Trying out new cuisine is one of the best reasons to travel, but if you can’t, then discover it right where you are. This is why I recently attended an event that brings the Indonesian community in Tanzania together every month.
There was a buffet of spicy rice, grilled chicken, fried chicken, fried fish (which was my favourite), oxtail soup, cassava chips, fried banana wrapped with wheat flour and Indonesian thick omelette known as dadar telur Padang. It is fluffy and spicy. The eggs are mixed with red onions, spring onions, tomatoes, black pepper and salt.
The turmeric fried chicken called ayam goreng or bahasa was served with a chili sauce dip.
The chicken is not heavily breaded or battered. It is first marinated and then simmered in a mixture of spices and herbs and then fried. Chef Mustaqim highly recommended the grilled chicken.
I was accompanied by my Indonesian friend Zefanya Todoan, who had the nasi goreng (fried rice), which is steamed rice made with kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce that stains the rice dark brown and caramelises it when it cooks, with flavours of chilli, shrimp paste, onions, garlic and tomatoes.
The fried fish was the winner for me and it is marinated with a lot of chilli and then fried.
Chef Mustaqim said Indonesian food is always marinated in a blend of garlic, onions, fresh tomatoes, and chillies.
I also tried oxtail for the first time. It was boiled with black pepper, garlic and cinnamon. When served, soy sauce and chilli is recommended.
A must at an Indonesian buffet is cassava chips, which is eaten with other items on the menu. The chips are made with cassava flour mixed with blended rice flour, garlic, coriander and baking powder, then sun dried before being deep fried.
For dessert, there was fried banana wrapped in pastry and powdered with sugar. There was also rice mixed with sugar, coated with shredded coconut and served with shaved ice which is mixed with cassava and yeast, avocado and jack fruit.
It was easy for me to try every food on the buffet, because other than being cooked differently, they were all familiar ingredients.