make this at home since it’s neither a difficult nor an expensive exercise. Enjoy!
How to make home made kecap manis
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup water
1 cup soya sauce
7 tablesoons dark molasses ( Melaço de cana for my portuguese friends )

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the sugar and water in a 2.5 litre (4 pint) saucepan.Bring to a simmer over a medium heat,stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.Increase the heat to high and continue cooking until the syrup reaches 200 degrees on a sugar thermometer,about 5 minutes.Reduce the heat to low.Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 3 minutes.The sauce has a shelf life of 2-3 months if kept tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Shoulder of pork stew with Kecap manis ( pictured above)
It’s not often that I eat something that tastes so different to anything I’ve come across before. But this is such a dish. I came to it by way of The Hairy Bikers comfort food TV series, in the episode called cosy suppers. The viewers response to this recipe was immense but could any of us find the recipe anywhere on line? Could we heck.The general reaction in numerous internet food forums was "....this was my reaction as well, so I watched it again on Youtube and wrote it all down".I apologise for any inaccuracies but this is my take on it.
1 kg lean pork shoulder cubed
vegetable oil
3 banana shallots,sliced
4 birds eye chillies,finely chopped
4 fat garlic cloves
thick finger of ginger peeled 

1/2 tsp dried ginger powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chinese five spice 
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 litre stock
4 heaped soup spoons Kecap manis
2 tbsp soya sauce
2 tbsps tamarind paste
Cut the pork into cubes. Combine the spices and mix well into the meat.Set aside.
In a large lidded frying pan,gently fry the shallots in the oil.Grate and add the garlic and ginger to the pan being careful not to burn it.Remove tops and seeds from the chillies ( if preferred),chop finely and add to the pan.Stir and cook gently for a couple of minutes.Add the pork and mix everything well.
Combine all the ingredients for the stock then add this to the pan.
Mix it all well and bring to a simmer.
Cover and allow to simmer for approximately 11/2 hours.
After 20 minutes remove the lid and continue cooking without the lid.
Serve with plain boiled rice and some green beans or broccoli.
If liked,fry some sliced shallots and a couple more sliced chillies until crisp and brown.Dry on kitchen paper and sprinkle on top of the stew. 


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