This is a travesty to Indonesian cuisine. Seriously. I don’t know where to begin.
I am aware that The Silver Spoon is considered THE BIBLE of Italian cuisine, first published in 1950 and printing a revised version in 2011. It’s in this revised edition that Sari Asih, owner of The Goodlife Cafe, noticed the Riso all’Indonesiana recipe and snapped the picture above.
How did The Silver Spoon come to publish a poorly researched, poorly named dish that’s supposed to represent Indonesian food? Why oh why? To offer some Italian housewife in whatever Milan suburbs a dish that is “exotic” and at the same time “familiar”?
I’m trying to understand this recipe but I’m stuck. It’s neither a fusion nor a dilution of Italian and Indonesian cuisines. The ingredients are puzzling: “cooked ham” in a dish from a country with a 90% Muslim population. If the cooked ham is meant to be an Italian ingredient, why not specify which Italian prosciutto cotto? Olive oil? The absence of the Indonesian “Holy Trinity” of shallots, palm sugar, garlic/chilli? The cooking instructions scream Italian risotto technique; ladling chicken stock into the rice pot for cooking the rice is crazy talk to any Asian person whose staple food is rice. I could go on…
It annoys me that some
hicktown readers might be trying this dish and come to think of Indonesian cuisine as similar to this Riso all’Indonesiana by The Silver Spoon. Ack, total fail! I suppose Italians feel this way whenever someone publishes a one-pot risotto recipe, or a carbonara recipe with lots of double cream.
Read our experiment and the original recipe and instructions from Silver Spoon below.
Riso all’Indonesiana, for 4 people.
Original ingredient list
- 1 whole chicken, about 500g — WTF? Do they mean Indonesian ayam kampung?
- 1.5 ltr water
- 150g shelled peas — WTF?
- 3 tablespoons olive oil — WTF?
- 275g long-grained white rice — WTF? What kind of rice?
- 150g cooked ham — WTF? Prosciutto cotto? Which one?
- 1¼ teaspoon curry powder — WTF?
- 1 ltr chicken stock
- salt and pepper
Remove and discard the chicken skin and cut the meat off the bones into fairly neat pieces. Place the chicken meat into a saucepan, add 1.5 litres water and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the peas and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in another saucepan, add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until it has changed colour. Stir in a ladleful of stock, and the ham and the curry powder. Gradually add more stock as each ladleful is absorbed. Add the chicken and peas to the rice and cook until the rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve in individual bowls or soup plates.
I served this up to the handsome-and-talented husband (who has eaten plenty of authentic and delicious Indonesian food), Astrid (Indonesian native), Phil (knows good food), and Isabeau (loves to eat, pretty easy-going).
I didn’t like it. I thought it was salty, and the combination of prosciutto cotto and curry powder is just weird. The dish is what half-assed “Chinese” or “Indische” restaurants in the Netherlands and Milan would serve.
Astrid unexpectedly managed to eat a small bowl of this. She thought she’d hate it. This experiment notwithstanding, her final say on the topic is, “If I came over to a friend’s house and they said they threw this together in 10 minutes, using whatever ingredients they could find in their pantry and fridge, I’d accept it and eat it. If they said they’d made this specially, and offered it to me as risotto or Indonesian fried rice, I’d think they were a terrible cook or have awful taste.”
The handsome-and-talented husband asked me not to cook this again. Phil ate a small bowl, saying that it was “just OK.” Isabeau managed to eat two bowls of this and I was pleased that he did, because I wasn’t sure what I would do if I have leftovers of this.
The Silver Spoon should stick to writing Italian recipes. They should update their non-Italian recipes after doing proper research, recipe development and recipe testing. This Riso all’Indonesiana dish is definitely in the “Non-Authentic” and “Not Delicious” quadrant of my experience framework.
If you want to make “Indonesian rice” that delicious and authentic, and at half the time of this one, check my “So Called Indonesian: Nasi Goreng by Saveur” post. That’s delicious and authentic Indonesian fried rice at its most basic.
See you in the next one! Hope it’s a better experience than this!