Feast from the East

The authentic Indonesian rice feast will be presented at Tel Aviv's East restuarant.

indonesian food 88 (photo credit: )
indonesian food 88
(photo credit: )
Variety is the spice of life in Indonesia. The huge, beautifully diverse country has over 15,000 islands spanning more than five thousand kilometers of tropical oceans across the equator. With more than a hundred ethnic groups, it comes as no surprise that Indonesian cuisine is as varied as the country's three hundred plus dialects. Rice is the preferred staple in Indonesia where spices serve as distinguishing agents in food influenced by multiple ethnic foods including Indian, Chinese, Arab and European. Because spices and herbs are readily available throughout the country, the food tends to be hot and spicy. But there's no need to fear a kind of cartoonish steam-coming-out-of-your-ears reaction to the fare. After all, what's just a little chili to sharpen the flavor? One Indonesian meal, the Rijsttafel, or rice table, might sound simple; in actuality it's a lavish feast that can take hours to consume. The popular meal was ceremoniously served by lines of servants throughout centuries of popularity in Indonesia. The first dish served was of course rice - a cone shaped pile of the staple was placed in the center of the table. The rice platter was soon joined byas many as 30 small bowls holding meat and vegetable dishes as well as condiments. But the rice table, which was introduced to Indonesia during the 350-year Dutch occupation (so that the Dutch could enjoy a wide array of dishes at a single setting and impress visitors with their exotic colony), has practically disappeared from the country today. Common Indonesian ingredients include coconut milk, curry leaves, lemongrass, coriander, cumin and ginger. Examples of typical fare are Sambal, a very hot, popular relish made with hot chili peppers; and sajur lodeh, a widely consumed soup, made from coconut milk, sambal ulek (chili paste), Laos powder (powdered galangal), vegetables, ketjap manis (thick, sweet soy sauce), hard boiled eggs and chicken. Though these traditional dishes often require long preparation - spices need to be chopped and ground, and meat and vegetables must be cut into bite-sized pieces - it's definitely worth waiting for. For four evenings beginning next Sunday, Chef Amit Barnun of East restaurant in Tel Aviv will present a tasting menu of an authentic Rijsttafel to guests at his Oriental eatery. For those familiar with this cuisine, it's a great chance to re-taste the exotic flavors from Java and Sumatra, and for the adventurous palates, this unique experience is not one to be missed. The four Indonesian evenings at East will take place from Sunday, March 19 to Wednesday, March 22 at 8 p.m.. The price is NIS 150 per person. Reservations are recommended: East, 12 Hasharon St. Tel Aviv. (03) 687-77000