MONTERREY: This 'weird' food reminds me of family, home, my father

Finding authentic Indonesian Krupuk Udang for my father became a mission for me

Debbie Monterrey
August 06, 2019 - 10:30 am
krupuk udang komodo shrimp chips comfort food family favorite
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A pie. A plate of cookies. Mom's pot roast. Most of us have a food that means "home." My ultimate comfort food is Krupuk Udang.

The other night my husband pulled out of the pantry four packs of Krupuk Udang.

"I'm making all of these. Tonight!" he said.

This would require frying these hard shrimp chips in hot oil until they puff up into crunchy deliciousness. The closest comparison I can think of is a pork rind or chicarrones.

My husband fried the krupuk (pronounced crew-pook) while my kids spread them out on paper towels and crammed pieces in their mouths. It made me think about my father frying it up while my sister and I snuck off with the product before he could get them in his krupuk jar. 

My father passed away in June. He had a massive stroke about a week after he and my mother visited us in St. Louis to see my daughter graduate from 8th grade.

The krupuk we were making was his. 

krupuk udang komodo shrimp chips comfort food family favorite
Photo by Debbie Monterrey

Growing up, we always had a jar of krupuk in the house. It wasn't always our favorite, the Indonesian krupuk udang. Sometimes, it was the "inferior" Chinese version of prawn crackers. You may have had these before. They are small and colorful, mostly flour/starch with a hint of shrimp. Despite being the fifth most populous country, Indonesian products are notoriously hard to find. Indonesian restaurants even more rare. We settled a lot for Chinese substitutes. 

Finding authentic Indonesian Krupuk Udang for my father became a mission for me. 

When I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in the 90s, there was an Asian store with a wide array of products. And they had THE KRUPUK. My parents would stock up whenever they visited or place an order with me before I made a trip to see them. 

A visit to my parents house would begin the same way. Greetings and hugs. My mom asking, "Should I put on a pot of coffee" no matter what time it was and, "Are you hungry?" But before she could even begin making us a plate, someone was reaching into the cabinet for the krupuk jar.

There was one time we visited my parents and found the krupuk jar empty. My dad shrugged and said, "I didn't make any." The disappointment in the room was so palpable, it never happened again. My dad made his outside using the burner on his grill, even in the dead of winter. That frying krupuk odor lingers in the house for days. 

When my parents came to St. Louis this past June, we made our regular stop for supplies at Jay International on South Grand, only to discover, they were completely out of krupuk. I was rocked. My sweet dad said it was fine, but I never could stand to let him down. The man asked for so little. He needed his krupuk udang.

Not giving up, we Yelped and Googled our way down South Grand and discovered the new World Market.

Not only did they have Komodo Krupuk Udang, but they had a 12-pack with a 5% discount if you bought the whole thing. My dad's smile said it all. Krupuk in bulk, at a great price, with a discount. He walked out of the store holding that 12-pack like it was plundered treasure.

A week later, after getting the call about my dad's stroke, as I was speeding toward the hospital, I thought, "He just got that 12-pack of Krupuk." Throughout the week we spent at his side in the hospital, and later at hospice, I kept thinking about that damned krupuk. 

In July, when we returned to northern Illinois for my father's memorial service, my mom told my sister and me to take the krupuk home with us. She was never going to make it.

Our house still stinks of frying. Our krupuk jar is full. 

Love you, Dad.