Molecular Gastronomy by Chef Andrian Ishak and Authentic North Sumatra Cuisine by Chef William Wongso at Jakarta Culinary Festival 2012

Entered the fourth day of  Jakarta Culinary Festival 2012 the crowd getting thickened, not only because it was Sunday but also because it was the last day of the four days grand opening, which include series of cooking demos from many chefs. Didn’t want to miss a thing, I came early and registered for four cooking classes in a row.

The first cooking demo that day was by two Indonesian Chefs, Mr. William Wongso and Mr. Andrian Ishak, the owner of Namaaz Dining. The first mentioned is a senior chef specialized in Indonesian culinary and the second one is a young chef specialized in Molecular Gastronomy. That day the duo worked together cooked Indonesian food called Arsik Ikan, traditional cuisine from North Sumatra. Both has been discussed the  dish for approximately three weeks, showed how they deliberately devised it.  They cooked Arsik Ikan with different technique, at a different level yet each with unique different taste.

Andrian Ishak and William Wongso

Like most people there, I wasn’t familiar with  the dish.  Might only well-known among North Sumatran and a small amount of people. Chef William Wongso also told us that the best Arsik Ikan can only be found in North Sumatra (maybe this is also why my Batak (North Sumatran) friend laughed at me when i told him that i want to make Arsik Ikan, lol).

Tasted the dish really enriched my experience on flavor. The sour from Buah Kincung and the strong spicy sensation from Andaliman, or what the Bataknese called Itir-Itir, hit right through my mouth once I bit them. What a nice surprise!

While Chef William Wongso started to cook all the herbs for the curry, Chef Andrian has been busy even before the cooking demo started.  To this particular young talented chef we will put our focus on, but of course this doesn’t mean the other forgotten because Mr. William will eventually be the messenger of chef Andrian’s dish.

Chef Andrian started to explain each step to complete the dish. First he purified the fish stock by freezed a small container of stock  in order to rest the other components and take only the clear part of the stock. One small container of fish stock results probably only one tablespoon of purified stock.

He also made a complicated garnish which looks like fish eggs. What interesting was that the center of this “fake” fish eggs is actually fish eggs.

The outer layer of the  main dish made from fresh fish mixed with squid ink altogether with other ingredients. Normally it takes five hours in the making process to create it. This outer layer then filled with fresh fish then rolled it like making sushi. But before that, he powdered some sort of protein adhesive in order to perfectly attached the fish and the outer layer. This process takes about 24 hours.  The results were amazingly beautiful, rolled fish fused with the outer layer perfectly.

For the garnish, he made fish chips. Made from fresh fish and chili puree and baked in a special oven that can reach a temperature as low as 35 degrees Celsius. As for the last process, he turned the Arsik Ikan curry that has been made previously by Chef William Wongso, into powder using liquid nitrogen in a machine that cost around Rp. 35.000.000 (USD 3500). This liquid nitrogen’s temperature is more than minus 100 degree Celsius. The aim is to give a melting powder sensation to the dish. Because after the curry become powder, it will be again meet the room temperature and melt slowly as the temperature goes higher.

Chef Andrian Ishak and the machine for liquid nitrogen

What awed me the most was that this is actually an authentic Indonesian cuisine with its complexity of flavor yet served internationally. He takes our local cuisine to the next level.

Molecular gastronomy indeed covers complicated techniques, certain rare ingredients which is really expensive and can’t be purchased in a small amount of quantity, precise measurement, high creativity, long period of time in the making process, etc. I wouldn’t even complain if this kind of dish cost a fortune.

But the greatest thing from this session of cooking demo was that, ME…my friend… got a chance to try this exquisite dish! And it was truly a pleasure.

Arsik Ikan presented beautifully by chef Andrian
I guess he wasn’t just impressed us but impressed chef William Wongso as well
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