Bamboo Cooking in the Oven
Petty Elliott is a cook, an author of Papaya Flower, and a champion of modern Indonesian cooking. She recently came back from Frankfurt, Germany, as part of an Indonesian Culinary Mission to Frankfurt Book Fair 2014. At the Gourmet Gallery there, she shared her family recipes.
What is Papaya Flower about?
The idea came when I was living in England. I wanted to write about the food that I grew up with as a child living in Manado. I remember well how beautiful my grandparents’ coconut plantation was, and how beautiful Bunaken was. So, Papaya Flower captures all these memories.
What was cooking like at home in Manado?
My grandma from my father’s side is half-Dutch, and my grandpa from my mother’s side is from Sangir-Talaud, an island located north of Sulawesi that is close to the Philippines, while my grandma from my mother’s side is Chinese Manadonese. So, imagine the foods were so varied in my house when I grew up.
My grandma still used basic cooking equipment like wood as a burner. I am just grateful that I had the chance to witness that before our traditional cooking techniques started to disappear.
You are rooted in your home cooking, yet you are open to modernity. How do you do this without losing the character of your family recipes?
It is very simple. It’s important to compromise, and be adaptive in the kitchen because you don’t want to be frustrated when you don’t have the ingredients you need on hand. My message is to be flexible in our kitchen but first, it is important to understand the original recipes.
For me, cooking should be fun. It is very typical of Manadonese to use bamboo, woka or banana leaves in cooking. I would have liked to cook like this everyday, but it is impractical so I had this idea of bamboo cooking in the oven.
You are one of the champions of Indonesian modern cooking. What’s your take on this?
It is very important to respect quality local ingredients by applying suitable cooking technique to those ingredients. I really value this that sometimes I use traditional cooking technique using modern equipment such as bamboo cooking in an oven.
In terms of flavour, people know Manado cuisine as very spicy. Let’s say if we talk about Rica-Rica, the chilies, ginger and shallots are actually half of the weight of the chicken itself. I am trying to tone down the chilies because it’s very important to taste other flavour, not just the chilies. So I adapt my cooking a little bit to a modern palate.
Tell us what you cooked at your session “From Bamboo Cooking to Modern Today’s Kitchen” and how did people respond to that?
In the session at the Gourmet Gallery, I cooked pork tinorangsak using pork fillet that I bought in the local market. The tinorangsak itself is a spice paste I made from shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, turmeric, chillies, sliced lemon grass and lime leaves. First, I seared the pork with salt, black pepper and lime juice then browned them for 1 minute, each side. Then I covered the pork with the tinorangsak paste, and cook it further in the oven for around 40 minutes. I also cooked corn fritters with dabu-dabu, cod fillet (local or European fish) woku belanga served with capellini (angel hair pasta), and an express banana kolak with cinnamon.
In those sessions, I could tell that people were so curious about our cuisine, particularly Manadonese. I only brought 10 of my books with me, and sold them out within three minutes.