“So-Called Indonesian” is where I find Indonesian recipes written by non-Indonesians, cook the dish according to their instructions and then serve it to Indonesians (or people familiar with Indonesian cooking) and map the recipes according to the experience framework I created.
How did you come to do this series?
This idea first came to me when I saw Sari, owner of The Goodlife Café in Bandung, post a recipe she found on The Silver Spoon Book of “Indonesian rice” to a Facebook foodie group called FoodWar that we both are members of.
Sari was not sure what “Riso all’Indonesiana” referred to, whether nasi goreng (the infamous Indonesian fried rice), nasi uduk (the less-known-but-equally-delicious rice-cooked-in-coconut-milk dish from Jakarta, see photo above) or even tumpeng (the cone-shaped Indonesian turmeric rice usually eaten at celebrations).
Upon reading the ingredient list and the instructions, it became clear to us that this was a supposed Indonesian dish none of us had ever heard of, e.g. ham is not a common ingredient in the world’s most populous Muslim country. That’s when I thought it would be fun to get other such recipes, cook it, and serve it to other Indonesians.
Why are you doing this? What are you hoping to accomplish?
Mostly for starting a conversation around authenticity (if there is such thing in cuisine). At a conceptual level, defining the identities of recipes, which all adds up to the storytelling of food. I like that we’re touching upon concepts of ownership: a topic of contention across many domains for years already, especially brought on by Internet and digital media.
Since this is about painting the landscape of Indonesian food and the identities of recipes, each entry will not be about pointing out good and bad recipes. Instead, I will plot it on an framework and we will be able to see where each recipe lies.
The super simple mapping is done on a 2×2 grid with 2 axis: the vertical for Authenticity and the horizontal for Deliciousness. Things don’t need to be authentic to be delicious, and vice versa, things that are authentic aren’t always delicious to the eater.
Deliciousness is subject to personal preference and experience: e.g if you ate chocolate for the first time at Hershey Park, and love it, you’re likelier to rate Hershey’s chocolate higher in the Deliciousness axis, than say, if you’re a chocolate connoisseur doing regular tastings with craft chocolate makers.
Authencity is subject to food science behind the dish — the Italians are genius at making things creamy without using cream like carbonara sauce — and the fidelity to the dish or cuisine’s context. I’m still sitting on the fence with the definition of this one. Hopefully through this series, we’ll be able to see patterns and define the characteristics of authenticity further.
Want to submit an Indonesian recipe written by a non-Indonesian? Are you a foodie/homechef who wants to try one and guest-blog here? Do you live in Berlin, are familiar with Indonesian cuisine and want to participate in eating the recipes we cooked?
Get in touch via my contact form or comment form below (which will automatically close 30 days after this original posting).