Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Jakarta: Bondan Winarno, Culinary Expert

If you know anything about food and Indonesia then Bondan Winarno needs no introduction. But if you’re out of the loop or new to the scene, all you need to know is this: Whatever he says, do it. If he tells you to try it, try it. If he tells you to go to a restaurant, find the address. If he tells you to savor something, then it’s definitely “mak nyuss.”

Hailed as the country’s most celebrated culinary expert, a renowned author and the host of his own cooking show, Pak Bondan reveals a few of his favorite spots in Jakarta, tells us what he cooks at home and explains the joys of Jalansutra.

Where did your love of food come from?

There is an Indonesian saying, “Dari mata turun ke hati.” If I see food, I usually have the urge to taste it, and I usually love the food. When I was young, my mother often asked me to help her in the kitchen. My first Boy Scout badge was for cooking. In my early years as a professional, cooking became an antidote to work-related stress. In those days, I often cooked on weekends.

Why ‘mak nyuss’? Where did it come from?

Mak nyuss is an expletive normally used by people from Yogyakarta when they are surprised by something tasty. It was the late Umar Kayam, a leading columnist and novelist, who used the expression in his popular columns. He was a foodie like I am.

Can you talk a little about Jalansutra?

Jalansutra is a weekly column on about traveling and dining. Readers of the column formed a mailing list, which now consists of more than 15,000 members. We exchange information and stories on food and travel-related issues. Not only have I gained information from this community, but I’ve also gained a lot of new friends.

Can you talk about Kopitiam Oey?

Many people suggested that I go into the restaurant business, while some even asked me to be their partners. But I have no track record in this business, and neither am I trained to undertake such an endeavor. Kopitiam is a simple form of food and beverage service on the low end, which I think I can handle. I don’t want the prices to become an obstacle for Indonesians to drink coffee at a place with a nice ambience. I want to revive the old tradition of Chinatown coffee shops. I think it’s unique.


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