A Spicy Affair
In a 2011 CNN poll on the World’s 50 Most Delicious Food, Indonesian dishes beef rendang and nasi goreng took the first and second spots, respectively, besting Japan’s sushi, Thailand’s tom yam goong and pad thai, Hong Kong’s dim sum, and China’s Peking duck.
Rendang or dry curry traces its origin to Padang or West Sumatra province. The beef is stewed in coconut cream and spices until splendidly tender. Nasi goreng, on the other hand, literally means fried rice. As Indonesia’s national dish, it can be found everywhere from high-end dinner parties to street hawker carts. The stir-fried rice is made flavorful with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), shallots, garlic, tamarind and chili, and is served with egg and a choice of main meat of either chicken, prawns or salted dried fish.
At Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, you can enjoy authentic Indonesian dishes as part of its latest culinary series, Flavors of the World. Spiral restaurant flew in Chef Pradipta Bayu Primaputra of Hotel Pullman Jakarta for this limited epicurean engagement.
“The dishes represent heritage recipes from Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Bali,” said Chef Pradipta, a native of vibrant Jakarta who previously worked with Ritz Carlton Doha and the capital’s most prestigious catering company and provider of choice for culinary requirements for dignitaries and state visitors, Culture Royale.
The spiciness of the dishes offered at Spiral is toned down so as not to alienate guests who are not into that extra chili kick. Chef Pradipta, however, compensated by serving three kinds of sambal of increasing degree of hotness. Sambal is also a cornerstone of Indonesian cuisine, combining spices, fruits or vegetables with a variety of chili peppers. Because of the humid climate and volcanic soil, vegetables and spices are found in abundance in Indonesia. Dried spices such as coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, cloves and nutmeg are used every day in many dishes.
The Indonesian station of Sofitel’s buffet spread includes satay (tasty marinated meat on skewers grilled to perfection with a mix of exotic herbs and bathed in a hearty dose of peanut sauce); noodle dishes such as the spicy mie goreng and the wok-fried vermicelli noodle and vegetables mix bihun goreng; and sup buntut or ox tail soup, which is delicious and filling, with tender meat and a flavorful broth that takes two days to prepare from scratch.
There is also gado-gado, which translates to “mix-mix” as you have to mix the vegetable salad (string beans, spinach, potato, corn, bean sprouts, cucumber, tofu and egg) with classic peanut sauce; soto ayam madura or yellow chicken broth with glass noodles and boiled egg; kambing guling or oven-baked lamb with herbs; ayam taliwang which is Lombok-style spicy grilled chicken; the Sulawesi dish ikan dabu-dabu (deep-fried fish with spicy sauce mixed with fresh calamansi); and bebek betutu or roasted duck Balinese style.
For dessert, Spiral has es tebak, which is similar to halo-halo but consists of shredded avocado, jack fruit, ice and milk; kolak pisang or stewed banana in brown sugar served with sliced fruits; and eis chendol, which features shaved ice, tropical fruit, coconut milk and pandan-flavored jelly made from mung bean flour.
Next month, Sofitel will treat its guests to the flavors of Thailand in time for the Songkran festival (April 18 to 20) followed by South American cuisine from June 13 to 20. The whole month of July is dedicated to French gastronomic offers with guest Michelin-starred Master Chef Daniel Galmiche while flavors of India will take the centerstage from Sept. 11 to 24.
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