The first Annual Ubud Food Festival!

What better way to make a blog come back than to report on our participation in the First Ubud Food Festival! Three days of cooking demo’s, food forums, markets, music and of course, eating!

Jon’s cooking demo. @UbudFoodFestival Photo Credit @MattOldField

My love of food comes from my love of eating

Author of 15 Indonesian cookbooks and educator,  Sri Owen

Ibu Sri’s words in the first food forum of the festival certainly resonate with me! However, in today’s hyper social mediated world (yes, I’m talking to you Instagrammers!), the essence and passion for food has been swollowed up by an unsatiable hunger for food to be seen. Thanks Sri Owen for keepin’ it real and encouraging us to get back to what matters, the simple pleasure of eating!

Festival Director Janet DeNeefe fittingly paid respects to Ibu Sri by presenting her with a life-time of achievement award for her service to Indonesia and it’s food.

Indonesian food has wholesomeness at its heart. Sometimes it just isn’t pretty (Instagrammers, just deal!) but it is soulful and has the power to heal. The spices, the plants, the ginger, the turmeric, the nutmeg will keep you healthy and the hit of chilli will keep you awake at just the right time of day when the tropical heat wants to envelope you. It really is medicine, as the food forum on the subject attested.

Jon's Malacca Strait Duck
Jon’s Malacca Strait Duck

Jon’s Malacca Strait Duck demonstration had everybody seriously licking their lips. I actually thought a brawl might break out to taste it/Instagram it!

@MattOldfield @UbudFoodFestival
@MattOldField @UbudFoodFestival
@MattOldField @UbudFoodFestival

The Malacca Strait Duck was inspired by the convergence of Arab, Indian, Portuguese, Peranakan, Dutch trade in the Malacca Strait. It was a delicious culinary accompaniment to Ian Burnett’s story of the tumultuous, often violent yet somehow romantic Spice Islands.


It was a pleasure to moderate Ian’s session. He took us on a tour of the Maluccas with beautifully illustrated maps. It is rarely acknowledged that the trade route was already established well before the Dutch VOC mission. The first people to trade in the area were of course the Maluccans themselves, also known as the ‘trepangers’ and who traded the sea cucumber with Northern Australians (say tuned for our upcoming project on this very issue). The Portuguese later came for two varieties of cinnamon, cloves found on five islands and nutmeg, which originated from a tiny little island called Banda. The Dutch came even later and shipped the spices out through the Malacca Strait, which had been a melting pot of cultures over the centuries. It was the intersection of Indonesian, India, Peranakan, Portuguese, Dutch cultures and histories met and found themselves in the foods of the region. Much of Sumatra’s cuisine can be traced also to this ‘cultural mash-up’ of spice trade histories.


Jon’s cooking demonstration asked ‘What is authentic Indonesian cuisine?’ Authentic or original Indonesian cuisine has adaption at its core. The Spice trade modified cuisines along the way, and this process of adaption continues today, and was reflected in Jon’s Malacca Strait Duck.

The Talking Street Food Forum touched on an issue close to my heart, and that is one of belonging, which I have written about here. The negotiation about which street food is the best street food is ongoing is all about culture. To know where to find the best nasi bugkus/lotek/ soto is all about belonging to a place, a people, a moment in time.

Conversations continued with Jon’s oldest cooking partner in crime, Rahung Nasution on the power of food, inequalities, and the difficulties with defining the asli continued as energetically and colourful as ever. These two former partners in crime loved cooking up a storm.

@MattOldField @UbudFoodFestival
@MattOldField @UbudFoodFestival
jon coki
@MattOldField @UbudFoodFestival
@MattOldField @UbudFoodFestival

@MattOldfield @UbudFoodFestival We came away satiated, energised and with new ideas and new friends. Stay tuned for our upcoming projects!

Thank you once more to Janet DeNeefe and your energetic team for inviting us.

Looking forward to Ubud Food Festival 2016 already!


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