Kuliner Initiative provides Vancouver residents with a taste of Indonesia

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      With more than 17,000 islands situated between the Pacific and Indian oceans, Indonesia is known for its natural beauty: its beaches, volcanoes, canyons, and lakes. But the equatorial archipelago is also a paradise for food lovers.

      Home to more than 200 ethnic groups, the country is remarkably diverse when it comes to recipes and flavours, from curries and coconut milk to sambal and satay.

      Taking its name from the Indonesian word for cooking, a new culinary series called the Kuliner Initiative aims to give people here a better sense of that tropical nation’s palate.

      “Indonesia has 34 provinces, and every province has its own unique culinary traditions,” says Tri Astuti—who works in the economic section of Vancouver’s Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia—during a phone interview. “We want to give more information to people here in B.C. about Indonesian foods, for people to experience a taste of Indonesia.”

      The consul general is working with Wonderful Indonesia (the official website of Indonesian tourism) and the Permai B.C. Association (which represents the province’s Indonesian community), along with Nusa Coffee, Tempea Natural Foods, and the Holy Crab, for the Kuliner Initiative. Also partnering is Refection Dining, a private dining service headed by chef Djaka Putra.

      The project launches with a lunch series beginning March 28. The 11:45 a.m. gathering, which is taking place at the Holy Crab (1588 Robson Street), will focus on Betawi cuisine.

      The Betawi, sometimes referred to as the “people of Jakarta”, are the region’s Indigenous inhabitants. The meal will feature what Astuti calls Jakarta’s main foods: soto (traditional soup) Betawi and gado-gado.

      Soto Betawi is a dense beef soup made by simmering meat and offal in coconut milk along with ingredients like lemongrass, turmeric, and lime leaves. The soup is typically served with various condiments, including scallions, sweet soy sauce, tomatoes, and bitter-nut emping (crackers).

      Also known as lotek, gado-gado consists of hard-boiled eggs and raw or lightly cooked vegetables in peanut sauce.

      The second lunch in the series will take place in May and will feature nasi goreng (stir-fried rice). (Details are to be announced.)

      The Kuliner Initiative has other events on the roster, including Indonesian cooking demonstrations, where guests get to sample different dishes and take home recipes. Tempeh is the star ingredient for the June session, while Indonesian snacks and coffee get the spotlight in September.

      An Indonesian cooking workshop is also scheduled for September, when people will learn how to make rendang (beef brisket in Indonesian spices).

      More information is available at the Kuliner website.