This is not going to be an actual recipe, but a description of a fairly typical Dutch thing called “Indische rijsttafel”. I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing what it is because there’s plenty of resources available for that. What I am going to spend some time on is explain why “rijsttafel” is a picky eater’s idea of heaven.
Eating out is always stressful for someone who has trouble deciding what he or she wants. This is not just “being difficult”, it’s the difference between a snapshot decision for a neurotypical person and an overwhelming multitude of equally valid choices for an autistic person. How do you decide? It’s not that easy. And what if you hate whatever you ended up choosing because everyone was staring at you and waiting for you to make up your mind? The social rules governing complaints about food are another minefield that’s nearly impossible to navigate.
This is why I love rijsttafels. In Dutch Indonesian restaurants, you sit down, someone decides how much money you’re willing to spend per person, there might be a few extra questions about what kind of rice everyone wants (white, yellow, fried, or sticky – easily solved by just getting every kind) and that is it. Next thing you know, there’s about 40 different dishes being served out. You can be as picky as you like and simply start by eating some rice, then if you feel confident or relaxed enough, try a very small spoonful of whatever looks non-threatening. THIS IS HOW EVERYONE EATS RIJSTTAFEL. It’s awesome.
So in case you ever get the chance to eat at a Dutch Indonesian restaurant, I thought it would be nice to show you some of the dishes that you may encounter.
|Nasi putih||White rice. Think that’s fairly trigger free with regards to texture and taste. Unless you don’t like rice.|
|Nasi goreng||Fried rice. Usually contains bits of egg (with omelet texture) and fairly easy to spot bits of cooked ham and leek. Can contain other things as well. Took me years before I could eat it, too many different textures going on.|
|Nasi kuning / koening||Yellow rice. My favourite. Slightly sweet coconut taste but dry, not sticky.|
|Lontong||Sticky rice cakes. You don’t see them very often. Fairly mushy, tastes of white rice and water.|
|Daging rendang||Looks terrible, but it actually tastes brilliant. Slow cooked beef in a creamy lightly-spiced sweet coconut sauce.|
|Daging semor / smoor||Another one that looks terrible but isn’t. Slow cooked beef in a sweet-spicy soy sauce.|
|Daging rudjak / roedjak||Slow cooked beef in a thick spicy sauce.|
|Daging bali||Slow cooked beef (noticing a theme here?) in a very spicy sauce (made primarily with crushed chili peppers)|
|Sateh / sate||You guessed it, satay. Comes in several different forms, although the most common is chicken (ajam) with a medium spicy peanut sauce. Texture of the sauce is usually very smooth.|
|Sateh kecap / sate ketjap||Same as above but instead of peanut sauce, it’s served with a spicy-sweet soy sauce, a bit sticky. Much nicer in my opinion.|
|Telor||Means egg. Can come in several varieties like “Telor Sambal Goreng” (the most common one, a spicy currylike sauce). I can’t stand hard-boiled eggs so I avoid them.|
|Sayur lodeh / sajoer lodeh||Several different vegetables lightly boiled in coconut milk. Usually contains cabbage, green beans, carrots, and bean sprouts. Sometimes also tofu or tempeh. I like it but wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like slippery veggies.|
|Sambal goreng boontjes||My favourite vegetable dish ever. Green beans in a sort of coconut / chili pepper stew. But the green beans should still be chewy instead of mushy. Sometimes they get it wrong and then I’m really disappointed.|
|Atjar||Pickles. Atjar tjampoer is mostly cabbage and carrots, and atjar ketimoen is mostly cucumber. Vinegar which means I stay away from it, so no idea what it actually tastes like.|
|Tempeh goreng||A pressed soy bean product. Cut in small pieces and fried in a spicy sauce. Very peculiar, sort of sticky texture, spicy and sweet taste. I really like it.|
|Krupuk / kroepoek||Prawn crackers. Can be a bit odd at first because the air bubbles in the crackers sort of suck on your tongue. OK, that sounds weird. But it is actually quite a funny feeling. Like cheese puffs.|
|Seroendeng / serundeng||Toasted shredded coconut with sugar and spices|
|Pisang goreng||Battered and deepfried banana. Nothing wrong with that.|
|Spekkoek||Cake made out of extremely thin layers of vanilla and a sort of spice cake batter. Moist and sweet, but not overly so. Texture is almost like pancakes. If you are not so sure about wanting to try Indonesian food, at least try this. It’s spectacularly yummy and it’s a lot of fun trying to peel the layers apart even though other people will think you’re weird for doing that. But who cares. 😉|