Indonesian cuisine is rich in flavours. The variety of Asian spices and herbs used in Indonesian cuisine make the Indonesian dishes colourful, flavourful and very aromatic. Indonesian cuisine is influenced in parts from the cuisines of China, Japan, Middle-East, Europe and of course, India. The Dutch influence is very apparent in Indonesian cuisine. Indonesians love to cook with coriander, cumin and turmeric: so Indians find Indonesian cuisine somewhat close to their homefood! As they also use Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, terasi (shrimp paste), seaweed, galangal, sambal (hot chilli sauce) and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) in their cooking or seasoning, the waft of flavours that ooze out of an Indonesian kitchen, is truly unique and droolworthy!
Starting from the 9th till 18th of this month, Sofitel Mumbai BKC will showcase this diversity in Indonesian cuisine in Pondicherry Café, with the help and guidance of Chef Isep Hidayatulloh, who is currently Chef de Cuisine at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort and oversees all the activities of the KweeZeen restaurant. Born in Jakarta, Chef Isep has immense knowledge of Indonesian cuisine, and his skills only got better with a decade of experience.
AN and I were invited along with a handful of other media people for the grand inauguration of the Indonesian Food Festival by Minister Councellor for Political Affairs, Embassy of Indonesia, Mr. Saut Siringoringo. We also enjoyed a bit of Indonesian culture in the form of an amazing dance performance of “Rama and Shinta” (Ram and Sita).
We were glad to be a part of the first buffet dinner at The Indonesian Food Festival at Sofitel Mumbai BKC. The elegant buffet spread included almost everything Indonesian that we could think of! The spread included the following: Jasmine Rice with fennel, Chicken fried rice (Nasi Goreng), Stir-fried noodles (Mee Goreng), Sautéed long beans with tofu, Chicken Rendang (Chicken cooked with coconut and Indonesian spices), Grilled fish with Sambal matah (raw sambal), Yellow spicy chicken soup (Soto ayam), Moong bean dessert served in glasses (Bubur Kacang Hijau), Banana fritters (Pisang goreng), Crepes roll with sweet coconut (Dadar gulung), Long beans with turmeric minced chicken (Lauuar kacang), Acar Vegetables (kind of a pickled salad), Gado gado, Vegetables with coconut and spicy sambal (Urap sayur) and Shrimp delicacy in seasoned sauce (Udang bumbu kecap).
The exotic Indonesian dishes at the Indonesian Food Festival in Pondicherry Café awakened our tastebuds instantly. Chef Isep mentioned that the menu changes everyday and on the coming weekend, they might have their delectable Babi guling too (Balinese roasted suckling pig)! Pork-lovers, now you know where to head on this weekend.
We had our first bite of the Rendang, made with chicken. This West-Sumatran dish called Rendang was a semi-dry curry made with coconut milk and spices. The heady aroma of galangal, lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves in this Rendang is simply awesome and the star of the show. The Rendang tasted great with the Jasmine rice with fennel. The only point in this Rendang was that since the dish might have been braised for hours, the chicken was a bit overcooked. Otherwise, the dish was fantastic in terms of flavours!
The Chicken fried rice (Nasi Goreng) was just the same flavour as you get in top restaurants and street-food stalls in Bali, Indonesia. To give it a feel of a perfectly Indonesian Nasi Goreng, you might request for a fried egg at the Satay live station, to top your Nasi Goreng with.
The Stir-fried noodles (Mee Goreng) was average, though it tasted great when paired with Grilled Fish with Sambal Matah. Sambal Matah is Bali-style raw sambal (chilli paste), made with shallots and lemongrass. The dish has the freshness and the heat that goes very well with Mee Goreng, according to what we felt.
Although AN is neither a fan of yard-long beans, nor tofu, I love both. The Sautéed long beans with tofu is a very Asian style dish: simple and textured. While the beans were crunchy, the silken tofu was soft. I loved the dish for its minimalisation and simplicity. The non-vegetarian version of this was also served here. The Long beans with turmeric minced chicken (Lauuar kacang) was good too, but I loved my tofu more than chicken, as far as this dish was concerned.
Another remarkable dish which we tried was the Yellow spicy chicken soup (Soto ayam). This soup is a meal in itself and people in Indonesia love to have this as a complete meal. Soto ayam is always served with a variety of garnishes or add-ins. We had ours with chopped tomatoes, onions, coriander leaves and most importantly, with pieces of boiled eggs and a dash of lime! The brilliant yellow soup had its colour from fresh turmeric.
We absolutely loved the Gado gado served at the dinner buffet. Although Gado gado is regarded as a salad, it is a complete dish in itself, if accompanied by longtong (compressed rice cakes). In Indonesia, you will find many people who will just eat this for dinner. Gado gado is basically a medley of vegetables, beansprouts and tempeh, mixed with a sweet-n-sour peanut-based sauce.
At the Indonesian Food Festival, go for the Acar Vegetables (pickled salad) for sure. The concept of Acar in Indonesia is the same as Achaar in India and Atjar in Dutch cuisine. Influenced by the Dutch, in Indonesia, acar has small pieces of cucumber, carrots, onions (shallots) and bird’s eye chilli, all marinated together in sugar and vinegar. Lemongrass or ginger can also be added in the marination.
Speaking of Acar vegetables, how can we forget Satay? Satay goes very well with peanut sauce and we know that. But did you know that Satay is often eaten with Acar vegetables too? Take my word and try this combo at Pondicherry Café this week. There are many kinds of satays for you here at the live station. We loved the lamb, chicken and tofu satays. These satays can be eaten with a number of different kinds of sauces, and not just the popular peanut sauce. At the Indonesian Food Festival, it is your opportunity as a foodie to try out these different sauces and dips which make a satay such a flavourful package!
We tried the Vegetables with coconut and spicy sambal (Urap sayur) and loved it. It had a good balance of flavours. But what was mind-blowing was the Shrimp delicacy in seasoned sauce (Udang bumbu kecap). Here, the shrimps cooked with head and skin, and the dish was very exotic to me. It was as if I was tasting this dish in a remote village in Indonesia: the dish had sweet, spicy and sour notes that hit my tastebuds harmoniously. This was the dish that I will always remember in the back of my mind whenever I travel to Indonesia again or whenever I try out cooking an Indonesian dish at home. It was superb! Thank you, Chef Isep, for treating us with this flavourful Indonesian delicacy right here in Mumbai!
For the desserts, we tried the Moong bean dessert served in glasses (Bubur Kacang Hijau), Banana fritters (Pisang goreng) and Crepes roll with sweet coconut (Dadar gulung). We always loved the Pisang Goreng, ever since we visited Indonesia. Here, at the Indonesian Food Festival, these crispy and sweet Banana fritters (Pisang goreng) are delicious. In Indonesia, people love to eat these with ice cream and drizzled with honey or even with a little coconut cream.
The moong bean dessert is probably Bubur Kacang Hijau, a dessert with moong beans cooked with coconut milk and aromatic with pandan leaves. I could not taste this dessert as it was not there in the counter, but AN tasted one earlier and he appreciated it. A popular snack in java, the Dadar gulung is an Indonesian traditional kueh (traditional snack). It is a sweet pancake with coconut stuffing. As I ate this wonderful dessert, it reminded me of an Indian (Bengali) dessert called Patishapta. The similarity between these two desserts in two different countries is really amazing. Through these desserts, I just discovered another common link between Indian and Indonesian cuisines!
The Indonesian Food Festival is a one-of-its-kind experience in Mumbai. It offers Mumbai food lovers a good spread of Indonesian delicacies cooked under the supervision of Chef Isep from Bali. I am visiting Pondicherry Café again on the weekend just to taste their Babi guling. See you there!
Venue: Pondichéry Café, Sofitel Mumbai BKC
Date: 9th-18 th October, 2015
Time: Lunch: 12:30 pm onwards
Dinner: 7:00 pm onwards
Price: Lunch: INR 2,207 (plus taxes)
Dinner: INR 2,314 (plus taxes)