Indonesian cuisine [General]

2009 Aug 3
This is my first posting, so please forgive me for giving a bit of my history and hinting at things to come. Firstly, to the point of my posting:-

Why is there no Indonesian restaurant in Ottawa, which prides itself on being a cosmopolitan city? Indonesian food is the greatest cuisine in the world in my view, far better than Indian or Chinese. Thai food I can take or leave and usually leave, yet there are half a dozen Thai restaurants in the city and no Indonesian ones. Is it just that nobody knows what they are missing? Am I the only person holding this view? Judging by how often I fail to find the favourite things I go to the grocery store for - "we discontinued that because it wasn't selling" - I think this may be the truth. You have a hard time even finding frozen quiche in local stores these days, as I have noticed recently. That will teach me not to be lazy and make my own.

I first discovered Indonesian food in San Francisco in 1967, in my second Great Food Awakening.

I left the family home in England in 1959 to go to university (yes, I've been around a few years). At home we never ate out, apart from fish and chips - and I don't knock English fish and chips because they are far better than the Canadian version because the English potatoes are better, another gripe of mine. My first Great Food Awakening was in 1959 when I discovered Italian, Indian and Chinese food all in the space of one week and thought I'd gone to heaven.

The second Great Awakening was in San Franscisco as I said above. I discovered Greek, Indonesian and Moroccan food in the space of four days and this time I KNEW I had gone to heaven! These three are still my favourites after all these years. I cook Greek food quite a lot - it's an rather unsubtle everyday type of cuisine and quite healthy - but the other two are rather fussy and time-consuming so I cook them far less often.

Indonesian cooking is very labour intensive, as is Dim Sum, and it's virtually impossible to duplicate these at home. On Saturday I spent three hours on two meat dishes along with peanut sauce, a rice dish and three sambals, and on Sunday I spent almost three more hours adding a couple more dishes, replenishing some of the sambals, and reheating the leftovers. I ended up with 9 dishes on the buffet after a total of nearly six hours of preparation and cooking spread over two days. Nine dishes looks quite impressive, but a true rijsttafel doesn't really count if it doesn't have at least 24 dishes. For this this you need several people preparing the food for many diners, and only a restaurant can do this.

About 25 years ago there used to be a restaurant up in the Gatineau which did Indonesian food. And at least as long ago too there was a hotel on Waller Street that served an Indonesian meal one Sunday a month. That was swept away by the Rideau Centre development. Neither of them was anything to write home about but they were better than nothing. But today there seems to be nothing. This is very sad. An interesting thread would be the greatest Ottawa restaurants of the past, and I have some candidates.

My favourite cuisines of the world:

Middle and Eastern European
Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan
Chinese (especially Szechuan and Hunan)

and somewhere down there - BRITISH! - my home cuisine and I do cook a mean steak and kidney pie and I deplore the fact that nobody I know likes it so I don't cook it any more and I am more likely to do spanakopita or galaktoboureko or garides youvetsi or moussaka or taramosalata these days. Eccles cakes, Bakewell tarts, Staffordshire oatcakes, Welsh oven bottom cakes, faggots and peas, cheddar cheese straws, Sally Lunn cakes, Melton Mowbray pork pies, English bangers and mash, Yorkshire pudding (and toad in the hole), steak and kidney pie, game pie, brandy snaps, marmite (although the Swiss Cenovis is far better), English trifle, Ayrshire shortbread, those wickedly delicious steamed suet puddings like golden pudding and spotted dick (instant cholesterol fix but so yummy!), and of course fish and chips. Britain has a cuisine too and in its way it is a good one!

My favourite restaurants in Ottawa can wait for another thread.

2009 Aug 3
hi Tony - welcome to Ottawa Foodies. you should check out Chahaya Malaysia Chahaya Malaysia. i think you'll like it, lots of Malay and Indonesian stuff.

it's way too intense for my British tastebuds - my parents spent much of their younger days in the UK and acquired the knack of making the blandest food ever haha


2009 Aug 4
Mmmm, love their spring rolls and shrimp rolls.

My kingdom for a place offering rijstaffel though. Is there anywhere in Canada that offers it? I'm pretty sure you can't get it in Vancouver which I had thought would be the best chance.

2009 Aug 4
hi T-T-Brit,

First, as Monty mentioned, you should be able to find some Indonesian food @ Chahaya. Depending on what Indonesian expat you speak w/, though, that's Malay food ... the, ahem, poor cousin. (Still, its the best we got, i agree.)

another possibility are the occasional events the Indonesian Embassy puts on; i seem to recall something involving food a couple years ago. Also, wasn't there an Indonesian vendor at the Tulip Fest. this year?

Another might be So Good, on Sommerset. The owner is ethnically Chinese hailing (i think??) from Indonesia. I could be totally wrong, though, and its not like his menu is full w/ Indonesian entries to begin ... but who knows, maybe he'll cook something off-menu for the desperate?

As to why Indonesia isn't well reflected here, i think you answer your own question, in part: labor-intensive. That, and i'd guess, the relative lack of a critical mass of Indonesian expats / community and other related push/pull factors. Also, no huge Dutch community / connection here (wwII and tulips aside).

as to that rijstaffel question, yeah, its even more scarce. Here's a chowhound reference to some place in Tobermory, of all places!

2009 Aug 4
Hahaha, that's absolutely hilarious! The only place offering a rice table in Canada and it's in the most out of the way location possible! Might as well go to Amsterdam!

2009 Aug 4
Tony the Brit - Welcome to Ottawa Foodies.

As for Indonesian cuisine, I'm guessing that it is a matter of demographics... Ottawa's climate just isn't a big draw for those emmigrating from a "tropical" climate (those nationalities seem to be drawn to BC). And most ethnic restaurants have their basis in some aspect of the community. Itchy though made some good points... you might contact the Embassy for info about what they have going on... and yes they were represented at the 2009 Tulip Festival, so might be a good spot to check out next year.

2009 Aug 5
Ottawa doesn't have immigrants from "tropical climates"? Hmm, I guess African nations, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South American countries, etc, aren't very I know...! I agree there are not a lot of Indonesian immigrants here, but the reason is certainly not the weather -coats were invented for a reason, you know.


Yes, too bad about the dearth of Indonesian restaurants. I lived in Malaysia a while back and travelled through Indonesia - the cuisine is unique! And the Malaysian restaurants here are NOT that good - I went to Chahaya Malaysia once and I found the curries were powdery and tasteless. And l can't get a decent bowl of laksa anywhere...:( (and yes I have tried Singapore restaurant -their laksa is only okay, while their other menu items are just like your average Chinese Canadian mall food!)

I saw some Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, and I found it very neat to think of the colonial connection. And when I looked at the tidy brick houses of Amsterdam I thought, so that's what they did with the spoils of their wealth from the Spice Islands...

In regard to the lack of Indonesian restaurants I do have a possible hypothesis for that: In the past I have wondered about the lack of African restaurants in Ottawa - there are a few, but not nearly as many as one would expect given the large number of immigrants here from African countries. I talked about it once with an African -Canadian colleague of mine and he suggested it may be because most Africans prefer to go to someone else's house to eat - not to a restaurant. Chinese, on the other hand, like to go out to eat in restaurants and will often do their entertaining there. So that's an interesting thought - the number of "ethnic" restaurants depends upon how much members of that culture like to eat at restaurants vs. entertaining at home.

Another thing I read once supports this hypothesis: I was reading about a new restaurant opening up in New Delhi. The owner of the restaurant said that it would be North Indian in style "because North Indians like to eat North Indian cuisine, and when South Indians eat out, they like to eat North Indian cuisine!" So, again, perhaps South Indians don't eat out much and, when they do, they prefer a cuisine different from what they get at home.

So do Indonesians like to eat out or not? Any people of Indonesian heritage on Ottawa Foodies?

ps. why are there so few Philipino restaurants in Ottawa? There are many Philipino immigrants, and several good groceries here, but only a few restaurants! I shall have to visit one of them and ask!

2009 Aug 5
That's a good question re. Filipino restaurants. No shortage of 'em in the Philippines. On the other hand, no shortage of Flp. home-parties in Canada, hehe. Looking forward to hearing what you find on this.

And, in a partial answer to your other question, there's no dearth of "restaurants" in Indonesia, either--in the full spectrum the word conjures up, from road-side stalls through palatial hotel restaurants.

Its a bit difficult, though, to open a push-cart restaurant in Canada (bylaws, weather, etc.), so perhaps that eliminates a whole spectrum of opportunities here?

Re. the colonialism idea, I tend to think one could tease that theme (the whole "they're here because we were there") a bit more in this case: there's less of connection, less importation of Indonesian cuisines, here in Canada (vs. Holland).

On the other hand, i think the broader "cultural" idea might be a bit more problematic. Shouldn't there be a bit more diversity/nuance than suggested in an idea like "Africans don't like to eat out"?

next day edit: not meaning to dismiss cultural differences / preferences as possible factors, btw - just suggesting there's often lots of intersecting and confounding factors that lurk below the "culture" facet when looking for root causes: e.g., settlement and immigration patterns, relationships to the broader "mainstream society", occupational specialization and systemic barriers to other vocational opportunities, access to capital required to open / run a restaurant (now vs. historically).

In very broad strokes, had Indonesian migrants built our railway, i wonder if we'd have more rijstaffel (or whatever Canucks would have called it) restaurants now?

2009 Aug 7
Itchy - Your "next day edit" says it wonderfully.

Ms. Foodie - "Ottawa doesn't have immigrants from "tropical climates"?

For the record, I didn't say that Ottawa didn't have immigrants from tropical climates, I said:

"Ottawa's climate just isn't a big draw for those emmigrating from a "tropical" climate."

And I believe that to be true.

I still believe a lot of it has to do with indeed immigration / demographics.

When people choose to move (and even more so to migrate) they are looking for any (or ideally all) of the following three things... the familiar, a sense of comfort, and opportunity.

For example, the Haitian population is strongly centered in Montreal, reason... because their primary language is French (the familiar). The Vietnamese population is alive and well in Ottawa because during the boat people crisis 25 years ago the City of Ottawa opened their arms to these refugees and made them feel welcome in a strange land (a sense of comfort). And lastly, a great deal of this country was settled by people who came here for opportunity... but always they sought out the familiar (ie. The Scots who settled the Ottawa Valley, and the Ukrainians that settled the Prairies... landscapes that reminded them of home). When a small related population exists, then that too becomes and element of the familiar / comfort... so if there was a group of immigrants already in the community who have made a mark and set up their cultural institutions (Religion, Social, Educational) then that population will continue to grow as more people who emmigrate flow toward the familiar / comfortable.

When Refugees are interviewed by Canadian Officials, one of the most common Questions asked by the applicant is "What is it like?". They are looking for the familiar. When given a choice new immigrant populations (talking about large groups here, not individuals) will live in the area of Canada that is most similar to their own country. And weather certainly plays a big part in that equation... part of the reason that both Toronto and Vancouver are two of our biggest cities. If I am coming from a "tropical" climate am I more likely to choose a city who's cold climate hovers around 0 C during January, or a city that is more likely to see - 20 C? (Vancouver vs Ottawa).

A Restaurant is essentially a business, so as the immigrants take hold in a community so does their influence in the business world. An Indonesian Restaurant is more likely to come from the Indonesian population than from any other population group. I don't think it ties into whether a population tends to eat out or not... in the end it will just come down to economics... what can I the "newcomer" do here in this country that will make money? What can my background and skills offer here that the market will pay for?

I certainly agree that in some cultures food is more social, note the Little Italys and Chinatowns throughout North America. But Ottawa's Little Italy functions on two levels... one it is a way for many of it's population to make a living and secondly it is also a touchstone for the Italian community... the annual Italian Festivals (Spring & Fall) although now providing a great deal of entertainment for all who live in Ottawa truly have their roots in drawing the Italian community together to celebrate traditional occasions.

The linkage betweeen population masses and food are interconnected... as a population grows so does their influence in the community with the appearance of both restaurants and grocery stores... which brings me back to Tony the Brit's original set of comments.

2009 Aug 17
As a newbie I am not sure if my followup is tagged to this one message or not. Actually this is a general followup.

My thanks to people who gave me a new perspective on Indonesian food (or the lack thereof) in Ottawa. I can personally vouch for the fact that there were indeed two places that served Indonesian food at least once a month in the Ottawa area 30 years ago, as I said in my previous posting, because I have eaten at both of them, but nowadays there is nothing. I am glad to have that confirmed. I would hate to have been missing something.

I fully understand the demographics but it is a sad state of affairs all the same. I can't see how the demographics have deteriorated in 30 years since the time when two different local restaurants thought it worth their while to offer Indonesian food as a special treat at least once a month, so I still have to wonder.

I am now resigned to cooking Indonesian food for myself.

On a more positive note I was in the Dutch grocery store on Clyde the other day (in the same mall as Bleekers), and since I was last there two years ago their stock of Indonesian ingredients has tripled. I was very impressed and I told the owner so. I just about bought out the store! I was talking to the owner and he tells me that he took it over only two years ago, so this was the first time I had been there under the new management. He is happy to hear suggestions from his customers, and he gets his stock from the same company in Toronto that supplies the Indonesian Embassy. He was very obliging and happy to talk, and he is hoping to expand his selection, and if I had enough knowledge to suggest something, I'm quite sure he would try to order it in for me. I am working on that and will be asking him really soon. He agreed that there are too few Indonesians in Ottawa to maintain a restaurant but he too suggested that I contact the Indonesian embassy.

As for the recommended Chahaya Malaysia, I have read enough discouraging reviews about this restaurant that I am not inspired to go there again. I believe I did eat there once about 15 years ago but I have entirely forgotten whether I did or not, which probably says enough in itself. I was certainly not inspired to go back. In contrast I do remember some of the great now-forgotten restaurants of my earlier years in Ottawa since I arrived in 1977, but that is another thread.

Tony the Brit

2009 Aug 18
Perhaps a suggestion to the owner of the Dutch grocery store that might offer a course in Indonesian cuisine, something like another poster on this site does for Chinese cooking? Maybe the Indonesian embassy could get involved as a sponsor, or to volunteer a chef or something. I know I'd certainly be interested in participating in something like that.

And we'd get to eat what we made :)

2011 Jul 14
It was interesting to revisit today the thread I started two years ago. Some very intelligent points were made about demographics and so on. And nothing has changed. I did achieve a rijstafel with 20 dishes in it a year or so ago, by dint of adding several dishes each day over several days. Several of them were sambals and garnishes in tiny dishes of course. My dinner guests were very impressed but in effect they were eating leftovers, which probably what a real rijstafel is anyway.

But I believe the rijstafel is a Dutch idea anyway (the name is certainly Dutch), and just like any other culture I imagine that the residents of Indonesia don't mind eating just one dish for dinner, along with rice and a couple of sambals. Certainly the familiar nasi goreng is just rice with a load of yesterday's leftovers and some spices dumped into it. And why not? - it's a meal in itself, and most cultures have these in their cuisine. Pad Thai, the Chinese sticky rice bundle (yummy - the Chinese "Ploughman's Lunch"!) and so on. In my native culture the English have a way with leftovers too - rissoles or fish cakes - ugh! Bubble and squeak is a lot better than it sounds though - quite delicious actually when it's done right. But how many of us have made risotto or kedgeree with leftovers? If I want to impress I make risotto with fresh ingredients but I'm sure it was meant as the Italian version of leftovers. Leftovers are a fact of life, and making them palatable is a test of cooking genius.

I did try Chahaya Malaysia many years ago but I was less than impressed and I didn't go back. To be fair to Malaysians, I don't think their cuisine is at all inferior to Indonesian - many of the dishes are exactly the same and many others are only slightly different. I regard the two as virtually identical and I love them both. I imagine the variety between the cuisines of different parts of Indonesia is much greater than the difference from Malaysian food.

But in July 2011 the fact remains that we are still starved for Indonesian food in Ottawa unless we cook it ourselves. I wonder if there is anyone at the Indonesian embassy who is willing to hold cooking classes to see that we at least represent their culinary traditions properly. I know I would sign up in an instant.

I use mainly the huge "Complete Asian Cookbook" by Charmaine Solomon, first published 1976. I have no idea if it is still available (it comes from Australia and my copy is a 1981 printing). Its 500 pages contain recipes from 13 Asian cuisines from India to Japan with everything in between - about 40 pages for each. You can find Sri Lankan, Cambodian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and so on in there. Of course Indian and Chinese get more space than the others, but I thoroughly recommend it. These recipes all seem to work. I have another purely Indonesian cookbook which I sometimes use, and naturally I gather recipes online as well.

I love cooking when I can be bothered, being naturally lazy!

2011 Jul 14
Just wanted to add that I have (and love) the same cookbook. Mine was purchased new (revised edition, I believe) a few years ago.

2011 Jul 15
> As for the recommended Chahaya Malaysia, I have read enough discouraging reviews about this restaurant that I am not inspired to go there again. I believe I did eat there once about 15 years ago but I have entirely forgotten whether I did or not, which probably says enough in itself.

I really suggest you do visit again. I go there often enough, not enough that they do not know me but enough that I can say their food is amazing, and I've never had anything but good service, BUT this place is not like the Indonesian restaurants you will visit in the Netherlands.

Do not go for Nasi goreng, make that yourself at home. It's not a delicacy, it's a simplicity and use of leftovers and not much more than fried rice unless you want to jazz it up. When I make Nasi at home I make lots of sides.

I'm also Dutch-Canadian and have grown up with lots of Indo-Dutch cuisine.

Added photo of the Indonesian cookbook which I own and enjoy (big section on how-to and ingredients, and ingredient substitutions) by Heinz von Holzen (recipes), Lother Arsana, Wendy Hutton. (ISBN 0794603203)

2012 Feb 25
I received a question from my blog reader who lives in Ottawa regarding where I get some Indonesian herbs such as Salam (Indonesian bay) leaves, candlenuts. As I live in Winnipeg those herbs are easy to find at some local Asian stores. However I don't know where to get those herbs in Ottawa. Can anybody help me with the information of ethnic groceries? Thanks

2012 Mar 29
Indonesian food is hard to find in Ottawa, not due to a lack of Indonesians who know how to cook it, but rather due to a lack of Indonesians know how to operate a restaurant in Canada. There have been a few over the years, but they have all failed, mostly due to a lack of knowledge, and the absence of a restaurateur in the mix. I am quite sure that if one were to persistently inquire among local Indonesians and bring the executive skills required, as well as investment money, a suitable chef could be found or brought from Indonesia. There are certainly many, many Indonesians who would be delighted to emigrate to Canada, if only the money to do so and the work permits required could be obtained.
Ristaffel is more of a Dutch-Indonesian undertaking than a truly Indonesian one. I would look to the Dutch community and any interested restaurateurs there to provide this.
I might suggest that a group of 8 or so people could create a ristaffel- like experience for themselves by ordering a selection of dishes and sharing them, as is more traditional anyway.
Last but not least- Malay food is the poor cousin?? Satay, in varying forms, sweet soya sauce, rendang, serundeng, fabulous noodles, best ever coconut sauce, etc, etc. No, it's certainly not the poor cousin, not in my books anyway. Basically, what they don't do is pork.
Indonesian herbs and spices can be purchased at Man Phong supermarket on Somerset in Ottawa's Chinatown

2012 Mar 30
somewhat on topic, i guess, but primarily for the benefit of any Toronto-bound connoisseurs, the Quince Restaurant is taking bookings for their April 4th version of the Rijstaffel:

Going by some of the Chowhound-TO reviews, a seriously delish and enjoyable event.

ps, Tasty B - just to qualify my "poor cousin" remark (from 2009, yikes!), would never myself describe Malay food in those terms. In fact ... if exiled to one city of my choice to live out my eating existence, George Town (Penang) would be a top-5 contender - impossible to starve there (poverty notwithstanding).

2012 Mar 31
If you are visiting the island of Curaçao (off the coast of Venezuela, near Trinidad) you can have your choice of several good Indonesian restaurants.

2012 Apr 11
Hi Tony, I'm Indonesian. My hubby is French. We live in France but are considering moving to Ottawa area this coming June. I always cook Indonesian cuisines everyday as my hubby and kids are addicted to them now. I'am stuck cause everytime I cook other than Indonesian cuisine they will whine. Too bad there are no Indonesian restaurants in Ottawa. But as long as there are Asian stores, we are safe..

I'll try to have a talk with the Indonesian people there when we get there. PErhaps we can have some 'Pasar Indonesia' like in Amsterdam where guests can try a variety of Indonesian cuisines while enjoying Indonesian traditional music.

2013 Apr 6
I came across this thread in my search for Indonesian food in Ottawa. Oh, I have such a craving for good, home-cooked Indonesian food, and no way to satisfy it!

I'd like to add that while I have no illusions of ever being able to find rijstaffel in Ottawa (heck, ANYWHERE in Canada!), I had been hoping to perhaps be able to find something -- a food cart, some take-out on the side in small grocery store...

Tony, I agree with you -- my favourite Asian cuisine is indeed Indonesian (my other very favorite cuisine is Moroccan), and because of the scarcity of Indonesian immigrants in Canada in general, it is very hard to find here.

When we lived in Geneva, the wife of one of our UN friends fell into an accidental catering job -- she used to make the most wonderful Indonesian lunches for her husband, and people started requesting that she make them lunches too. So, once a week, a select group of people were able to sign-up for a home-cooked Indonesian lunch/dinner (we ordered enough for the whole family, and kept it in the fridge until dinner). It was amazing!!!!

This was all under-the-counter, and I know there are health regulations that might interfere with such a business here, but oh, how I dream of something similar here! And generally -- I wish there were lunch delivery services like this, similar to what exists in India, say. Where I work, there is a Sodexho-run cafeteria that serves hamburgers, fries, fish &chips, a daily soup and little else -- and I am tired of packing lunches! Perhaps a lunch service could be a good way for an entrepreneurial soul to break into the restaurant business?

Because of the colonial relationship with the Netherlands, there seems to be little in the way of English-speaking cookbooks on Indonesian food, and even little awareness of the wonders of Indonesian cuisine. Perhaps that is ultimately the reason there are so few Indonesian restaurants in Canada (there used to be one near our home in Calgary, but it wasn't very good, which is a pity, as it was an ambassador for the cuisine). Still, I'm sure if a good Indonesian restaurant opened, it would be a hit.

2013 Apr 17
OMG I started this thread about 4 years ago and haven't posted to it since 2011. I finally came back to look at it today.

You can find Indonesian ingredients in Ottawa but you have to dig a bit. The Dutch store on Clyde (the northern extension of Merivale once Merivale turns off to the right) in the same plaza as Bleekers stereo, carries some Indonesian ingredients as you would expect because Indonesia seduced the Dutch with their wonderful cuisine in the years when the Dutch thought they were in charge!

This store has mie, serundeng, sambal ulek, sambal manis, ketjap manis (the Indonesian version of soy sauce and much better than the Chinese kind), laos powder, and other things which I forget now.

I have found many other ingredients in local Chinese stores. The one I go to because of where I live is the one at Hazeldean and Castlefrank. It is hell to find a parking space because there is a yuppie fitness centre and a Starbucks in that mall too. I tend to go around 10:30 on a weekday when the traffic is the lowest. They have things like birdseye chilis and many of the famous proprietary brand prepackaged mixes which are quick and easy and not that bad but I can't remember their names without going to check my stocks.

I've also found many things like trasi, tamarind, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and so on in various places but I can't remember where I got them. There is much more available on the web. In the end I have had no real problems finding basic Indonesian ingredients but it is challenging and fascinating and it darned well shouldn't be for one of the world's major cuisines. I keep a database on where to find what but it's not up to date.

Kaffir lime leaves would be a lot better fresh than from a jar but I finally have some dried ones and that's better than nothing!

Weird hint - if you are into McDonald's Bacon Egg McMuffins, try opening them up and spreading a little sambal manis on the muffin. My secret recipe. I do it all the time. Goes well on their hash browns too! I often sprinkle serundeng from a jar on green beans even when I have no thoughts of cooking Indonesian.

Eating Indonesian in this city is a real challenge but it's a challenge that is fun and well worth the results if you are any kind of a cook. And I'm just a mere Brit! I once had a chance of a year's job in Jakarta and I had the inside track but sadly the project fell through and in the end they didn't hire anybone at all. Pity because I adore Balinese music and I hoped to visit Bali and hear more of it firsthand.

2013 Apr 17
I did once contact the Indonesian embassy and they cited the lack of an adequate base of Indonesians in the city as the reason why no Indonesian restaurant could be sustained. I understood that but I was hoping. I know there are thousands of people out here who would love Indonesian food if they were only able to experience it, and I would think that the general trend of Ottawans to encompass exotic foods would vastly broaden the narrow base that the Indonesian embassy was thinking of. But that of course is not their business. It would just take one adventurous entrepreneur to risk it, and I would be there like a shot as a regular customer. If it was any good I would be there weekly if not more often. That would depend on location - Orleans no, Kanata yes - because I live in Stittsville! So where are the entrepreneurs among Indonesians in Ottawa? We are all out here waiting eagerly for you. This is a goldmine waiting to be tapped. Who could not love Indonesian food once they tried it? Everyone would abandon Thai and this would be the new trend among yuppies who are always rediscovering things everyone else already knew decades ago but it wasn't on TV so they didn't realize.

After all there used to be about 6 Thai restaurants in the city last time I checked many years ago - and now probably about ten times more because it's "trendy". Thai cuisine is something I personally can take or leave - and usually leave! Surely there is space for at least one Indonesian restaurant in this putative cosmopolitan city of a million, just so that culinarily starved Ottawans can finally sample one of the world's great cuisines.

I hesitate to post the menu of my most ambitious family project from a couple of years ago. Since I last posted I finally managed to present a rijstafel of 24 dishes. The family loved it but it had taken me three days of solid cooking all on my own. Nobody else understood what I was trying to achieve - until I got there! Then they understood but that was too late for me. I just basked.

Actually I hesitate to post the menu because I can't find it - so you are spared!

2013 Apr 17
Tony, you can find fresh Kaffir leaves @ Manphong grocery store in Chinatown. They freeze well. See :
Manphong Supermarket

2013 Apr 17
"trasi, tamarind, galangal, kaffir lime leaves"

I'm 80% sure these are usually available at the major Asian grocery stores, I'm thinking T&T on Hunt Club in particular.

2013 Apr 17
And you can probably find those at Manphong as well.

2013 Apr 18
I haven't been to T&T in a long time, however when I was there, their selection of asian (or any) fresh herbs was not good. Galangal, tamarind are definitely available at Manphong (tamarind paste/blocks/pre-mixed available in different sections - just ask where depending on what you want). I'm not familiar with trasi.

2013 Apr 18
does trasi = terasi = shrimp paste?

SD - agree re. T&T. Would add Win Tai to the list of places to shop, particularly for those who don't mind heading further east and/or prefer to avoid the mess on Bronson. From Carling in the west, i often find it quicker to pop into Win Tai - mostly highway driving, easier parking. Also puts you a couple blocks away from Chahaya, should you (Tony) ever be so inclined. :)

2013 Dec 10
Sorry folks, I've been way for a year or two but today I finally read the rest of this thread that I started in 2009. Apologies for the belated replies...

@sourdough >>Tony, you can find fresh Kaffir leaves @ Manphong grocery store in Chinatown. They freeze well. See :
Manphong Supermarket

Thank you for that. I'll give it a try. I've since seen non-Indonesian recipes that call for Kaffir lime leaves too. I still have no idea what they taste like.

@Brian Mc >>"trasi, tamarind, galangal, kaffir lime leaves" I'm 80% sure these are usually available at the major Asian grocery stores, I'm thinking T&T on Hunt Club in particular.

Thank you for that - I'll try it. But T&T has been quite disappointing in the past. They quite often haven't got what I fully expected them to have. Either that or I couldn't find it - I tend to be overwhelmed.

I have managed to buy things online too but I never found kaffir lime leaves. As an aside I've recently been finding fresh bay leaves in stores in the city, so Ottawa is very slowly but inexorably progressing towards cosmopolitan status! I have trasi, galangal (powdered but sometimes fresh from my local Asian store), and I've never had a problem finding tamarind.

@itchy feet, yes trasi is blachan and terasi and shrimp paste and all those other things, an essential part of Indonesian cooking. Once you get beyond the stink of it, the results are great!

I'll have to figure out where Win Tai is - I can see a Google Street session in my future, but I wish all these places weren't all in the east end! I live in Stittsville and why is there nothing out here in Kanata or Stittsville? The one drawback to living here except that Grace in the Kitchen has finally moved out near me - gloat! I now haunt it.

@BeenThereAteThat. Trust me there were once two places you could get riistafel in this area. One on Waller Street before the Rideau Centre stomped a huge monty python foot on the entire area wiping out all heritage including the glorious Chicago style Besserer Street Post Office without even a peep from conservationists. And one somewhere up in the Gatineau. I have eaten in both, 35 years ago - eat your heart out, just as I do. They are long vanished into history - I am talking about the 1970s. There's been nothing since. I think the Quebec one was a place up on Highway 148, but this is so long ago I forget. Every time I drive past I say - wasn't that the place where ...?"

2013 Dec 10
If you haven't got trasi I imagine you could get by with Thai fish sauce and it wouldn't be horribly different. I've never tried that though.

2013 Dec 10
Kaffir lime leaves: I buy them at the Herb & Spice on Wellington.. They almost always have them. Otherwise, I get dried ones -- I like the Arvinda label.

2013 Dec 10
And Tony, I have found them for the past 25+ years at Mamphong on Somerset St, bagged fresh, still on the stems. I've tried growing them from a stem, unsuccessful so far, but I'm still hoping to. I can only imagine how good kaffir lime leaves are fresh off a living plant! They do dry alright but are best fresh , with frozen 2nd best. They taste heavenly by the way, adding lotsa flavour to soups, etc.

2013 Dec 10
I use'd to have a Dutch Girlfriend, and she cooked nasi goreng all the time. Sambal oleck, diced tomato, fried egg. I eat it 2wce a week!

2013 Dec 11
If you want to chance it, sometimes the Asian grocer on Hazeldean and Castlefrank mall has kafir lime leaves (closer to Stittsville), but its hit and miss. Manphong is the most reliable source.

2014 Mar 11
Just checked on my annual access to this site! Thank you everyone for your suggestions.

And @sourdough I do visit the Asian grocer at Hazeldean and Castlefrank - if I can even park there that is. It has a yuppie exercise place two doors down in the same mall and parking is a problem unless you manage to go there at about 10:30 on a weekday. The Asian store ought to be suing them. I can't count the number of times I tried to park there but couldn't find a spot so I drove away again and finally found what I wanted somewhere else.

The Asian store in that mall is seriously losing business. It is a good store and they have quite a lot of Indonesian package ingredients along with many of the basics.

I obviously have to try Manphong and thank you and other people who have recommended this store.

2014 Mar 11
The store you're referring to at Castlefrank is BestPrice Oriental Market (Bach Giai). Vietnamese-owned, lots of selection, better prices than T&T. :)

2017 Oct 25
Hello all. It seems I haven't visited this site in 3 years. Nothing new to tell really except to announce that I am still here. The Dutch store on Clyde seems to have scaled back, but the Asian store at Hazeldean and Castlefrank still has fresh ingredients like galangal and Kaffir lime leaves (if you can recognize them) and some of the pre-packaged stuff by Conimex and others. And T&T continues to disappoint. There is a lot available on the web but I hesitate to buy food products online. And you can forget buying local if you want to eat Indonesian food. And here is the clash between local sourcing of food and global aspirations. Local turkey pot pie tonight for dinner - all local ingredients, so I can splurge on Asian ingredients sometimes.

I tried another riijstafel a few months ago: another three days of work to build a reasonable number of dishes. Sadly it wasn't as successful as the earlier one from 2009. My wife's father died in 2016 so he wasn't there to appreciate it.

Making a riijstafel is a social thing - like a bee, people get together and spend a day preparing the food together, and gossiping along the way. Working alone I can't hope to reproduce a culture: it's a female thing I guess and I am a male and believe me I regret it. It's labour-intensive so the fun is in the social togetherness. I am a solitary Brit with no family in Canada and I can't reproduce that. I just have my wife who will eat the food and a cat who will get under my feet wondering what's in it for her, and that's all. (Still, it's not a bad life!)

I wish I cared more for Thai or Vietnamese food, but sadly I don't, and there is a lot of it around in Ottawa.

2017 Oct 26
Julia Hsin the Cordon Bleu Ottawa trained chef that teaches the cooking workshop at T&T (Julia also teaches at Algonquin) sometimes do some indonesian dishes.

Check out their calendar - you may have to scroll down and right...

But the hands on workshops are only for 10 so if you are interested, get on the mailing list by emailing

2017 Dec 7
Hi, new member here! Glad I signed up for this forum, otherwise, I wouldn't find a great write up and recommendation such as this. I agree, Indonesian cuisines are one of the best in the world. There are more to be discovered along the way, but this is always on my personal list.