Sunday, June 06, 2021


John asked me about rijsttafels earlier today. Which inevitably brought up hotels in Jakarta, and restaurants in Den Haag and Amsterdam. A rijsttafel (often spelled 'rysttafel' outside of the Netherlandish linguistic world) is an array of Indonesian prepared dishes, which can vary rather immensely, but usually has preparations from various different regions, varying spice levels, different textural effects, plus soup, relishes and condiments, snacky items, appetizers.

Fairly typically, rendang (a Sumatran meat chunk dish, simmered until the coconut milk has been entirely rendered to a layer of coconut oil in which the now fiully cooked meat is given a quick frazzle to darken it and crisp the edges -- spices are lots of chilipepper, ginger or galangal, turmeric, and a little etcetera), soto (a multifacetted soup containing meat, vegs, mild spices, crispy garnishes, and usually a starch), a wet curry from Java, a dryer curry from Sumatra, an incendiary dish from elsewhere, sambal goreng (one of a huge variety of possible stirfried dishes with chili or chili pastes), fully stewed vegetable curries, blanched vegetables with spicy sauces, roasted or charcoal grilled dishes (for instance skewered meat with peanut sauce; satay. Or grilled chicken basted with coconut milk; ayam panggang), something from the ocean, plus shrimp chips, fried appetizers and or a fried fish or chicken, a savoury stew, and platters of carefully composed salad-like dishes which may or may not be redolent of chilies, fishy stuffs, and chilipastes, and sometimes contain fruit. Unripe fruit, usually.
Plus spicy pickles, and a few sambals (chilipaste condiments).
And a tray of kwee kwee for sweetness.

And, of course, rice.
Hence the name.

Rysttafel: "rice table".

To a typical old school Dutch Indo, rice, sambal, a main dish, a vegetable dish, soup, and something sweet with strong coffee, are a meal, a feast, a memorable event. As long as none of it is the same crap they ate in the Japanese Prisoner of War camps, it's fine.
Quite lovely. Just like old times.

Vegetarian hippies demanding tempeh ruin any meal.
The less said about tempeh, the better.
No damned brown rice either.

My idea of a nice Dutch Indonesian meal includes, besides a mound of rice, a wet chicken or pork curry, stirfried vegetables with fish sauce and chilies, a little pickle, a bowl of broth made with tamarind or some 'old fire soup' (老火湯), maybe blanched vegetables with rojak sauce, almost certainly serundeng (a toasted coconut shred add-on for on top of rice or curry, as suits the diner, often spiced, with peanuts added, for crispy crunchy effect), and a sambal.
Rice, wet stew, and sambal are absolutely essential.

Or rice, a fish and sambal.

Coffee and a smoke afterwards.

And that, precisely, makes me wish I had a veranda or a patio. Rather than having to sit on the front steps throwing rocks at the pigeons to keep them from cadging my beverage or my cigar.

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