Petty El­liott

In­tro­duc­ing the rich­ness of In­done­sian fla­vors

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - News - +Se­bas­tian Par­togi

Petty El­liott, the well-known In­done­sian food writer and chef, talked with ex­cite­ment when de­scrib­ing her pre­sen­ta­tion at Ox­ford Univer­sity in the UK about the di­ver­sity of fla­vors re­flected in In­done­sian cui­sine. “By pre­sent­ing the story be­hind In­done­sian food, I wanted to let the in­ter­na­tional pub­lic know that within our abun­dance of dif­fer­ent fla­vors, there is a com­mon thread that binds In­done­sian cui­sine,” Petty told J+ in a re­cent in­ter­view. Prior to the event, Petty said she trained lo­cal chefs in the UK to present In­done­sian dishes with fla­vor lay­ers that were mod­i­fied to make them suit­able for the palates of in­ter­na­tional guests, and which had some mod­ern touches in­tro­duced to the orig­i­nal recipes. “For in­stance, I told them to re­duce the spici­ness of the woku [spicy curry] chicken. As we all know, the orig­i­nal woku chicken from Manado has an in­sane level of spici­ness.” Petty, who traces her routes to Manado, wrote Pa­paya Flower: Manadonese Cui­sine, Pro­vin­cial In­done­sian Food, high­light­ing foods from the area. Aside from al­ter­ing recipes, Petty said she strove to make the dishes mem­o­rable through vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion. “I in­structed them to present the foods in a mod­est way–to sur­prise guests with a rich layer of fla­vors em­bod­ied by th­ese foods, de­spite their sim­ple vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion.” Ac­cord­ing to Petty, who has in­ten­sive and ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence as a chef, food con­sul­tant and writer, pro­mot­ing In­done­sian foods to an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly the UK, is im­por­tant. “We have some se­ri­ous home­work to do. In Eng­land, In­done­sian cui­sine does not en­joy the pop­u­lar­ity that it has in the Nether­lands. In Lon­don it­self, for ex­am­ple, there are around five restau­rants of­fer­ing In­done­sian food– which is quite small when you com­pare the num­ber to the 2,000 Thai restau­rants that are flour­ish­ing in the city,” she said. Even if In­done­sian food prod­ucts can be found in Bri­tish su­per­mar­kets, what’s on of­fer is fre­quently mis­at­tributed to other na­tions, due to what Petty de­scribes as a lack of “food diplo­macy”. “For in­stance, in­stead of be­ing rec­og­nized as an In­done­sian dish, (beef sim­mered in co­conut milk) has been la­beled as a Malaysian food in Bri­tish su­per­mar­kets,” Petty said. ren­dang Bri­tish su­per­mar­kets also do not sell in­gre­di­ents for In­done­sian foods, while the raw ma­te­ri­als needed to make Thai food are rel­a­tively more com­mon. “To pro­mote In­done­sian foods to the Bri­tish mar­ket, we need lon­gi­tu­di­nal and in­tense diplo­macy that is con­ducted con­tin­u­ously over a pe­riod of two to three years,” Petty said. “We can also learn from Malaysia, which ap­pointed a fa­mous Bri­tish chef named Rick Stein as its food am­bas­sador, to fur­ther main­stream the coun­try’s cui­sine to the Bri­tish pub­lic”.

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