Maverick Southeast Asian cuisines specialist
The culinary appropriator behind Mamasan, Sarong, Hujan Locale, and Tiger Palm in Bali’s stylish community hub and retail space Seminyak Village, on gleaning recipes from matriarchs, putting nutmeg in cocktails, and his love of chicken feet, and MSG.
I started traveling around countries in Asia when I was a teenager, and that was my first encounter with Asian flavours. Then I started my career in Australia, in a restaurant that served Asian food. At that stage, I thought I learned quite a lot. Then I moved to Indonesia where I met my wife who is Indonesian, I suddenly realised I actually had not learned anything yet. Then we moved to Thailand and back to Indonesia. By that time my wife had introduced me to a wider palate of the cuisine. Long story short, Asian food is now my every day meal, I love it and breath it. That includes chicken feet, shrimp paste and the irresistible instant noodles – with the MSG of course, mixed with chopped chillies. Love is blind, indeed.
All the restaurants I manage are inspired by the richness of Southeast Asian flavours. I travel a lot, I meet the people, knock on their doors, cook with them in their kitchens, and witness theirs lives. Tiger Palm is no different. There’s a strong Peranakan feel into all sides of Tiger Palm, and the intense history of Peranakan is what inspired me. [It’s about] how different cultures merged in marriages, resulting in a brand new richer culture and brand new richer flavours.
All my recipes brought from the streets of many regions throughout Southeast Asia. I always try my best to keep the taste of every dish authentic. If it has to be spicy, then it’s spicy. So many times, I do have to be very creative to serve it to my guests, because the tantalising taste of street food doesn’t necessarily show on the plate.
I learn and get the recipes from local ladies in their kitchens. Keeping the taste as authentic as possible is the only thing I do. And that’s actually a big challenge.
Actually, the concept of all my restaurants on food side, are pretty similar: Southeast Asian. Mama San highlights Chinese, Vietnamese and some Thai; Sarong highlights Indian and Thai; Hujan Locale highlights Indonesian, E&O in Jakarta highlights Thai, and Tiger Palm highlights Malaysian (with Peranakan dishes and its influences such as Chinese, Indian and Thai) cuisines.
We celebrate and promote Indonesian and generally Southeast Asian heritage. The cocktails are named after Indonesia’s legendary jamu or medicinal herb drinks, which have survived pretty well for centuries. Similar herb drinks can be found throughout Southeast Asia with different names. For instance, galian montok featuring gin, soda, mint, citrus, and nutmeg jam; ginseng prakoso composed of rum, nutmeg, soda, lemon, basil, and vanilla; and sehat pria, a drink mixing bourbon with citrus, ginger beer, syrup, and nutmeg foam.
Our food uses a lot of spices, as do the drinks. Besides the usual cocktails, we use nutmeg in some of them. The spice adds a hint of sweetness and nutty tastes to enhance the flavours of our cocktails.