Saturday, May 23, 2009

Java Holland fusion cuisine: The Reistaffel

I love fusion cuisines, the more stranger the better, Swiss-Swahili, German-Ghana, you name it, but none is stranger and more wonderful than the Javanese-Holland fusion food!

In the early days of WWII (the spring of 1942) when the Japanese invaders were chasing the 5th air force across Indonesia, the American airmen landed in Java, a picturesque spot where the war had not yet reached.

My father told me the tale of how, after half starving in the jungles, they got to Java where they had real stores and wonderful restaurants, and even telephones! (a three minute telephone call cost over $30, more than a month’s pay, but they were able to call home). All this normalcy, right in the shadow of an imminent Japanese invasion!

One Dutch delicacy in Java is the reistaffel, a multi-course fusion cuisine of Asian and Dutch influences.

An Amsterdam reistaffel

Half starved and under 150 pounds, my father raved about how delicious reistaffel was; a welcome alternative to their diet of bananas and monkeys . . .

When Janet and I were visiting friends in Amsterdam recently, we made sure that we tried this wonderful fusion dish. It takes hours to eat a reistaffel, up to 15 tiny tasting courses, one after the other, each an amazing fusion of Dutch and Javanese spices.

To learn more about the amazing heroes who defended Java against the Japanese, see the fascinating book “Queens Die Proudly”.