Introduction to the “Rijsttafel”

White-Yellow rice

General information about Indo-Dutch dining

 Is this your first encounter with Indo-Dutch or Indonesian food? Look forward to a very pleasurable new experience as you try these recipes from a different world. In becoming familiar with this food you will learn that the cuisine of this area of the world, once known as the Spice Islands or the Dutch-Indies, has unexpectedly great variety. These islands have been influenced by many cultures: East-Indian, Arab, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese. Yet the formal Dutch-Indies or today Indonesian food has kept its identity and is different from any other national or ethnic food you may have eaten. The difference is caused both by special cooking techniques and by use of unusual ingredients. The result is a menu of great variety and exquisite taste.

The recipes that follow originated in today’s Indonesia. They provided you a unique opportunity to participate in preparation and enjoyment of authentic, healthful, delicious meals.

Recent publications of Indonesian recipes in prestigious gourmet magazines and in food sections of internationally circulated newspapers suggest that Indonesian cooking is rightly becoming recognized as one of the great cuisines of the world.

The basis of the Dutch-Indies or Indonesian meal is rice. It is sometimes eaten as often as three times a day. In more affluent households the number of accompanying dishes may vary from one to ten, twenty, or more!

1.      Dinner usually consists of rice with:
One or two meat or fish dishes.
One or two vegetable dishes
Sambal (a chili-pepper condiment), if none of the other dishes is not “hot”.

  1. Rijsttafel (rice-table) is the equivalent of a banquet. Guests are not expected to eat each dish that is offered, but will select from the dozens that are offered and only those they wish to eat. For a full explanation see further here below and scroll down.
  2. Nasi Ramas is a one-plate meal purchased from a vendor. The quantity of food on that plate may vary from a helping of rice, one piece of meat or fish, a serving of vegetables and some sambal, to a helping of rice with so many servings of other foods, that the Nasi Ramas is almost a mini rijsttafel.
    In any event one purchases food from the vendor by the piece or by the dishes served as a Nasi Ramas and the food you purchase from him or her will be delicious.

Dishes commonly served, includes:

  1. Ayam (ah-yahm) (chicken)
  2. Ikan ( ee-kahn) (fish)
  3. Daging (dah-ging) (meat)
  4. Sayur (sah-your) (vegetable dish with broth and sometimes meat)
  5. Sate (sah-tay) (barbecued, marinated meat on skewers)
  6. Sambal Goreng (sahm-bahl gore-eng) (vegetable dish with spicy sauce)
  7. Sambal Goreng kering (care-ing) (spicy dish without sauce)
  8. Sambal (sahm-baal) (chili condiment)
  9. Rudjak (rue-jahk) fresh fruit with “hot” sweet sauce)
  10. Acar or Atjar (ah-char) (pickled vegetable relish)
  11. Goreng (gore-eng) (fried)
  12. Krupuk (crew-pook) (deep fried chips)

 Setting the table (the place setting)
A spoon is the main eating utensil, being used both to select food and to carry it to the mouth. Meat either is cut into bite-size pieces as it is prepared or is so tender, that it can be cut easily with the spoon. Knives are not used at the table. The spoon is placed at the right of the place setting and is the size of a western oval soup spoon.
If a fork is to be used, it is placed at the left of the place setting. The fork is held in the hand and is used to push food onto the spoon. Food is never touched with the left hand, which is considered to be unclean. It is also considered very rude to use the left hand to offer anything, but especially food to another person.
A plate is placed in the center of the place setting. This plate is typically large and dished, similar to a large, rimmed soup plate. If such a dish is not available, an ordinary dinner plate may be substituted.
A napkin is placed on the plate.
A small plate, similar to a bread and butter plate, is placed at the upper left of the place setting above the fork. It is used for krupuk or for bones.
A glass is placed at the upper right.
If pudding is to be served for desert, not a common practice, a desert spoon is placed at the center top, its handle to the right.

Serving

 If a meal is to be served at a buffet, guests first place a serving of rice in the center of the plate. Helpings of the other dishes are then placed around the rice, never on top of it. There is a good reason for this. You will eat some rice with each side dish on your plate. If any one dish is put on top of the rice, the rice will have the flavor of that dish and will impart it to the other side dishes, thus diminishing the variety of flavors and your enjoyment of the food.

If a meal is served at a table, rice is passed first and guests put a serving in the center of their plates. Other dishes are then passed and guests place helpings of these dishes around the rice.

Beverages

 Water or beer will most commonly be served with Indonesian food, but mineral  water, tea or wine are also acceptable.
Since fruit is commonly served as dessert, it is often accompanied by hot, sweet coffee.

Note

 Dutch-Indies or Indonesian food may be spicy and “hot” with the taste of chili   peppers, but unlike custom in the west, some dishes may be served at room temperature or just a bit warmer.

P23-Rijsttafel

Rijsttafel ! What it is and how to eat it.

 Rijsttafel is a Dutch word that translates literally into English as “rice-table”.
An authentic Dutch-Indies or Indonesian rijsttafel prepared carefully and eaten in the proper manner is a rare culinary treat. The meal consists of perfectly steamed rice plus an unspecified but usually rather large number of flavorful side dishes and sauces. Some dishes may be subtly spiced, some may be highly seasoned and some will surely contain chili peppers.
The rijsttafel is eaten from a large dished plate. If the food is served on a buffet, the diner places a helping of the hot rice in the center of the plate and surrounds it with small servings selected from the other dishes. Do not mixed the selected side dishes nor place them on the rice! If you do so, you will mix the flavors of the separate dishes. The chef has labored long and diligently to give each dish its own special flavor and you wish to taste each special flavor separately, mixed only with some blend rice and perhaps a bit of the hot chili-pepper condiment called sambal.
Eat the rijsttafel with a large spoon, which is held in your right hand. The fork, a subordinate tool, is held in the left hand and serves mostly as a “pusher” or as a means of securing larger pieces of food such as chicken or meat while bite-sized pieces are cut off with the spoon.
A rijsttafel may consist of as many as 10, 20, 30 or more side dishes. Hospitality in Indonesia traditionally requires that a host provide amply for each of his guests. Because not all guests will like the same food, the host prepares many, many dishes to assure that each diner may choose from a large selection of things he likes to eat.
Since a rijsttafel may consist of many side dishes, it is not possible to sample the whole meal in one trip to the buffet. Select a few dishes from the many available and help yourself to small servings that will not become mixed with each other on your plate. Eat the selected food at your place at the table and return to the buffet for a new serving. Repeat as many times as necessary to sample all the dishes you wish to taste. You will probably omit some dishes all together and take second helpings (or third) of others. Also, you will probably place a very small serving of a different sambal on the rim of your plate. Dip your spoon into the sambal cautiously, according to your tolerance for “hotness”, to add this seasoning to a spoonful of food you are about to eat.
Preparing even a modest rijsttafel for your friends and family is a rewarding experience.
A fair amount of work and care are involved, but suggestions accompanying recipes in this book advice you how to prepare some of the dishes days or even weeks ahead of time and how to organize your cooking procedures, so that you may comfortably join your guests before the meal. With advance planning even the chef can fully enjoy this celebration of gustatory excellence.

Schedule for advance preparation of rijsttafel dishes.

 A. Things that may be prepared as long as one month ahead.
1. Serundeng. (keep dry in air tight container)
2. Sambal goreng kering kentang (keep dry in air tight container)
3. Bitterballs – freeze in pre-fried state (thaw only partially to deep fry)
4. Daging pedas – if fully prepared and frozen. (thaw and reheat in oven)
5. Rozen stroop – (keep bottled and refrigerated)

B. Things that may be prepared as long as one week ahead.
1. Regular krupuk (not fish or shrimp) keep dry in air tight container.

C. Things that may be prepared two or three days ahead.
1. Beef and pork sate cut in cubes and refrigerated in marinade.
2. Daging pedas – if refrigerated but not frozen – reheat in oven to serve.

D. Things that may be prepared one day ahead.
1. Roti kukus jawa – re-steam, covered, 5 min before serving.
2. Sate sauce – stored covered in refrigerator – warm before using.
3. Chicken sate pieces in marinade, covered and refrigerated.
4. Ayam peniki – refrigerate and reheat in oven before serving.
5. Bitterballs – refrigerated ready to be fried just before serving.
6. Pangsit filling – store covered in refrigerator.
7. Lotek dressing – without lemon juice refrigerated in covered container.
8. Asinan – but wait to add pineapple cubes until a few hours before serving.

E. Things to be prepared the morning of the rijsttafel.
1. White rice and yellow rice, if you have a steamer, re-steam for ½ hour before serving
2. Lotek vegetables – assemble on tray, cover with damp towel and refrigerate.
3. Assemble and Bbq sate and keep covered in oven at 200 F.

F. Things to be prepared the afternoon of the rijsttafel.
1. Krupuk with fish or shrimp.
2. Ikan pesmol – 1 to 4 hours ahead of serving if fish is deep fried.

G. Things to be prepared 1 hour before rijsttafel.
1. Sambal terasi tomat.
2. Fold pangsit for frying.
3. Ora are – prepare vegetables, but cook 15 min. before serving.
4. Rice, if it was not prepared earlier.

H. Things to be done 15 minutes before to just before serving.
1. Ikan pesmol – if fish is to be broiled. Sauce may be made earlier.
2. Deep fry pangsit and bitterballs.
3. Mix lotek vegetables with dressing.
4. During meal re-steam roti kukus jawa for 5 minutes to warm or, if not cooked earlier, steam while guests are eating.

Introduction

For those who have never sampled Dutch-Indies or Indonesian food, it will be an experience to try this food from a different world, with its tremendous variety through the influences of other cultures: Arab, Chinese, Dutch and Indian.
The special cooking techniques and the use of unusual ingredients will make a different flavor and taste than you are used to and give you a variety in your menu.

As we say in Indonesian: “Selamat Makan”.

Glossary

Here are the most popular spices, herbs and ingredients.
Some years ago, the spelling was changed in Indonesia, but because the names of most of the spices still have the old spelling, both names are given.

  • Asam                                                        tamarind
  • Djahe or jahe                                          ginger
  • Djintan or jintan                                    cumin
  • Ketoembar or ketumbar                       coriander
  • Koenjit or kunyit                                   turmeric
  • Laos                                                         galangal
  • Ketjap or kecap                                     sweet soy sauce
  • Sereh                                                       lemon grass
  • Sambal oelek or sambal ulek             ground chili
  • Taotjo                                                     salted soy beans
  • Terasi                                                     shrimp paste.

Indonesian cookery terms.

  • Abon                                                 fried, shredded meat
  • Ayam                                                chicken
  • Asam                                                sour, tamarind
  • Acar or Atjar                                   pickles
  • Babi                                                  pork
  • Babat                                                tripe
  • Bawang                                            onion
  • Belado                                              peppered
  • Beras                                                uncooked rice
  • Bihun                                               rice noodles
  • Bumbu                                             spices
  • Daging                                             meat
  • Dadar                                               omelet
  • Dandang                                          steamer
  • Daoen Djeruk                                 lemon leaf
  • Dendeng                                          dried meat
  • Djagung or Jagung                        corn
  • Djahe or Jahe                                 ginger
  • Ebbie                                                dried shrimp
  • Empal                                               fried meat
  • Gado Gado                                       salad with peanut sauce
  • Gula Jawa                                        brown java sugar.
  • Goreng                                              fry
  • Hati                                                   heart
  • Ikan                                                   fish
  • Isi                                                       filled, stuffed
  • Kambing                                           goat
  • Katjang tanah                                  peanut
  • Kelapa                                               cocnut
  • Kentang                                            potato
  • Kepeting                                           crab
  • Kare                                                   curry
  • Ketimun                                            cucumber
  • Kuah                                                  sauce
  • Kue                                                    cake
  • Kukus                                                steam
  • Kukusan                                           steamer
  • Kuning                                              yellow
  • Krupuk                                              fried chip
  • Lada, Lombok                                  chili pepper
  • Lapis                                                  layer
  • Lambok                                             soft, wet
  • Lidah                                                 tongue
  • Lobak                                                white radish
  • Lontong                                            rice wrapped in banana leaves
  • Manis                                                sweet
  • Masak                                               cook
  • Mie                                                    noodles
  • Nasi                                                   rice, cooked or fried
  • Otak                                                  brain
  • Pedas                                                hot
  • Pangang                                           barbecued
  • Pangsit                                             wonton
  • Perkadel                                           meatloaf, – ball
  • Petis                                                  shrimp sauce
  • Petjil or pecil                                   salad
  • Pisang                                               banana
  • Putih                                                 white
  • Rebung                                             bamboo shoot
  • Rebus                                                boil
  • Rempeyek                                        fritter
  • Rendang                                           spicy beef with santan
  • Rujak                                                 fruit salad
  • Sayur or sajur                                  vegetable dish
  • Sambal                                              condiment, chili
  • Santan                                               Coconut milk
  • Sate                                                    B.B.Q. meat on skewer
  • Sawi                                                   nappa cabbage
  • Soto                                                   Soup, broth with….
  • Tahu or tofu                                    soy bean cake
  • Taotjo or Taoco                              salted soy beans
  • Tauge                                                bean sprout
  • Terasi                                                shrimp paste
  • Tempe                                               fermented soybean
  • Terong                                               egg plant
  • Tumis                                                sauté
  • Ubi                                                     sweet potato
  • Udang                                                shrimp

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is an important ingredient in the cooking of nearly all Asian countries. It is used in many vegetable dishes. But also in meat and fish dishes and all kind of desserts, even in ice-cream.
Many people refer to the clear liquid inside the coconut as coconut milk. This is wrong. It is the milky liquid, extracted from the grated flesh of mature, fresh coconut or reconstituted from shredded coconut.
Coconut milk is extracted in two stages. The first yield is the “thick milk”, the second, “thin milk”. Use the thin milk first, then the thick milk at a later stage or at the end.
Put the desiccated coconut in a large bowl and pour hot, almost boiling water over it. Pour enough water so it is even with the coconut.. Allow to cool until luke warm, then knead firmly with the hand for a few minutes and strain through a fine strainer. This is the “thick coconut milk”. Repeat this process. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. This is the “thin milk”.
When you use an electric blender, you save time and work. Fill the blender only half full, add the water and blend for ½ minute. Strain and squeeze out all the liquid. Repeat process only one more time with the same coconut.

 

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