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An Introduction to the Indonesian Rice Table Rijsttafel

If you enjoy savouring a variety of foods all in one setting or if you are a fan of the all-you-can-eat buffets featured in various restaurants across the nation, then you will certainly enjoy attending an Indonesian rice table, better known as Rijsttafel. A rice table consists of a variety of dishes featuring many specialties of the Indonesian cuisine, all beautifully displayed on a table for a feast of the taste buds and senses.

The amount of dishes displayed at a rice table can amount to an average of forty, but it is not unheard of to have even up to one hundred dishes. Since there is so much variety offered, the concept is to get a taste of a little bit of this and a little bit of that, in order to be able to taste a good amount of dishes without getting overly full.

Typically, the king of a Risjsttafel, is rice of course, which is placed at the middle of the table while several side dishes are displayed around the rice to complement it. Special tables were used in the old days featuring a hole in the middle to accommodate the rice and surrounded by other holes in order to display the side dishes.

As tempting as it may be, it is a mistake to mix the side dishes with the rice, since doing so will cause the flavors to lose relevance, so it is advisable to have them savoured as unique entities. The whole concept of Rajsttafel is ultimately to celebrate the variety of foods, their textures, colors and flavors.

While the rice table may appear at a first glance to be an Indonesian invention, this tradition actually originated by the Dutch, when Indonesia was under the Dutch colony and the Dutch plantation colonists decided to enjoy a variety of Indonesian dishes. The rice table, therefore, was prepared by servants and then enjoyed by the colonists washing it down with a good amount of strong Dutch beer. Preparation often took days since a large amount of dishes were served.

After the end of World War II, Indonesia was finally a free country and even though the Dutch colonists had left for quite some time, the tradition of the rice table survived and was used in festive occasions. The tradition was also successfully spread by the Dutch colonists in just about all the places they settled.

Foods to expect to be present at a typical Indonesian rice table include, but are not limited to: classic Chinese style egg rolls, meatballs, pork kabobs, fried duck, vegetables in peanut sauce, fried coconut, fried bananas, chutney, fruit in sweet sauce, and a very spicy dish called sambal. If you are not too crazy about spices, keep in mind that any dish with the word ”pisang” means that the dish is pretty hot.

Rijstaffal is quite popular nowadays in many luxury hotels in Holland or at famous Indonesian buffet restaurants. Considered more a banquet than an actual meal, you can attend a rice table in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Curacao, Indonesia of course, and even California where many Dutch men have settled across the years. Wherever you get to enjoy rice tables, they are surely a real feast for the eyes and the taste buds.