Food for Thought: Manado Cooking Meets Italian Fare

By webadmin on 12:02 pm May 21, 2012
Category Archive

Petty Elliott

Rica-rica (pronounced richa-richa) is a traditional Manadonese sambal that consists of a mixture of shallots, ginger and chilies. Rica means chili in Manadonese, so if you like spicy food, you will love rica-rica. 

It is a versatile sambal used with either seafood or chicken in Manadonese cooking. I also find that rica-rica goes well with beef, with some added tomato, lime leaves, lemon grass and kemangi, a local basil. For vegetarians, it is perfect with roasted eggplant, tofu or tempeh.

Added tomatoes and a touch of lemong cui, the local Manado citrus fruit, can really reduce the spiciness and bring out the flavor of the dish.

One popular Manadonese recipe is cakalang fufu, or smoked tuna with rica-rica sauce. It is a wonderful dish with a strong smoky flavor, thanks to being cooked over burning coconut husks. 

Smoked tuna is easy to find in Jakarta supermarkets, but the freshness simply does not match the fish found in Manado. To replace the smoked tuna, I often use tinned tuna, which is easy to find everywhere.

I prefer to buy my tinned tuna in water, not in oil or any other flavor. It has a more delicious and natural flavor that way. 

Tagliatelle with tuna rica-rica

For this week’s recipe I have prepared a fusion dish, using Italian tagliatelle pasta, tinned tuna and authentic Manadonese rica-rica sauce.

It is a wonderful dish for a Sunday lunch with family and friends and is easy to cook for a crowd — just double or triple the recipe and add plenty of mixed salad as a side dish. 

If you are cooking for children, simply reduce the amount of chili, or do not use chilies at all. Instead of pasta, it can also be served with rice, if you prefer.

Some cooks suggest that it is not a good idea to use olive oil in Asian cooking, but I think it depends on the ingredients. 

For tuna rica-rica, olive oil goes perfectly well. However, it is a good idea to use a light olive oil, as extra virgin oil can clash with the flavor of the ginger.

Enjoy! Serves 4.


250 grams dried tagliatelle; 1 tin tuna in water (discard the water).

For the sauce: 20 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly;
5-7 red curly chilies, ground;
10 centimeters fresh ginger, peeled and grated;
2 cloves garlic;
a small bunch of kemangi (local basil);
20 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves;
4 tablespoons olive oil (2 tablespoons for sauteing and 2 for drizzling);
juice of 1-2 limes;
3-4 tablespoons water;
salt to taste.

1. Bring 1.5 liters water to the boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to directions on the package.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan, then add shallots and garlic. Saute for around 2-3 minutes or until soft, then add ground chilies and ginger and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring from time to time.
3. Add the fish and lime juice. Cook for around 4-5 minutes, then add half of the chopped cherry tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Drain the pasta, transfer into the pan and add the rest of the tomatoes and torn basil. Season with salt and toss the mixture together. If it is too dry, add several tablespoons of water and 1-2 tablespoon of oil to give a nice glossy finish. Mix well.
5. Divide the pasta between 4 serving plates. Garnish with basil leaves and serve immediately.