Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Kalimantan Flavors at Kempinski Jakarta

The first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the word "Kalimantan" is the myriad of tropical rainforests with animals and plants we probably won't find in any other parts of the world. In a place like that, imagine what food is going to be like. In the end of August, Lunch Getaway took a two hour escape from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta to step into the recreation of magical Kalimantan at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, Jakarta.

Kempinski brought the whole island inside Signatures Restaurant as a part of a month-long Nusantara Food Festival. Going the extra mile, the hotel appointed a Kalimantan-based private chef to present authenticity. So, what are the taste, hidden under the vast beauty of Indonesia's largest island?

According to Chef Meliana Christianty, who helmed the Kalimantan team, it's indeed the nature. "Kalimantan food derived from the prosperity of its nature: the forest, the rivers, the sea, even down from the local backyards and village gardens. The tribes in Kalimantan are known for its ability to use what's growing around them, cooking them into something delicious," she explained.

Chef Meliana Christianty
Chef Meliana Christianty, the mastermind behind the cuisine

Kalimantan Dishes

Chef Meliana, who is based Pangkalan Bun, Kotawaringin Barat, Central Kalimantan, guided us through the food. One particular ingredient which kept popping up in different dishes is Cabe Habang, a dried red chili. Like the Bebek masak Habang (Caramelized Duck Cooked with Habang Chili) from Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan on the main course section or the Iga Sapi masak Habang (Ribs cooked with Habang Chili) on the carving station which mixes the spices, Habang Chili and Coconut Milk for the sauce. "Back in Kalimantan, we don't usually use ribs," said Chef Meliana. But the change doesn't seem to affect the delicious and juicy dish. 

Fiona expressed concern about consuming spicy dishes, but Chef Meliana said despite the color of Habang (Habang means red), it's not as spicy.

Different parts of Kalimantan are home to unique dishes, including the sambal. Take Sambal Raja Kutai from Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, for example. Or Dadah Belasan, Kahayan chili sauce with shrimp paste, a native to Dayak Kahayan tribe in Central Kalimantan. The Dadah is a mix of lemongrass and shrimp paste. Chef Meliana described this like "Crème brûlée ". The paste, a personal favorite of Chef Meliana, accompanies a satay dish served on a beef broth bowl filled with rice cakes called Sate Sapi Melayu Pontianak. Satay on a soup deserve an applause not only for the concept but also for the refreshing taste.

Sate Sapi Melayu Pontianak
served with beef broth and rice cakes cultets
"Different tribe means different flavors," Chef Meliana said. It's because they are using different spices and ingredients for their dishes. "The most common ones are Cabe Habang, Terung Asam Rimbang, Pucuk Pakis and Sayur Kelakai that grows in the swamp." Kelakai, like Pucuk pakis, is a vegetable from the fern family which is believed to have anti-aging effect. Terung Asam Rimbang (sour eggplant) is cooked with Tenggiri Asam Pedas (spicy and sour fish soup) at Signature, representing the West Kalimantan area. This dish is Ruth's favorite after Iwak Karing Batanak (Poached Duck Egg & Salted Fish in Savory Coconut milk of Banjar in South Kalimantan) because of the impression left after finishing a portion. It reminds you of a comfortable food you'd always want to have on your table. A tenggiri with an extra kick. 

Iwak Karing Batanak
(Poached Duck Egg & Salted Fish in Savory Coconut milk
of Banjar in South Kalimantan)
Fiona went on second serving with the squid despite being full. The Banjar Cumi Baubar (literally means grilled squid) probably puts a spell on her that she still mentions "squid" days after our visit to Signature. It's soft, not chewy with sweet spices that's not overwhelming. It's truly appreciated because with an Indonesian dish, spices can either be friends or enemies. 

Cumi Baubar (Grilled Squid) of Banjar Region
On the vegetable side: Teripang and Jamur Hioko Masak Jahe (Braised Sea Cucumber & Hioko Mushroom) and Tumis Mentimun (Sauteed Cucumber & Eggs) are both from West Kalimantan.

Soup is an acquired taste for us. Gangan Ubi Jukun, the Sweet Potato, Water Spinach, Smoked Fish & Kalimantan Jungle Eggplant Soup from Kutai, East Kalimantan, presents a foreign taste to our mouth. While the sweet potato and water spinach are everyday things for us, the broth takes you back to the Kalimantan Jungle. Don't really know how to describe this soup. Definitely need to give it a sip to complete your adventure. 

Out of curiousity, we asked Chef Meliana about what to bring home from Kalimantan. She pointed out Pepes Kepiting (Grilled Spicy Crab meat wrapped in Banana Leaves), a native to Balikpapan, in one of the pots. The rich spices mixture is often sold as food souvenir with Abon Kepiting (shredded beef with crab) from those returning from a trip to Kalimantan. We love the Pepes. It's flavorful and tempting to eat even without being accompanied by rice. 

Pepes Kepiting (Grilled Spicy Crab meat wrapped in Banana Leaves)
A culinary journey isn't complete without dessert. So our "field trip" ends with Sarang Burung Walet and Pisang Gapit, both are (lucky for us) not to sweet. Sarang Burung Walet (Bird's Nest), unlike it's name is a jelly-based dessert, often complemented by nata de coco and other fruits. While pisang gapit is a grilled banana. This time is served with Durian sauce.

Fiona: Isn't this jelly?
Ruth: Yes, it's jelly.
Fiona: Bird's nest?
Ruth: Jelly.

Pisang Gapit (left) with traditional Indonesian snacks
Es Sarang Burung (Bird's Nest)

Indonesian dessert table
We walk away from Signatures Restaurant at the end of out two-hour Friday break, feeling satisfied and happy that our short trip to Kalimantan introduced us to many things we can tell the world about Indonesian dishes. Special thanks to Hotel Indonesia Kempinski for the Borneo adventure.

Where is This?
Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Lobby Level
Jl. M.H. Thamrin no 1, Jakarta Pusat
(021) 23583898
Twitter: @KempinskiJKT

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