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Some “Ketjap” for your French fries? July 5, 2007

Posted by adrien in Food facts, Ingredients.

Three years ago, when I went to LA for a business trip, Chef Sumanth Das of Aramara at Four Seasons Punta Mita (Sumanth had previously been the Executive Chef at Monsoon in Chicago and at the Peninsula Chicago as Sous Chef of Shanghai Terrace) asked me to buy for him some kecap manis (pronounced Ketjap and means sauce in Indonesian and Malaysian).
At first taste, it seemed to be a sweet soy sauce. But it is much sweeter, much thicker and the flavor much more complex than regular sweet soy sauce. This syrupy-molasses thick sauce is actually an Indonesian soy sauce generously sweetened with palm sugar and seasoned with garlic, star anise, galanga..etc. Malaysia which has a lots of cultural links with the
Archipel, has also kecap lemak, which is less sweet. You can find easily kecap manis in Asian supermarkets, the most famous is ABC brand.

But what brought me here today is not only the taste of kecap manis but also the name, specially the way it is pronounced: kechap or ketjap. I was so intrigued by the similarity with the ketchup so I made my little research and my intuitions were confirmed. English and Dutch sailors brought the Ketjap from Southeast Asia to Europe in the 18th century, where other ingredients such as mushrooms, anchovy or nuts were added (mushroom ketchup was a la mode under Victorian era and it is still available for the subjects of Her Majesty). Tomatoes was added only later in America.

At Bai Sri, we use kecap manis to make our cinnamon sauce for the Tofu Brochette.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before dipping your French fries (which is certainly not originated from France but Belgium) in your Ketchup, please have a little thought about how different peoples of different cultures in the world can be linked in a way that we can not imagine. First World or Third World, our cultures are rich in the same way, poors or richs, we will have at the end the same futur.

And when it comes to food and language, only the death ones remain the same. Fusion Cuisine is not a fashionable movement of the 20th century, it has been there a long, long time ago.



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