Indonesia is the world's largest island country with 18,110 islands, which makes Indonesian food one of the most diverse cuisines globally. Regrettably, our understanding of Indonesian dishes often stays on street-food level in Hong Kong.
Foodie had the pleasure of indulging in a feast hosted by Asia Society Hong Kong and other groups that aim to preserve Indonesian culture. Renowned Indonesian chef William Wongso specially designed the menu for the occasion, also collaborating with AMMO to create a wonderful dining experience.
The menu featured four appetisers, seven main courses and three desserts alongside some condiments and drinks.
As the saying goes, well begun is half done. The welcome drink, kunyit asam, was my personal favourite. The kick brought about by the salt and chilli flakes on the cup rim was smoothly followed by the sweet, syrupy relish of the turmeric-tamarind herbal drink. They blended into a complex yet delightful flavour.
The appetisers perfectly manifested the diverse culinary culture and flavours of Indonesia. Sate pentul Bali (minced spiced fish satay) is influenced by Bali party culture, which stars finger food and a mix of exotic spices. Slada Bangka uni is a turnip and shrimp salad with sea urchin; the sea urchin taste was subtle yet refreshing. The cumi hitam Pekalongan (braised squid with black ink, coconut milk and fresh spices) surprised me with its rich, creamy texture. The Jakarta pickled salad asinan Jakarta kepiting soka exploded with flavour, dimming the spotlight of the soft-shell crab, which was a bit too soggy to my liking.
Main courses were huge sharing plates, so we all had a bit of everything. Rendang Padang, the celebrity amongst the big bites, is a caramelised beef curry from West Sumatra. Chef Wongso explained that the recipe boasts a long list ingredients – the spice base on its own calls for chilli, garlic, shallot, candlenut, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, aromatic leaves from the turmeric plant, lemongrass... Remarkably, the culinary team managed to prepare and cook this dish right in AMMO’s kitchen.
Another popular dish was babi rica-rica – Ibérico pork with chilli and rica-rica manado spices. The texture of the pork here was chewy (I prefer my meat more on the tender side), but despite that, the flavours were aromatic and appetising.
An Indonesian feast cannot be complete without the national dish of Indonesia: nasi goreng mengkudu. The seafood fried rice was beautifully accompanied by noni leaves and turmeric. I loved everything about it, except that the seafood pieces could have been larger in size.
Other main courses were all curry (jackfruit, fish and chicken), which – to our surprise – were not very spicy. The sambal (chilli dipping sauce), which went particularly well with the rice crackers, was the fiercest item of all.
As one can never be too full for dessert, there were three desserts to satisfy our sweet tooth. Lapis legit saus kopi alpukat is a thousand layer cake that requires much time and effort to curate. It was dressed with avocado espresso sauce; the creaminess of the avocado worked well with the strong coffee hit from the espresso. It was my first time having avocado-anything as dessert, and it lived up to my expectations.
On top of being Indonesia’s most famous culinary expert, chef, restaurateur, food consultant, critic and host of his own very popular TV series Cooking Adventure with William Wongso, Chef Wongso also served as a culinary adviser to Garuda Indonesia and leads the food diplomacy programme endorsed by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade.
William’s latest recipe book, Flavours of Indonesia: William Wongso’s Culinary Wonders, won the Best Book of the Year at the 2017 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The awards are recognised as the Oscars of the F&B industry, which makes William a first-rate chef and cookbook author.