Asam Garam
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24 Nov 2021

The Lazy Susan Show, Ep. 6 : Around The Dinner Table

A fortnightly radio show that serves stories about food, culture, and communities in Indonesia.
Tuesdays, 09.00 WIB/10.00 WITA/11.00/WIT

Text
Andrea Hasan
Photo
Valensia Edgina
Illustration
Alyandra Katya
Topics
Acculturation
Around The Dinner Table
Bancakan
Budaya Indis
Headstream
Liwetan
Rijsttafel
The Lazy Susan Show
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What?! Episode 6 already? Another week with..

The Lazy Susan Show

This time we’re going back to the dinner table. Let’s uncover the culture, the history, and what makes us, Indonesians, eat what we eat today.

When talking about the history around the dinner table in Indonesia, we cannot help but discuss the infamous way of serving, rijsttafel. Rijsttafel, in literal translation, means “rice table”, and no surprise that the star of the show is, well of course, rice!

The rice of choice is then served with small plates of Indonesian delicacies, not just from the island of Java but rendang from Sumatra, bebek betutu from Bali, etc. An international media, Eating Europe, once described it as a nearly unending parade of small plates all filled with different spicy-sticky-sweet Indonesian cuisine. Rijsttafel is a product of the mix cultures between the indigenous people of Indonesia and the Dutch people. Interestingly enough, even though Dutch people usually find that spicy is unpleasant, they enjoy the sambelans in rijsttafel including sambal badjak, sambal serdadoe, and sambal brandal. If one would want to enjoy such experience back in the day, they would have to go to fancy hotels and restaurants.

Fun facts!

Did you know according to Ong Hok Ham in his book “Runtuhnya Hindia Belanda”, this style of serving is similar to the ones in the palaces, Keraton, in Java?

When serving rijsttafel, the servants or jongos, wore white on white long sleeve and long pants with sarong around their hip, Javanese style headband, and they go around barefoot! 

The cutleries they used are made of silver instead of aluminium.

The Indonesian way of sharing and serving food on the table, or most times on the floor on top of a leaf, is putting everything in the middle and share it with the others. This style has many names and the food varies, for example bancakan in West Java, megibung in Bali, manner sappera in North Luwu, makan patita in Moluccas, and many others.

Not only the way of eating, but the use of ingredients in Indonesia changes through the years of colonisation, spice trade, and the entry of many religions. The impact of the spice trade from China influences the use of garlic and soy, then from India with their coriander, ginger, cumin and many others. In the 13th century, Marco Polo said that Java is rich in pepper, roots and spices. Even though it’s just an entry port. In the15th century, Ma Huan, the Chinese voyager started to import a lot of pepper to China and the consumption there increased. In the 18th century, Sumatra’s economy had really risen because of pepper demand from America and Europe.

You can taste and see these acculturations from the curries that are influenced by the Indians; the many forms of noodles, fermentation techniques, wontons influenced by the Chinese; cooking technique of smoor, perkedel, kroket, kue cubit, spekkoek from the Dutch; the spiciness, the use of sago and tubers were brought in by the Portuguese, sago even became the staple food of East Indonesia.

#FriendsOfSuzy, do you have a tradition or interesting stories around the dinner table? Tell us in the comment below!

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