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So where’s the Flavor Florence?

January 31, 2018 2:32 pm Published by

Travellers, Be Prepared

The two nice wealthy Indonesian ladies were enjoying a romp around Europe without hubby and the whining kids. They had done London and Berlin, snapped photos before the Eiffel Tower and leaned with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

By the time they arrived in Rome they were feeling, well, rather rubbery. Bulging. Plump (that’s being nice about it). If they had lost their shape before (as happens to females, alas – they say ‘Have you heard of the magical food that adds twenty kilos and takes away all sexual desire?’ ‘What is it?’ ‘Wedding cake’.)Now they were getting tubby.

Nyonya ‘A’ complains to Nyonya ‘B’: ‘I can barely get into this lovely dress that cost so much in Amsterdam’ (please, ‘A’ and ‘B’ is all you get: they shall remain nameless, for the sake of decorum).
‘We have been eating much too much.’

Nyonya ‘B’ nods, rolls of five-star fat nodding along with her. ‘Let’s just have a salad for lunch.’

A Rocket Salad for the O.K.B.*

As usual, ‘A’ and ‘B’ chose the most expensive restaurant they could find, as they were determined to shed as much of Daddy’s corrupt riches as they could (one was married to the Minister of Mystery and the other to the Director General of Indone$ian Cu$tom$).

They sat down to a gracious table set with fine silverware and linen and ordered the Arugula Salad (highest-priced item on the menu). How glorious it looked, festooned with Parmesan Cheese – but oh dear, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, vinegar and black pepper!

Their first bite revealed their disappointment. ‘It’s too spicy!’ ‘It’s bitter!’ they whined.

‘Waiter!’ one beckoned, and in a flash their svelte waiter zooms by, always alert to the big-tipper Asian tourists. ‘Yes, Madame?’

She pouts, waddles jiggling. ‘It’s not what we like.’

The other nods, doubtfully. ‘It’s sour. And bitter.’

The waiter stands there, looking perplexed.

‘Could you please bring us a bowl of sugar?’

Now this guy has been around. He’s seen and heard it all. But nothing like this.

‘Sugar?’ he gulps.

They both nod, in unison, giving him a look which would have been cute and coy back around 1985.
He marches off to the kitchen. Now they’ll get that familiar sweet aura that permeates nearly all Indonesian cuisine, from the gorengan to the gado-gado.

But, alas, NO. Instead the waiter trails anxiously behind a huge, scowling, red-faced chef, who marches up to their table, the glassware all trembling with his stomping, and roars ‘Sugar? You want to put SUGAR ON MY SALAD?’

Now all conversation in the restaurant has stopped dead in the water; all the patrons have turned and are staring at the drama unfolding over at the ‘Indonesian table’. The poor (rich) matrons, bewildered, embarrassed, feel like shrinking under the table. What did they do wrong?

Well, dear ladies, there are some things you do not want to monkey around with…

Do You Want to taste the FOOD? Or the SAUCE?

One of the biggest disappointments of my life was the one time I had the opportunity to eat fugu.

No, I was not disappointed at having escaped a painful slow death from poisoning (still happens occasionally, when the toxic glands are not completely removed from the blowfish – this apparently makes the event more exciting for some lovers of this rare and expensive cuisine).

Kaiseki Ryori is (like most Japanese foods) exquisitely prepared, arrayed beautifully and relatively tasteless. ‘Oh it’s because you are a gross Westerner and cannot appreciate the subtle textures and flavors of our exquisite inscrutable oriental blah blah blah…’ I can hear them sneering already.

Our organization in Osaka had apparently turned a fat profit because the entire teaching staff was invited to one of those US$ 95-a-plate dinners at a traditional restaurant. I was looking forward to my first opportunity to eat the famed blowfish (and not get the Borgia-style poisoning, hopefully). It was a mean repast of little tasteless carrots, bits of this and that, while we awaited the famed blowfish.

Big deal. ‘It tastes like a rubber eraser’ I was foolish enough to comment. ‘Sir! You are a guest here and should appreciate the invitation’ I was reminded by a fellow staff member (and asshole). Shouldn’t speak my mind.

But you could hardly taste the blowfish for the spicy orange sauce it was served with (see above)! Once again, the condiment overpowers the food it is supposed to enhance. 

(In case you’re interested, here’s a variety of ways to blow your dough: )

America’s Favorite Drink

That’s what the smart alecks call it: watch those fast food addicts slather the sullen re-heated mystery meat and leathery French fries with catsup.

Clearly, what the dopes with cast-iron stomachs are after is the flavor of catsup itself – considering that the fast food is (let us put it tactfully) not that delicious. Cheap ingredients, loaded with additives and ‘enhancers’, cooked, frozen, reheated and served half-warm: that’s what you get in your favorite junk food emporium. Enjoy yourself and we’ll come visit you in the Coronary Care Unit.

You Do Not Need to Drown Our Food

When you sit down with your friends and family for a wholesome, filling repast at Yaudah Bistro (or you can bring your enemies along with you – we don’t mind, as long as there’s no gunplay), our ever-alert waitresses naturally arrange a place-setting for each diner, consisting of a place mat, fork, knife and spoon.

They also bring along two hefty containers for those accustomed totarting up their food: sambal and catsup. Or ketchup. Either way, it’s confusing: Indonesian kecap is what we call ‘steak sauce’ in English and English ketchup is what Indonesians call ‘saus tomat’. Now it is clear as mud, right?

‘Ajang stop aiming that container of sambal at your little brother. I don’t care if he did squirt you with the catsup. Behave yourself! The Bistro is a refined eatery for polite patrons.’

You are welcome to subject our delicate cuisine to a blast of these spicy condiments… but perhaps you should try them without the extra flavorings first…

Certain sauces are truly complementary to food: our tartar sauce, for instance, brings up the subtle flavors of our snapper, either broiled or smoked (snapper is deceased by this point and does not mind which way you eat it).

You are welcome to order tartar as a side dish with our tasty fried squid rings (our waitresses never learned to pronounce ‘calimari’ so you’ll have to yell ‘call-a-Morris’ at them).

Sauces are as old as food itself. ‘Sauce’ is French, derived from Latin ‘salsa’ meaning ‘salted’ (yes, some patrons lather all their food in salt and pepper before even tasting it – so what can we do?)

The oldest recorded European sauce is a fermented fish sauce called ‘garum’ (think Vietnamese nước mắm) which the Greeks used on their food thousands of years ago. (Actually the fast food you get in Jakarta may be thousands of years old, for all we know.)

Chinese literature mentions sauces used to brighten flavor in 3rd century BC.That enables them, as the saying goes, to eat everything with four legs except for the table, everything that flies except airplanes and everything under the seas except submarines.

Sauces are supposed to add flavor, moisture, or visual appeal to a main dish. Not to drown them. Just in case you missed the point.
So come by Yaudah Bistro, either in Jogjakarta or Jakarta, and whoop it up. We welcome all decent patrons, and we’ll take your cash or credit cards with a saucy smile. 

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