HDE Advent Calendar 2015

HDE Advent Calendar Day 9: Indonesian Cuisine

Hello, my name is Bagus Rahman Aryabima, from HDE, Inc. I'm an Indonesian. I'd like to share some things about Indonesian cuisine.

Indonesia ~ Diversity 


Picture: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Indonesia_Ethnic_Groups_Map_English.svg/2000px-Indonesia_Ethnic_Groups_Map_English.svg.png 


Indonesia is a culturally diverse country. There are approximately 6000 populated islands in Indonesia, out of a total of about 18000 islands. Because of this, Indonesia is considered as the world's biggest archipelago. Around 300 ethnic groups inhabited these islands. Each of these ethnic groups has its own culture, and cuisine is one part of a culture. Therefore, Indonesia has roughly 5350 recipes.

World-Class Taste

Back in 2011, CNN held a poll to identify 50 most delicious foods in the world. 3 Indonesian foods made it into the list.

#14: Sate


Picture: http://www.kulinermedan.com/uploads/images/menus/543defb8b5718.jpg


Sate is grilled skewered meat smeared with sauce. Generally, this cuisine is similar to 焼き鳥.


There are two most prominent types of sate, which are sate ayam and sate kambingSate ayam consists of chicken meat and peanut sauce. The picture above is a picture of sate ayam. While sate kambing consists of lamb meat and sweet soy sauce. This might seem strange to Japanese, but sweet soy sauce is a big thing in Indonesia. Various other Indonesian cuisine uses sweet soy sauce. In sate kambing's case, the sweet soy sauce is mixed with sliced onion and chili. Personally, I prefer sate kambing.


No matter what type of sate you have, usually this dish will be served alongside lontong, Indonesian rice cake.


#2: Nasi Goreng


Picture: http://www.qraved.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/nasi_main-640x427.jpg


Nasi goreng is one of the most famous Indonesian food. Its popularity perhaps played a big part in placing itself as the second most delicious food in the world, at least according to this poll. For some of my colleagues in HDE, nasi goreng is the first thing they will think of when we're talking about Indonesian cuisine. Some of them even have actually eaten nasi goreng.


In Indonesian, nasi goreng literally means fried rice. And, as you can see in the image above, fried rice is the main part of a nasi goreng dish.


There's so many different mix of a nasi goreng dish. In the picture above, nasi goreng is served with egg, vegetables, and prawns. In other words, we can classify it as a seafood nasi goreng, I'd say. With a different mix, we can have a different nasi goreng dish. Usually, nasi goreng is served with egg, chicken meat, or sometimes even lamb meat.


In my opinion, we can roughly categorize nasi goreng into two types, the sweet ones and the spicy ones. Sweet nasi goreng has a brown color, because sweet soy sauce is added during the frying process. Spicy nasi goreng has a red color, because chili sauce is added to the frying process. But looks can be deceiving. Nasi goreng with a brown color may be spicy as well, because other ingredients than chili sauce can be added to achieve spiciness, such as black pepper, chili slices, etc. After all, most Indonesians love spicy food.

#1: Rendang


Picture: http://masteresep.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/resep-rendang-padang.jpg


Here it is. The most delicious food in the world, once again, at least according to this poll. Still, the fact that rendang tops this poll is yet another testament to its wonderful taste.


Rendang is beef marinated with coconut milk and various Indonesian recipes. It is left to stew for hours. That's why the sauce gets into every part of the meat. As you can see in the image above, rendang has a reddish, brownish color on the outside. If you get the opportunity to eat rendang in the future, you will find that the inside of the meat has a very similar color. That is what all those hours do to it. And perhaps more importantly, the long stewing process makes the meat become oh-so-tender. And spicy. After all, the sauce is spicy. (By this point, it's likely that you've found a certain pattern among Indonesian cuisine...)


Another characteristic of rendang that I enjoy very much is how long it stays good. Perhaps this is another effect of stewing it for so long. Generally, rendang stays good for months. Back in the day, people bring rendang whenever they leave their homes for quite a long time. We store it in big food containers, and take some of it for every meal. There's a catch to this, though. We must use a clean spoon anytime we take some rendang out of a food container. Otherwise, (e.g. if we put the spoon to our mouths before taking some rendang out of a food container), the rest of them won't stay good as long as they should be.



Even though Indonesian cuisine is so diverse, there is at least one similarity among them. Indonesian cuisine is flavorful. Most, if not all, of our dishes taste strong. The sweet dishes taste so sweet, the salty dishes taste so salty, and of course the spicy dishes taste so spicy.


In my opinion, this is quite the opposite of Japanese cuisine. As far as I know, Japanese cuisine tastes mild. For example, in my opinion, 寿司, especially the rice part, is somewhat sour and sweet. As for the fish part, the taste of course depends on what fish we're having, but in my opinion, they taste somewhat salty. Make no mistake, the fact that it tastes mild doesn't change the fact that I love 寿司.


That is why Indonesian cuisine may taste too strong for some Japanese.


I remember a few months ago I cooked nasi goreng for an event in the office. I admit, I added a teaspoon of Indonesian dried chili powder in the cooking process. For the record, I chose that amount after quite an amount of thinking. After all, I like my nasi goreng to be spicy, but I wanted my colleagues to try it as well, so it musn't be too spicy. So, I added a teaspoon of that spice, to what amounts to about four servings of nasi goreng. I was going for a mildly spicy taste.


And, I failed miserably. T_T


I mean, I'm very glad some people liked it. At the same time though, most of them said that the nasi goreng was a bit too spicy for their liking. Some people got teary-eyed, some people's faces turned reddish, and even though there were many people who tried it, there was quite a lot of leftovers, a tad bit less than half of what I had cooked. It felt like I had made a bad advertising of my country's cuisine.


Anyway, next time will be better, I hope.


Final Words

So that's it, a bit of insight of Indonesian cuisine. Because I'm an Indonesian, this might be obvious, but I think Indonesian cuisine tastes very good, haha. Well, for what it's worth, at some point, quite a lot of people think so as well. That's why satenasi goreng, and rendang got quite a good result in CNN's 2011 reader's poll.


True, Indonesian cuisine may taste too strong, but fear not. There are some Indonesian restaurants in Tokyo, and most of them are much more considerate than I was when I cooked for the company event. They do a good job of holding the taste back, while still making the dish delicious. In other words, they have pretty much succeeded in making Indonesian cuisine more accessible to Japanese.


I hope you enjoy eating Indonesian food like I do.


Thank you for reading!