Sharing Indonesia's Food With the World

Sharing Indonesia's Food With the World
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The TV show opened with Indonesian culinary expert Bondan Winarno and his youngest daughter, Gwendoline Amanda Wirastari, standing in front of Prambanan Temple on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. The morning sun filtered though the temple towers, creating a serene, majestic tableau. The father and daughter scoured the temple and briefly explained its history. Afterward, they went to Pasar Lempuyangan in Yogyakarta to enjoy jadah manten, a traditional sweet and savory snack made of cassava, brown sugar and coconut. “I love this so much,” Gwen said, smiling at the camera. Father and daughter were filming an episode for the first season of “Taste of Indonesia,” a TV program that showcases the riches of Indonesian cuisines on the Asian Food Channel. Based in Singapore, the AFC is a 24-hour cable and satellite TV channel that features Asian foods and lifestyles. In Indonesia, AFC is broadcast by major cable TV providers, including First Media, Indovision, Aora and Telkomvision. Through AFC, the “Taste of Indonesia” is being aired in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Hong Kong, Mongolia and Indonesia. “It all started five years ago with a chat between friends at a studio in Jakarta,” Bondan said. “It occurred to us that we could actually promote the country by featuring Indonesian cuisines in a regional TV show.” Bondan and his friends then raised money to make a demo videotape, which they shot in Bali, focusing on street foods. They offered the tape to several TV stations in Asia. “Many of them were interested in putting the show on the air but we couldn’t find a sponsor to produce it,” he said. The project was shelved. In early 2010, the deputy minister of trade at the time, Mahendra Siregar, called Bondan to his office. “They were launching a program, ‘100% Cinta Produk Indonesia’ [‘100% Love for Indonesian Products’],” Bondan said. “And they asked me what I could do to support the program.” Bondan then showed Mahendra his demo videotape and explained his idea of promoting Indonesia with a food show. The deputy minister was interested and agreed to finance the show. “Why does the Ministry of Trade promote Indonesian cuisines?” asked Mahendra’s successor as deputy minister, Bayu Krisnamurthi. “Because it’s an extremely big business. Just imagine, Indonesians consume 40 million tons of rice per year. And that’s only rice. We haven’t taken into account the beef, chicken and eggs being consumed by Indonesian people.” According to the deputy minister, 90 percent of Indonesian culinary products are produced by small-to-medium enterprises. And 64 percent of all small-to-medium enterprises in Indonesia are food-related. “Thus, by promoting Indonesian cuisines, we promote the economy and trade of the country,” Bayu said. The production funds were allocated for the show on the condition that the entire 12-episode season was produced and aired by the end of 2011. “We had to finish filming 12 episodes in only six weeks,” Bondan said. “Our schedule was terribly hectic.” Because of the time constraints, Bondan did not have time to cast for co-hosts, so he asked his youngest daughter to present the show with him. “I was both surprised and ecstatic,” Gwen said. But her surprise and delight did not last long. Both Bondan and Gwen had to rush to finish the show. “We filmed in three different regions in a week,” she said. “It was terribly exhausting.” But Gwen, who spent most of her youth in the United States, said she discovered a lot about her native country during the filming of the show. “We traveled a lot with the crew by car,” she said. “It really opened my eyes. Indonesia is indeed very beautiful. I wouldn’t have seen it all with my own eyes if I weren’t on the show.” An unforgettable experience for Gwen was when she watched a group of women cooking rendang (caramelized beef curry) in front of their houses in a village in Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra. “They appeared to be very happy when cooking rendang for us,” Gwen said. “Their village was small, yet very beautiful. It’s located at the foot of a beautiful mountain amid lush green paddy fields.” Rendang takes more than six hours to cook. An international survey by in July 2011 ranked the dish among the top 50 most delicious foods in the world. “We’re very happy with the partnership,” said Derrick Foo, deputy director of partnerships and campaigns at AFC. “The show gets very good feedback from our viewers.” The first season of the show went to air last November and December. “A survey showed that AFC beat all other channels when the ‘Taste of Indonesia’ was aired in prime time,” according to Foo. The research, conducted by AGB Nielsen in Malaysia, showed that approximately 3.2 million viewers watched the first screening of the show in that country alone. “It shows that our viewers are enthusiastic to see more and more Indonesian [culinary] programs,” Foo said. Reruns of the show are now being aired on AFC in eight countries on Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Jakarta time. “The program improves awareness and appreciation for the cuisines of Indonesia both domestically and internationally,” said Bayu, the deputy minister. “I’m sure that if we continue this program, it will create a positive impact on Indonesia’s trade and tourism in the near future.” Bondan agreed. “Indonesian cuisine is one of the most obvious and important tourist attractions in the country,” he said. “If you go to Semarang [Central Java], what are you going to see?” Bondan asked. “You may go to the ancient Sam Po Kong temple or Lawang Sewu [old building] in the city for a couple of hours. Or you may come to see the Tugu Muda [war monument] for 15 minutes. And then what? “But if I give you my list of Semarang’s culinary delights, you can sample the suggestions for three days and three nights and still not finish it.” According to Bondan, there are at least 20 cities in Indonesia with rich culinary histories, including Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Manado in North Sulawesi and Pontianak in West Kalimantan. “Food is a slice-of-life experience,” he said. “Through cuisine, we can learn the ways of life of the people and appreciate their traditional cultures.” As for Gwen, she said she hoped the show would inspire a sense of love and pride for Indonesian cuisines in her two children, Saffron, 10, and Gael, 5. “They love Western foods now,” she said. “But when they see the show, they’ll see how varied and delicious Indonesian cuisines are. Hopefully, they’ll try to love Indonesian food, too.” taken from The Jakarta Globe

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