Book review: The Indonesian Table by Petty Pandean-Elliott

13 April 2023 by
Book review: The Indonesian Table by Petty Pandean-Elliott

Petty Pandean-Elliott has crafted a perfect bible for Indonesian cooking, complete with crediting her cultural sources

"Unity in diversity," says Petty Pandean-Elliott, author of The Indonesian Table, echoing the national motto of this southeast Asian country. With islands that sprawl across over 5,000km and influences ranging from Dutch to Chinese, there's a lot to be said about Indonesian food, and Pandean-Elliott takes her best shot at saying it. Upon first read, familiar foods leap from the pages – satay and rendang are celebrated as world-renowned dishes – but the plethora of recipes beyond go to show how underrated Indonesian food truly is.

Come on a journey through food, starting with sambals and pickles to provide the essentials for your Indonesian knowledge voyage. Satays are given not one, but six iterations to prove they're more than just a passing fancy. Arrive at curries, where vegetables, fish and meat all have their moment in the spotlight, while desserts provide novel ways of combining ingredients for the sweet-toothed among us – avocado mousse, pineapple ginger and chilli sorbet, and a thousand-layer cake to name a few.

Pandean-Elliott makes sure to credit the origins of each dish, while describing how she has added her own twists, with potential variations for the keen experimenter. Outside of the recipes, she relays warm stories of her upbringing, recalling soups that were essential parts of evening meals or trips across the islands where she first tasted elements of the cuisine.

The book contains a handy key, indicating gluten-free recipes, vegetarian and vegan, and simpler dishes that take less time or need fewer ingredients for those who want to start by dipping a toe into the cuisine.

The Indonesian Table isn't just a cookbook, it's a gateway to an entire country. Pandean-Elliott tries (and succeeds) to unlock flavours in combinations that are at the same time fresh as well as homely. This is a book for both chefs who are unfamiliar with Indonesian cooking and those who are intimately familiar and want one big bible of everything they need to know.

The Indonesian Table by Petty Pandean-Elliott (Phaidon, £24.95)

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