Serena is Dutch-Indonesian (‘Indisch’ in Dutch). Her mother was born in the Netherlands, but is of Indonesian descent. Her father is Dutch. In 1958 her Indonesian grandfather and grandmother came to the Netherlands from Java and lived most of their lives in Jakarta. Her mother therefore belongs to the first generation of the family that was born in the Netherlands. As a Dutchman she was brought up with a "touch of the Indies", as Serena calls it. She told us how she experienced this mix of food cultures in her upbringing and convinced us that Dutch-Indonesian cooking is not as difficult as it seems.
Serena says she experienced this mix of cultures at home through the love for birds and plants, but also through the food. “When we were little, we used to go to my grandfather and grandmother, nieces and nephews every Sunday. I still remember that we always got so much good food there. ” She also explains that, because of the war in the past, not much was said about their background or history.
When asked how she would describe the Dutch-Indonesian food culture, Serena replies: “Something I have learned from the food culture is that you always cook a lot and only then see who comes. When more people arrive eventually, more food will be made. You always have enough at home.” The Dutch-Indonesian food culture is therefore very hospitable.
Javanese cuisine is characterized by many snacks and street food. “You don't have that on every Indonesian island. When I was in Bali a few years ago, the first thing I wondered was "where are the snacks?". Serena would like to visit Java again to see where her grandfather and grandmother lived, but also to enjoy the delicious food there. As far as she is concerned, the Dutch-Indonesian food is the best there is! “The nice thing is that every family has its own recipes and gives it its own twist. There is a lot of flavor to it. It's spicy but also sweet. Where other cuisines are a bit fresher, the Dutch-Indonesian kitchen gives true flavor explosions! ”
“Where other cuisines are a bit fresher, the Dutch-Indonesian kitchen gives true flavor explosions! ”
Dutch-Indonesian cuisine is often confused with Indonesian cuisine. But what exactly is the difference? Serena explains it with an illuminating comparison. “It's comparable to the American influence on Italian cuisine. Because many Italians came to America in the past, the American-Italian cuisine was created. Dishes such as "spaghetti meatballs" and "American pizzas" are derived from Italian cuisine, but have been given an American touch. The same has happened with Indonesian cuisine. Due to colonization, Indonesian cuisine has been mixed with Western influences. Gado gado is a good example of this. This is actually a typical Dutch meal, with potatoes, carrots, or even Brussels sprouts mixed with Indonesian vegetables and herbs. Or Pie tutup for example, which is a potato stew from the oven with Dutch-Indonesian spices. ” Serena herself can also really appreciate the Dutch food.
“People often think that you are in the kitchen all day if you are cooking Dutch-Indonesian, but this is certainly not the case!”
Finally, we ask her what other cuisines can learn from Dutch-Indonesian cuisine. Serena believes that every kitchen has its own charm and can learn from each other. She thinks it is important that traditional recipes are preserved, but also thinks that you sometimes have to experiment. She herself would like to cook Dutch-Indonesian more often. Now she cooks nasi goreng almost every week, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a midnight snack. But she would also like to try out new Dutch-Indonesian recipes. This does not have to take a lot of time. “People often think that you are in the kitchen all day when you are cooking Dutch-Indonesian, but that is certainly not the case! You also don't have to buy an arsenal of exotic herbs. You can prepare many recipes with the herbs you already have in the kitchen, ”says Serena. That's why she wants to say to everyone: "Don't let the Dutch-Indonesian cuisine intimidate you, but just give it a try!".
“Don't let the Dutch-Indonesian cuisine intimidate you, but just give it a try! ”.