It is a country with the fourth highest population in the world and a culinary fusion like no other, but until now Indonesian cuisine has been a little hard to find on the Border.
Realising what locals were missing out on, Bonegilla chef Andrew Hayes, and his Javanese wife, Felly, ‘popped-up’ with a street kitchen five months ago to serve fresh charcoal-cooked dishes at local markets and events.
“I was hoping to do markets on weekends to cook outdoors without being locked into a kitchen,” Andrew says.
“When you’re a chef you don’t always get to meet the people you’re cooking for, you only see their orders” he said.
“This way we get to talk face-to-face about the food and the culture behind it.”
Called The Spirit of Java, the couple’s street kitchen has a growing fan base for their traditional beef, chicken and vegan dishes, attracting several phone enquiries a day from event organisers across Victoria and New South Wales.
“Indonesian food is like nothing else,” Andrew says.
“There are completely different flavours to other Asian dishes but unless you try it you don’t know.”
“Because of the Dutch colonial influence in Indonesia, traditional dishes use spices like nutmeg,” he said.
“Also, most people don’t realise that cloves are native to the area,” he said.
“The smell and taste of our street kitchen is exactly what you would get in central Java.”
The culinary couple met in Brisbane a few years ago, where Felly was a student, and later married in her Indonesian hometown, Surakata, also known as Solo City.
Some of their pre-wedding photographs were taken in a traditional Indonesian kitchen by Jimboeng, one of the photographers hired by Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, for his daughter’s recent wedding.
Andrew and Felly now have a young daughter of their own, Alisha, aged 15-months, who is also proving to be a crowd favourite with their regular customers.
For details on where to find The Spirit of Java at an event or market near you: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiritOfJav4/