A taste of Indonesian cuisine in London

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Ahead of the Indonesian Weekend in London which takes place between the 8-9th of September at Potters Field Park, I was invited to attend an exclusive Indonesian cooking demonstration at Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School. Chef Degan Septoadji, one of the judges of MasterChef Indonesia has cooked three of the five national dishes that have been declared as representative for the country by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy: nasi goreng, gado gado, beef rendang, chicken satay and soto.

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Chef Degan Septoadji not only that showed us step by step how to make the dishes, but he also explained what makes Indonesian cuisine so special.

Indonesian cuisine is full of flavour and differs from region to region. Same dishes have thousands of different recipes, and every family makes them differently. However, there are two ingredients that are present in all Indonesian recipes, and these are garlic and shallots. Without garlic and shallots, you don’t have Indonesian food.

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At the base of each Indonesian dish there is a spice paste: red, yellow, green, white and black. Quoting chef Degan, the spice pastes are something magical because they are not just mixes of ingredients but are part of the national heritage of Indonesia. The food is seen as part as one’s soul and this is why each paste has a significance.

The red spice paste represents blood – the symbol of birth and new life. It has as the main ingredient the red chilly.

The yellow spice paste represents wealth – as gold is yellow. The main ingredient in the paste is the turmeric.

The green spice paste represents hope, a very important feeling in the Indonesian day to day life. The main ingredients in the paste are pandan leaf and the green chilly.

The white spice paste represents purity and it’s made entirely out of light coloured ingredients: garlic, shallots, ginger and lemongrass.

The black spice paste, contrary of what you would imagine, has a positive meaning – it represents wisdom. The main ingredient in the paste is the kluwak, which is actually toxic before cooking.

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Many Indonesians live in remote areas and don’t have access to the latest technology. And this means that the spice blends are usually made using a volcanic rock mortar and pestle.  Some dishes, such as gado-gado, are entirely made inside a mortar, using only a pestle.

As I mentioned before, the Indonesian cuisine is based on fresh ingredients and spices that are easy to find in South East Asia. Among these, the aromatic ginger, the Indonesian palm sugar, the galangal, the lemongrass, the turmeric and the tamarind, shrimp paste and Kecap mani – a sweet soy sauce that tastes like burned caramel. This is another key ingredient of the Indonesian cuisine, and it can’t really be replaced with anything else. But don’t worry, if you are keen on cooking gado-gado or nasi goreng, you can always buy it from Amazon, as I did after I had a small taste and decided I can’t live without it in my kitchen. 😊

Chef Degan Septoadji demonstrated how easy it is to make gado-gado and nasi goreng. The beef rendang however, he explained that it takes 4 to 5 hours to simmer, so he showed it to us in three different stages of the cooking process, that he made earlier.

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At the end of the evening we got a chance to taste all five representative Indonesian dishes and they were all full of flavour and rich in taste. The beef rendang was simply melting in my mouth and the nasi goreng complimented it perfectly as a side dish. I was very impressed with the soto, a spicy broth topped with beansprouts and eggs, that warmed me up straight away. I am a fan of the chicken satay and it did not disappoint! I had gado-gado before but cooked in a different way. I do love peanut sauces and I was happy to learn that I could cheap and replace the grinding and frying with…. peanut butter!

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If you want to have a taste of the Indonesian cuisine, don’t miss the Indonesian celebrations this weekend, next to Tower Bridge. There will be traditional dances, costume displays, and chef Degan Septoadji will do cooking demonstrations of the five national dishes of Indonesia! See you there!

 

 

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36 Comments

  1. I’ve loved Indonesian food ever since my last trip there. I recently made some curry I bought there that didn’t have any instruction. I think I may have used a little too much paste. It took a few hours to be able to taste again. Thankfully, a lot of coconut milk tamped down the fire.

  2. Oh wow, masterchef Indonesia! That is amazing. Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School sounds great, I love the idea of doing that with friends and family! Do you know if he is only there during the Indonesian weekend? as if so I have missed him, but now I know they exsist I will keep my eyes open for more!

  3. Everything you described sounded amazing but then the pictures really sold it. I have difficulty choosing good ethnic dishes so I appreciate posts like this that can help my future choices.

  4. It is amazing all the different cuisines you can find around the place when you just go looking. It looks like London can really give you a great try of Indonesian food I would LOVE to give it a try.

  5. This looks like a wonderful experience. I’m not very familiar with Indonesian cooking but all the colourful and aromatic ingredients are making me want to try!

  6. I absolutely love trying different foods filled with their individual cultural tastes and flair. I feel cravings for Indonesian food after reading your post and seeing those great pictures!

  7. I love Indonesian cuisine with lots of spices! The food in your photos looks fantastic. When I’m in London, I’ll definitely visit some of the Indonesian restaurants.

  8. I would love to eat here. We have stayed in Indonesia for two whole weeks and my hubby and I have developed a taste for Indonesia cuisine. Love the spiciness and the chips. We do have an Asian restaurant here in my city and they only serve a couple of Indonesia dishes. Pfft.

  9. I stayed in Maldives in October last year at the Cinnamon Dhonveli resort and they served some immaculate Indonesian food. The post reminded me of the same culinary experience. You tried it in London right? If you liked it there, you’d love it at the place where it originates. Indonesian spices have a characteristic flavour to them that adds a weebit extra to the otherwise normal bland food that Europeans and Londoners generally eat. It’s the Asian spices that add life to the recipe

  10. One of my best friends is half Indonesian, and whenever we go to her mum’s house we always have delicious food. Though I think hers is quite westernised, it doesn’t look or sound as authentic as the cookery lesson you tried! X

  11. All the food looks wonderfully tasty! Its so interesting to hear the different meanings/representations of each of the spices too. Really interesting to learn about their culture.

  12. I am yet to try Indonesian food I adore Asian cuisine in general, so i am sure it’d love it. What a wonderful experience… hope you enjoyed yourself to the mas.

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