Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Indonesian's love for chili sauce

Entrepreneurs in Indonesia are quite creative these days. There's this new vegetarian resto which name their dishes like Nasi Padang Brigitte Bardot, Nasi Hai Nam Confucius, Nasi Campur Henry Ford etc.

What has Brigitte Bardot, Confucius and Henry Ford got to do with the food. But restos all around the world do that. I once had a Jane Fonda salad in a resto in LA.

This is an all vegetarian resto, not unlike the ones in Hongkong, Malaysia and Singapore where they serve "prawns", "ham", "beef" and others prepared from vegetables. The texture of those foods may be similar but they don't taste the same as the meaty versions. Pretty good for an Indonesian resto but a far cry from the way the Hongkongers have their vegetarian dishes. That Indonesian resto has "fried duck" on their menu but the "fried duck" does not have the crispy texture of the equivalent in Hongkong, Malaysia or Singapore.

Besides that, other than the tonne of MSG one immediately picks up, the taste is really blend, which probably accounts for the fact that a large plateful of chili sauce is provided. Indonesians like chili sauce. They add that to their bakmi noodles, sharks fin soups, fried rice, instant noodles and anything they eat.

I've taken Indonesian friends out for meals in London, Shanghai, Hongkong, Bangkok, Singapore and other countries and the first thing they'd ask a waiter will be for chili sauce. And they are quite particular about the chili sauce, not the usual spicy taste one looks for in a chili sauce.

While in Shanghai and also in Bangkok, we were given chili sauce which burnt my tongue and tasted so unique that I still dream of them, my Indonesian friends were unhappy. They wanted their "own" chili sauce of a certain Indonesian brand. I've tasted that chili sauce and its blend is not only artificial, but also hardly taste of chili at all.

After numerous encounters, my conclusion centered on one: my Indonesian friends had a sense of insecurity even when it comes to meals and have to try to surround themselves with an environment (beginning with condiments) that they're used to in order to be at ease.

I must say that this is not "endemic" amongst Indonesians. There have been many who were more at ease at international restos than I was; but the contrary is definitely evident. And I'm not talking about "kampung" kids who lived all their lives amidst padi fields -- most of them have had the opportunity to go through four or five years in college in Indonesia.

A friend once told me: you can take a man out of the country but you can't take the country out of the man.

No comments: