Author Archives: Matt and Lika

About Matt and Lika

Matteo Meacci - An Italian chef who dreams to be Sundanese. Lika Aprilia - An editor who is Sundanese but live her life the Italian way. Together since 2012.

How It Is Like Dating (or To Be Married To) A Chef: Expectations vs Reality

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Basically what I do every moment, but change the donut to 'all kinds of food'.

Basically what I do every moment, but change the donut to ‘all kinds of food’.

I love food.

I really do.
I almost constantly think about what to eat. At night, I plan on what to eat for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch. After I have my lunch of course I think about what to have for dinner. Then I have to choose a snack in between, wisely so I don’t add unnecessary weight to my already chubby thighs. Then comes dinner and I’m back to think what’s for breakfast. And it goes on and on and on, a never-ending food obsession.

So when one day fate decided that my soulmate is someone who happens to be a chef, well… that’s just perfect, isn’t it?!

Let me be clear first, the fact that he is a chef was not in any way the reason I fell in love with him. My feelings would still be the same if he was a dangdut singer, for example (well, yeah…. maybe not so much).  I never really made a big deal about what he does, actually. But when I started dating him a week or so and my friends got all excited saying stuff like ‘Wow, he’s a chef! You’re so lucky!’ or ‘Yaaay! Free food!” it got me thinking… is it really a big deal, dating a chef? But why?

 

Expectation #1: Dating a Chef = Free Food at His Restaurant

This seems to be the main assumption and the first thing people ask me when I tell them my boyfriend’s a chef. First of all, if every wife and husband and girlfriend and boyfriend of people who work in a restaurant can eat there for free, how do you think the restaurant will make money? Pretty sure their family members would just eat there 2-3 times a day, every day, if they don’t have to pay a single penny. Then the restaurant goes bankrupt in 3 months and they live happily ever after.

So no. I still have to pay for my food if I eat in the restaurant where he works. If he owns the restaurant, yes, maybe I can be entitled to free meals, but if he works in a restaurant owned by other people or a company, every food that comes out of the kitchen has to be paid.

Ok sure sometimes he put the bill under his name and he gets employee discount, and most of the times he pay for my food anyway so I don’t have to spend any money, but the food itself is never free.

The only time where the food is gratis is when he does food trials, making dishes for a new menu and letting some people try and taste it. Or, when we go to eat in a restaurant where he knows the chef, usually we get complimentary food or wine. Doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, I always shout ‘Yaaay! Free food!”

NEVER let free food goes to waste!

NEVER let free food goes to waste!

 

Expectation #2: Dating a Chef = Awesome Home-Cooked Meal Everyday

This is an important fact that everyone has to know: chefs don’t cook at home.
Seriously, they just don’t. Think of it this way, if you spend most of your days in the kitchen preparing food for other people (chefs usually don’t cook, they just supervise, but you get my point, right?), do you really think that once you get home you would want to cook some more?

I’ll tell you what he cooks at home (IF he cooks at all). Indomie. Yup, instant noodles. Which is basically the only thing I can cook anyway. Sure, he cook it the way a chef would cook it, with extra seasoning, extra garnish, in extra special way, but cooking Indomie isn’t really cooking. And that’s only when he’s in the mood to cook (or when he actually wants to eat Indomie himself), otherwise if I’m hungry he usually just order delivery from Pizza Hut or McDonald’s.

This is all what you can find in Matteo's kitchen.

This is all what you can find in Matteo’s kitchen.

Expectation #3: Dating a Chef = Exploring All the Restaurants and Food Places in Town When You’re Out On a Date

Here’s the thing about chefs. Just because they handle food, doesn’t necessarily mean they are obsessed by food. I mean, how can you be obsessed by something that you have to deal with for 10 hours per day everyday?

Sure, there are some chefs that are also a foodie, always want to check out a new indian restaurant that was just opened, to try out this new dish that everyone has been raving about, or to come and visit the competitors, but most of them they just don’t care. Usually they stick to their comfort food so if they love a good beef tartare they will go to this one place that has a good beef tartare and they will visit that place every time they want to eat beef tartare.

Oh and one other thing, they are VERY picky. I mean really…, the meanest, worst, food critics that you will ever know is a chef. Everything has to be perfect and up to their standard. They treat the food that comes to their table as a guest just as they treat food in the kitchen counter of their restaurant about to be delivered to the guests. And when they found something they didn’t like about how it’s plated, how it’s seasoned, how it’s chopped, how it’s cooked, or how it tasted, they will not stop complaining about it. So usually whenever I take my boyfriend to a new restaurant that I want to try, I always brace myself for the series of critiques like I’m watching Master Chef and I’m eating with Gordon Ramsay. My boyfriend is even worse, he critics also the spelling in the menu, if it’s in Italian. “It’s ossobuco, not osso bucco, and it’s one word!”

This is a nice chef compared to my bf when he find the word "macaroni" in the menu of Italian restaurant.

This is a nice chef compared to my bf when he find the word “macaroni” in the menu of Italian restaurant.

Expectation #4: Dating an Italian Chef = Eating a Lot of Italian Food

My boyfriend is Italian and he is a chef specialized in Italian food. So when we eat at the restaurant where he works, of course we will have Italian food. But when we eat out, trust me, he will never ever in a million years order Italian food. Heck, it would be a miracle if I could drag him to eat in an Italian restaurant that is not where he works.

The reason? Well why do they want to eat in a place where it serves the food that they know best how to cook? In the case of Italian chefs, ‘ESPECIALLY if the chef is not Italian.’ Trust me, they will avoid Italian restaurant where the chef is Japanese, for example. Usually they will avoid any Italian restaurants altogether. The only time I eat Italian food with my boyfriend is when it’s in his restaurants, or when he decided to cook it at home (happened maybe only 2-3 times), and when we were in Italy (no other choices, it was all Italian food in Italy, but hey at least it’s made by Italians!).

If the chef looks like this, it's a good enough Italian restaurant.

If the chef looks like this, then it’s a good Italian restaurant.

Expectation #5: Dating a Chef = Great! You Can Learn How to Cook Too!

Uhmm.. Why would I?
If you love to cook even before you met him, great. You can learn a few tricks from him, then. But if you’re like me, if you would prefer spending a bit more money eating out or ordering take-outs (or saving money by “cooking” instant noodles), when you have a chef boyfriend or husband it will still be the same. You have someone else in charge of the food, why should you be one too?

Plus, he will not stand it to see me trying to “cook”. He would just grab the pans and the spatula and the whatever it is that I have in my hand, and just finish cooking it for me (or cook an entirely new dish).

Most women feel that they want to spoil their man by cooking him a nice hot dinner, bla bla bla, Stepford Wives style, but if your man can cook 100 times better than you do, honey, don’t even try. Surprise him in bed instead.

Better cooks than I am.

Better cooks than I am.

Expectation #6: Dating a Chef = Watching A Lot of Cooking Show on TV

Oh how I love cooking shows! I never cook in my whole life but I love watching people cook on TV. And I love cooking competition shows (Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, Master Chef Junior, My Kitchen Rules… I watch all!). You would think my chef boyfriend will gladly watch the shows with me?

Not a chance.

When he knows how it is in the kitchen of a real restaurant, he doesn’t like to watch the dramatic version of it on TV. Or when some contestant of Master Chef is crying because Joe Bastianich complemented her dish, he would just say ‘Why?! It’s just a poached egg!”

I’ve tried watching some cooking shows with him and most of the times I can barely hear the audio coming from the TV because this chef sitting next to me was busy giving commentary on how they should not chop carrots like that, how they should not put this ingredients into that sauce, how stupid it is to praise a person who can put a plate of chicken soup, bla bla bla. From then on, I always watch my cooking shows alone, thank you.

I watch it because it reminds me of a telenovela.

I watch it because it reminds me of a telenovela.

Expectation #7: Dating a Chef = Dreams Come True

Well maybe, if the purpose of your life is to date or to marry a chef (are you okay?). But when your man is a chef, you will actually need extra patience.

For example, you do know that most restaurants closed at 10pm or even later, right?? That’s when the chef can come home. So if other couples go out for dinner or movies or hang out after work (that is around 7 or 8pm), it’s not like that with you. After work for your boyfriend means 11pm.. okay, sometimes 9.30pm if it’s something important, but you can’t do that too often.

And then, you also do know that restaurants are open also on weekends, right? Well at least here in Indonesia (and Asia in general) they open 7 days a week. And weekends are when it’s the busiest and the most crowded and making the most money. So usually, a chef’s day off is not on weekend. It’s only one day off, not 2 days like ‘normal’ people, and most of the times it’s not on weekend. So it’s even harder for you to plan a day together. Not to mention the headache when you have to plan a vacation together. Then when you’re away on an island getting a sun tan he will receive calls from work about a supplier sending the wrong piece of beef or a menu that has to be created for an event.

So no, it’s not exactly a “dream come true” nor it’s a perfect situation to be dating or marrying a chef, but of course it has some perks. I’ve mentioned about the food tasting before, then it’s also nice to be able to enter a restaurant where all the staff greets you by your name (I know, I’m vain that way), and even though he doesn’t cook that much at home, when he cooks… he really blows your mind.

Come to think of it, maybe for me dating a chef is not such a big deal. But according to my belly, it is.

-Lika

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GLUTEN! What the Hell Is That? A Trip Unveiling the Mystery of This Legendary Substance (or Is It the New SUV of Toyota?)

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It’s already few months that the word GLUTEN has become popular in Jakarta.

Almost every day there is someone that talks to me about gluten and gluten-free food. It seems to be a trend now here. It seems that, especially celebrities and upper class people (100% women! I’ve never heard a man pronouncing the word Gluten), are interested in gluten-free food, they consume it, they recommend it to their friends and they spread the gospel of this amazing diet.

But what is GLUTEN?

I actually did a small survey about that among my followers on Twitter and Facebook and among my friends and i realised that there are A LOT of confusions around it. Do you know what gluten is and what is a gluten-free diet? According to my experience most of Indonesian people, even the high educated ones, don’t know a shit about that although they have heard about it.

This is some of the answers i collected:

– Gluten is a kind of wheat

– Gluten is a sugar inside rice

– Gluten is a surrogate of meat, a kind of substitution of chicken and fish for vegetarians

– Gluten is a protein that can be removed from food after fermentation

-I t’s a food for vegetarians similar to the meat, in taste

-I  know it’s something related to food but i don’t know anything else about that

– It’s a bad ass evil guy in the anime “Naruto” (i added this one because it’s funny)

Go, Naruto! Kick Gluten's ass like he deserves!

Go, Naruto! Kick Gluten’s ass like he deserves!

Well, some people guessed it right too or, at least, they went close to the truth, maybe thanks to Wikipedia.

Let me start telling you that I have studied nutrition. I’m not a nutritionist but as a chef i had to study about that and i did it a lot. I have to know the composition of the food, i have to know about proteins, carbohydrates, fats and all the rest. I have studied the chemistry of the food and the biochemistry at university.

When i was in Italy i also attended a course about gluten and gluten-free diet and i have a certificate to state that. So you can trust me, i know what i’m talking about.

Gluten is a protein. It’s a simple protein (yes, it’s not a kind of poison) that is contained in some cereals, in most of them, actually. It’s contained in the wheat but not in the rice, for example, and it’s a very important component of the flour especially for baked products such as bread and pizza, for technical reasons that i won’t explain in this article. So if it’s just a protein, and we know that proteins are good and an important nutrient for our body, why do some people decide to have a gluten-free diet?

Gluten started to become popular after the discovery of a disease in the population: the celiac disease. The celiacs (people affected by the celiac disease) are gluten intolerant, it means that they can’t digest the gluten. It causes them some problems. They don’t die, don’t worry. Their intestine can’t absorb the gluten and it gives them diarrhea, belly pain and, in general they feel bad and sick (this is the easiest way to put it down, ok? But it’s a bit more complicated). Some people find out to be celiac when they are already adults, some of them live eating gluten for many years, going through a lot of liquid shit, before they are diagnosed with the disease. The celiacs should not eat gluten.

What gluten does to celiacs or mie ayam bakso di warung to me.

What gluten does to celiacs or mie ayam bakso di warung to me.

If you are not celiac you can digest the gluten like any other protein and for your intestine it’s harmless, it doesn’t cause you any disease or any problems. So the point is: are you celiac?

If the answer is YES, i’m sorry for you and unfortunately, you have to follow a gluten-free diet. If the answer is NO, this problem doesn’t absolutely touch you.

If you don’t know that, go do a test, but only if you have these symptoms. Do you feel bad when you eat cookies (or any other baked products)? Does your belly hurt every time you have a pizza with your friends? Do you have a chronic diarrhea? Do you kentut terus? If this is your case go to a doctor and ask to make a test for the celiac disease. Otherwise don’t worry about the gluten and eat whatever you feel like eating.

Only a low percentage of the world population is celiac but the number is growing. I’m not celiac. Lika is not celiac. My parents, my sisters, my kids are not celiac… Out of the hundreds people i know, i have only 2 friends who are celiacs and they both follow a gluten-free diet.

Now, I have heard people saying that they eat gluten-free food because it’s healthier. This is absolutely wrong. The presence of gluten doesn’t make a food unhealthy! It’s healthier (it’s rather an obligation) only if you are celiac, if you have that disease, otherwise it doesn’t make any difference (but it’s trendy, right? Also Gwyneth Paltrow does it! It’s cool!). Only celiacs should have a gluten-free diet, the rest of the population doesn’t have to worry about that (but of course you can stop eating gluten, if you want, it’s your choice).

Don’t make a fool of yourself, don’t spend more money to eat something that doesn’t affect your life, don’t be trapped into the marketing and the trends. In few words… Don’t be stupid. Unfortunately there are a lot of articles and advertisements that gives disinformation about gluten and they drive people to believe that a gluten-free diet is better for your body and health, which is completely wrong.

Gluten is not a poison, it’s not a chemical ingredient that the cruel food companies put inside your food to kill you (it’s not even a surrogate of meat for vegetarians like some of my followers said). It’s something 100% natural, it’s a protein like many others, naturally contained in some cereals.

It might shock you, but gluten doesn't look like this under a microscope.

It might shock you, but gluten doesn’t look like this under a microscope.

I think we all agree if i say that, i don’t know… The pork lard is not that healthy, right? Full of cholesterol… Well it’s totally gluten-free. What about the “Foie Gras” (fat duck liver)? it’s not too healthy either but it’s 100% gluten-free as well. Do you know gulai kambing or sate gajih? They are both gluten-free food but not that healthy. There’s no link between gluten and healthy food.

Maybe no one told you but you eat gluten-free food very often without even knowing it.

Let me list some of the very common food in Indonesia that are gluten-free:

– Steamed white rice (yes, nasi putih is gluten-free)

– Nasi goreng

– Roasted chicken

– Bubur ayam

– Gado gado

– Milk

– Sate ayam

– Sate padang

– Nasi uduk

– Cheese

– Any kind of vegetables and meat

And many many others. Generally speaking, all the food that doesn’t contain flour (especially wheat flour) is gluten-free, because gluten is contained only in some cereals (but not in rice).

This, instead, is a short list of some the most common food that contains gluten:

– Pasta (there’s also gluten-free pasta for celiacs made from corn. It sucks, actually)

– Lasagne

– Pizza

– Indomie

– Mie goreng (but not bihun, that’s from rice flour, right? Correct me if i’m wrong)

– Biscuits (unless they use alternative “gluten-free” flours)

– Bread (unless it’s made using some “gluten-free” cereals)

– Cakes

– Croissant

– Donuts

In general all the food which has flour in the ingredients (unless it’s a gluten-free flour like the rice flour) contains gluten. Is it less healthy? Absolutely not!

"Why bother looking for gluten-free cakes? I'm gluten-free too!" (Photo by flexmedia.co.id)

“Why bother looking for gluten-free cakes? I’m gluten-free too!”
(Photo by flexmedia.co.id)

I saw people posting picts of gluten-free cakes on social media telling that it’s a healthy alternative to a normal cake. They went through the whole cake, eating it all without any regrets because in their mind gluten-free means healthy so there’s nothing to worry about, they can finish it. Actually the difference between a gluten-free cake and a normal cake is only the flour, that’s it. There is still sugar, eggs and all the other ingredients you use to make a cake, just the flour doesn’t contain that protein.

So, do you want to have your gluten-free meal? Get a nasi goreng or a roasted chicken! Get a steak. It’s gluten-free. But after all, unless you are celiac, for you it doesn’t make a difference…. and you know what? Talking about food I’m getting hungry, i wanna go to have lunch. Who knows if in the food court upstairs they have “Sate Gluten” or “Gluten Goreng” with a gluten free jasmine hot tea

Catch you up, guys, comment and share, if you like.

Matteo

The Power of Dangdut: Stairway to Pantura

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The very first Indonesian word i learned when i came to Jakarta the first time was “macet” (traffic jam). The second was dangdut.

Someone came to pick me up when i landed at the Soekarno Hatta airport and, after we dribbled the fake taxi drivers who ask 300.000 rupiah to get to the centre of the town (the average is about 120) and the guys who offer themselves to carry your luggage to the taxi for 100.000 rupiah, we finally stepped into a taxi, a real one. After 2 minutes we were already stuck in the jam, not moving at all.

“Macet” the taxi driver said, whose meaning i discovered to be “traffic jam”, a word that i could never forget anymore (we took 2 and half hour to get to Jakarta that day).

Can you see me? I'm the one in the blue car. (Bay Ismoyo/GettyImages)

Can you see me? I’m the one in the blue car.
(Bay Ismoyo/GettyImages)

So, well, we were there, in the traffic, the taxi was stinking of dirty feet and weird cigarette smoke, i was getting nervous, not a good start for sure but… From the speakers of the car a music was gently invading my mind. A music i never heard before, with an enchanting rhythm. A sweet flute, percussions and a thin feminine voice were drilling into my brain

“What the hell of music is this?” I asked to my friend.
“That’s dangdut, Indonesian music,” he answered.
“I love it,” i said. And since that day, like the word “macet”, dangdut never left me alone.

If you are Indonesian you know what i’m talking about. If you are not, go have a look on Youtube, digit dangdut and you will soon know what it is.

I have learned most of my English thanks to rock and roll. When i was a young teenager i was used to spend most of my time (at least the one spared from porn and video games) listening to old English rock, mostly from the ’70, digging into the lyrics and the music, and in this way i learned the language. Led Zeppelin, Queen, Deep Purple, Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd were my teachers. So i said, why don’t we give dangdut a chance? Who knows, maybe i can learn Bahasa Indonesia faster than i think. I was delusional.

If you approach Indonesian music you will soon discover that, if your target is the pop music, most of the songs are based on few words, repeated and mixed, but still the same words: “Cinta” (love), “Kangen” or “Rindu” (missing), “Selamanya” (for ever), “Putus” (break up), “Asmara” (romance) and few others. You can’t learn that much. Yes, you learn for sure how to say “I love you” to a girl, but not much more. The 90% of the pop songs are love songs and that’s it.

But if your target is dangdut, like it was mine, you have a larger range of scenarios to explore. Well… Not really.

Let’s divide the complete discography of dangdut in 2 parts: songs by female singers and songs by male singers.

I love dangdut but of course i’m not an expert, my knowledge is not that huge but I soon realised that, when you listen a dangdut song by female singers, the topics are just 2: sex (mostly as a victim) and cheating men. Period.

The lyrics of the songs by female dangdut singers picture a word full of bad guys, experts on cheating and lying, guys that have 3, 4 or even 5 wives, guys that only think about having sex no matter how, guys who make you pregnant and disappear, dudes who don’t come back home for 3 years already (tiga kali puasa, tiga kali lebaran…) and leave crying children and desperate wives, bastards that fucked you and then give you a wrong address so that you can’t find them, maniacs that marry another wife when they already have one or that goes fucking around young widows (janda muda).

Come on, it's already 3 years. Just give up.

Come on, it’s already 3 years. Just give up.

Well, if you listen a dangdut song and the singer is a sweet young lady, even if you don’t understand the lyrics don’t worry, she is talking about some piece of shit she met, someone who lied to her, fucked her in the darkness of a tea plantation, then left her alone, pregnant and hopeless. Unless the singer is not talking about her husband who has an affair or about getting money by making guys horny with her dance moves (sawer). So, still, i could not learn that much either.

When the singer is a man, the things are different, more stuff to learn, larger number of words to memorise. The problem is that, beside some old male singers, especially The King Rhoma (God keep him healthy), there are not so many male dangdut performers nowadays. You have to dig in the classics, which i did. The result was nice and so far the classic dangdut is still my favourite.

Now let me tell you something that might shock you, if you are Indonesian: “Kopi Dangdut”, yes, the famous song by Fahmi Sahab is not an original dangdut song. Believe it or not. I was in Indonesia for few months and i was humming a dangdut song I just learned (i think it was “Alamat Palsu”) when one of my guy in the kitchen asked me “Hey chef, do you like dangdut?” of course the answer was “I love it”, so that guy started to tell me about this legendary dangdut song, so famous that even a Japanese band did a cover of it. Soon we were in my office on YouTube listening to it. That’s how i knew “Kopi Dangdut” and yes, i did also listen to the Japanese version (which title is “Coffee Rumba”) but there was something in the deep of my brain that reminded me of my childhood, it was like i heard that song before. So i did a fast research on web and, as i expected, i found a song, from the ’60, with the same exact music. The singer was Mina, a very famous Italian old singer, and the title of the song is “Moliendo Cafe”. The version of Mina was a cover as well, in Spanish, of an instrumental song by Hugo Blanco, a Venezuelan musician, with the same title (that means “grinding coffe” in Spanish). They did more than 800 covers of that song all over the world and in Indonesia Fahmi Sahab did the dangdut version. I know it’s hard to find out the truth by an Italian chef but to support what i say i post the video of the version by Mina.

For most of the people in the world that was Mina singing Moliendo Cafe. For Indonesians that was a silly old Italian lady that made a cover of Kopi Dangdut almost 30 years before Fahmi Sahab wrote it

But let’s go back to the topic that is in the title “The Power of Dangdut”. Dangdut might not teach you to speak Bahasa Indonesia but it’s a very mighty tool to link with Indonesians. If you are in a group with some Indonesian fellas, you are maybe the only bule (white guy) and you feel a bit cut out of the conversation… Start singing a random dangdut song and everybody will start to smile, and sing with you. This is what happens to me, at least.

I work in the kitchens, I work with Indonesians, many Indonesians in a tough environment and when the tension raises in the kitchen, in busy time, when everybody is running trying to do their best with plenty things to do… What i have to do is start singing dangdut and i wipe out all the bad mood and the stress. Everybody around me start smiling, singing with me, screaming stuff like “Aseeekkk!!!!” (which means Cool!!!) and even if they are busy they drop the pans to raise their thumbs and start dancing (yes, because no matter how you move, no matter what you do, if your thumbs are up you already joget dangdut).

My knowledge of this music, all the time spent in front of my pc, listening to the dangdut songs was not worthless. In every moment i can cheer my guys up, bring a good mood to a stressful environment like the kitchen, just singing few verses of a dangdut song with my thumbs up. No more stress. Everybody works better and the time goes by faster. Do it and you are already a friend of them.

I made more friends thanks to dangdut than thanks to anything else in my life. Sometimes i go working in places where they don’t know me as i am (a crazy silly dude), just for few hours, doing cooking classes, cooking shows or demos and i always meet new people, Indonesians who think i’m the typical “bule sombong”, serious and a bit arrogant, someone to be afraid of. They respect me, they are so kind with me since the beginning, but when i start singing dangdut their faces light up, a smile soon appears on their lips and i’m soon one of them, a friend. They will work better and more relaxed and everybody enjoys.

If you are with a company a bit more sophisticated, with people who think dangdut is a music for villagers, for uneducated people… No matter. Try the experiment anyway and you will see that somehow it will be funny. They will also probably start singing some dangdut song that reminds them when they were kids and at the end everybody will smile.

It’s just that i find dangdut funny and enjoyable. It’s not the music, it’s not the lyrics (although there are some lyrics that, i swear, are funniest than any stand up comedian), it’s not just the dance… It’s all. It’s the attitude. It’s Indonesia in its most genuine aspect, the one i love and i’m addicted to. Forget all the shit, forget all the corruption, the problems and the contradictions of this country and go to the root, go to the soul of Indonesians. It’s more complicated than this, yes, but after all it’s this attitude that i love, the “dangdut attitude” as i call it, and i find it in most of the good people i daily meet.

I’m writing this article on a bus heading to Pantura the place i know as the centre of dangdut in west Java. My friends told me stories about that, magnifying it as the Eldorado for dangdut lovers: dangdut parties night and day, stages for concerts everywhere, sweet ladies dancing with their sexy moves on the streets, attracting horny guys from all around the kampung.

Look at this. How can people not like dangdut?!

Check this out. How can people not like dangdut?!

 

In my mind it’s a mix between heaven and hell, a place for lust and fun, full of crazy horny girls. And all this with the finest dangdut soundtrack ever. Of course i’m alone, Lika is not with me, and my pockets are full of “goceng” (the 5000 rupiah bills) for “sawer” (the “tips” you slip into the bra of the dangdut singers and dancers as compensation for their entertainment). All i wish is to meet Mela Barbie, my goddess, to donate her the necklace i personally did sewing 15 bills of 100.000 rupiah together. Wish me good luck.

Matteo

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: a Myth, a Legend, a Gift from God… Do It Your Way, Lah! It’s Just Pasta

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Let’s start this article saying that the spaghetti alla carbonara is probably the most popular italian dish in the world. And the most copied.

Left: a stupid guy. Right: the spaghetti carbonara he made.

Left: a stupid guy. Right: the spaghetti alla carbonara he made.

If you are italian like me you have been raised with the spaghetti alla carbonara. When the italian moms realised that their kids have grown enough teeth so that they are able to chew they soon prepare them a portion of it. In every italian family it magically appears on the table at least a couple of times per month followed by enthusiastic cheerings, hands clapping and olas (yes, when in the stadium during a football match the audience stands up in sequence to recreate the effect of a wave, a “ola”, as the spanish say. Not easy to make it around a table though). At least this was happening in my family. Every italian fella can make the spaghetti alla carbonara, it’s a requirement the government claims to its citizens, in order to keep living in the country.

I have seen many version of it but be careful, you have to know that there is a fixed standard recipe for the spaghetti alla carbonara and there are some fanatics who will threat you to death if you don’t follow it precisely. What can i say? In Italy, when it’s about food, every folks feel like giving you their “professional advice”, like they are all 3 Michelin stars chefs, although they have never stepped into a restaurant kitchen (and it happens the same when you talk about football).

The origin of this recipe is still unknown and under investigation even if everybody knows that it comes from Roma.

Someone says that the recipe was given by the Virgin Mary herself during one of her holy apparition to a crowd of hungry young shepherds: a mysterious dish full of spaghetti alla carbonara gently fell down from the sky, brought by an angel, with the order to spread the recipe to the world. Guys, i’m joking, don’t take it seriously.

Yes, in this picture it's a branch of olive tree. But in reality it was spaghetti.

Yes, in this picture it’s a branch of olive tree. But in reality it was spaghetti.

Most probably it was invented by the “carbonari”, the charcoal workers who were used to produce the charcoal long time ago in the woods in Italy. Apparently they were too lazy to go to Carrefour so they prepared their food with the ingredients they usually found around like eggs (probably stolen in some hen-house), smoked meat (when you produce the coal you create a lot of smoke so you just have to hang a piece of meat on the top of it. The meat was probably stolen too and of unknown origin), pasta and cheese (i’m not sure but probably it was stolen as well).

The ingredients of the REAL and AUTHENTIC spaghetti alla carbonara (as you can find in Wikipedia) are the following:  

  • Spaghetti (or penne or even other size of pasta but yes, usually spaghetti)
  • Smoked pork “guanciale” (i know you have no idea what it is. I will tell you, don’t worry)
  • Eggs (1 per person)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (not strictly necessary)
  • Cheese
  • Black pepper

Now, what you have to do is very simple:

  • Just put a little bit of olive oil in your pan then you add the guanciale cut in dices.
  • Cook the guanciale until crispy and in a bowl whisk the eggs with the grated cheese and the black pepper.
  • Then cook your pasta and when it’s ready add it to the meat, pour the eggs and sauté until it’s creamy.

I have some friends who don’t even sautéed the pasta, they just put it in a bowl, they add the meat and the eggs and they let the eggs cook with the heat of the pasta.

That’s it. It’s too easy to make so please, don’t buy the bullshit ready to eat sauce in the jar, or the instant one, at least until some company offers me to produce one with my brand and name.

The "Indomie" version of spaghetti alla carbonara for dumb German dudes.

The “Indomie” version of spaghetti alla carbonara for dumb German dudes.

Everybody knows spaghetti, i don’t have to add anything. Probably in your mouth it sounds more like “SPGEDY” but you know what it is. Anyway you can use other kind of pasta but the best for carbonara, at least in my opinion, is the spaghetti.

The guanciale (in Italy it means “pillow” but also cheek) is a cured meat that comes from the cheek of the pig. Yes, you can find this stuff in Italy. Some people use smoked pancetta (bacon) instead of guanciale and the argument if we have to use one or the other is still discussed at the court in Italy.

About the cheese: probably the original cheese for this recipe is the Pecorino Romano, a very salted but tasty cheese made with the sheep milk, although most of the people use the Parmigiano Reggiano.

In my life i have eaten spaghetti alla carbonara so many times and all of them, somehow, tasted different. It means that although there’s a standard authentic recipe, people do it their way and that’s the magic power of cooking. Do what you want, create and whatever… Make it as tasty as you like.

Some put onion, some put garlic (i do), some put cream (i do that too, but just a touch) and all around the world people use the meat they have and the meat they like. What’s wrong? I challenge you to go to a grocery shop in Uganda and find the smoked guanciale. I can’t find it in Jakarta either, i barely find a good bacon. So what do i have to do? I should not eat the carbonara because i can’t find the guanciale and if i use other meat i offend someone? Then not everybody can eat pork, i have a lot of muslim friends who follow a Halal diet, so what do they have to do? Give up on the carbonara? No, just do it like you want, with the meat you like and enjoy it (but don’t tell that to the italian fanatics, they will chase you until the end of your days).

About one year ago i did a video which was published on Yahoo Indonesia where i do my version of the carbonara, the version i wanted to propose to the indonesian audience, with available ingredients and suitable for everybody. I used smoked chicken breast, garlic and a touch of fresh cream. It was very good! This is the video from my Youtube channel.

If you could speak italian you could even read the mean comments from some Carbonara fanatics (there are also some in english) that are saying that it is not the original recipe. Yes, i know that, i didn’t want to do the authentic recipe, dude. Unfortunately now, after this video, i can’t come back to Italy anymore, i have been threatened to death for a dish of pasta. Ahahaha.

Enjoy your food, guys, and cook as you please. Unlike people, spaghetti never killed anyone and if you try the recipe leave a comment and share it.

Matteo

Well Done Beef Steak, Sir? Let Me Change Your Mind

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This is quite a weird topic for my first article on this blog, someone might think, but not too weird if you know that well done beef steaks are the cause of most of my frustrations as a chef in Indonesia (the number 2 is the crazy abuse of Sambal in every kind of food, from pizza to dessert ,which will appear in an article in the near future).

As a Tuscan guy, born and raised on the sweet green hills of that amazing part of Italy, my idea of a steak is a big cut of beef, with a heavy bone, thick, juicy and, most important rare, tender and red inside. In Tuscany, the homeland of the T-Bone steak (we call it Fiorentina steak, that is different from the football club), we don’t even consider it a steak if it’s less than 1 kg and believe me, i have cooked some above 2 kg.

Left: dinner of a Tuscan guy. Right: dinner of 2 Tuscan guys.

See the size? Make it well done. It will take 1 hour. But that’s not the point.

Let’s say that you have a whole night to cook your steak, the time is none of your problem, although when you come to a restaurant you want to see your food on the table maximum 10 minutes after you ordered it, but still, there are many other reasons why you should have your steak from medium below.

Unfortunately (for me), Indonesians order their beef well done. No matter if you try to explain them that it’s gonna be tough, no matter if you tell them it’s gonna take time… They insist. It must be well done.

In my experience in this amazing country i can say that the 70% of the steaks i grill in my kitchen are well done, the 20% medium well and the rest 10% between medium and medium rare (where did i get these numbers? Of course i never counted lah! I’m just making a rough estimation but it’s not far from the real). The few rare steaks i cook, maybe 1 out of 40, will most probably finish their journey into the tummy of a bule (a white dude, for whom is not familiar with this word).

Everytime i asked to some indonesian fella why he gets his steak well done the answers are always the same:

– Because of hygiene

– Because i don’t like to see the blood inside

– Because inside the meat there are many bacterias and you need to cook it well done to kill them all

– I like it more well done

– “You know, orang Indonesia (indonesian people) have a different stomach than a bule, we must eat the beef well done or we feel dizzy, we have stomachache and diarrea until we throw up and get sick. It happened to a friend of mine, demi Allah!”

I don’t understand any of these points. I know that here in Indonesia, since you are a kid, everybody tells you that you have to cook your food well done because of the above reasons. It’s a mind set, something indonesians have in their DNA from a long time ago. It’s a part of indonesian’s inheritance. Your parents probably told you that, your teachers as well, if you are indonesian. But now deal with this: I always have my steak “blue”, which is extremely rare, i often eat raw beef like carpaccio and tartare, in Italy i was used to eat raw pork as well  and i love it (don’t try this at home!), i eat raw fish when i get my sushi or sashimi and i’ve never had any problem.

This is how I eat my steak.

I should be dead by now. I would not have gone through the puberty, if eating rare or raw beef would be a risk or a hazard. The fact is that i’m here writing on this blog, still alive, i have never been sick in the last 3 years… It seems like i’m the living proof that a rare steak will not kill you.

Now let me destroy, one by one, the most common wrong facts that indonesians think about rare steaks:

It’s not hygienic. Wrong! The beef itself doesn’t contain dangerous contaminations and doesn’t give hospitality to any hygienic hazard. Maybe the environment where the beef is slaughtered and processed could, but not the beef itself. Every cow, before they peacefully pass away to be hosted on your table, go through a lot of rigid controls by veterinarians that will certify that it’s ready to be slaughtered (what a lucky son of a bitch, uh?). Then the same veterinarians check every cut of beef to certify again that it’s healthy, that it doesn’t present any hazard and it can be send to the supermarket’s shelves. If you buy beef from Australia, USA, Japan or Europe you have nothing to worry about, it’s certified and it respect every severe standard of hygiene. Then if you farm the cows yourself in your kampung and you slaughter them with your bare hands without any control… Well it’s your risk. But if you go to a trusted restaurant and they tell you that the beef is imported, it doesn’t come from the black market and the source is trustable, no need to worry about hygienic issues.

I don’t like to see the blood inside. Wrong!

This might shock you but… The red colour of the beef is not blood. It’s caused by a protein which name is myoglobin. The myoglobin links the iron and in presence of oxygen it gets a nice red colour. What you see when you look at a raw red piece of beef is not blood, otherwise why is it not leaking everywhere? The red colour of the blood and the colour of the raw beef are the same because of the same reason, but when you eat a rare steak the red stuff you see it’s not because it contains blood, it’s just muscle fibers, proteins, which happen to be red.

Inside the meat there are bacterias which needs to be wiped out by a long and massive quantity of heat or maybe a nuclear weapon. Wrong!

Inside the meat there are not dangerous bacterias, if the meat has been controlled by veterinarians and judged suitable for your table (and in the restaurants all the beef is like that). As i said before, you have to trust the source, and i do that. It’s possible that the meat hosts some bacterias on the surface because of crossed contamination with the environment, but the surface will be cooked anyway. The bacterias, if present, comes from outside, from a wrong handling process of the meat, not from inside the meat. If we go to the warung and we order a sate padang, yes, maybe better to get it well done, because of the absolute lack of hygiene of those places and the uncertain origin of the meat. But still, you might have your sate well done but then feel sick anyway because they serve it to you on dirty plates, “washed” in a bucket filled with dirty water which is changed 2 times a day. Then the frame of rats and cockroaches is not helping. I’m quite sure that the people who order a well done steak at my restaurant have been to the warung at least once in a lifetime, or maybe every week. Ya? Ya? Ya?

Left: veterinarian checking up on a cow. Right: expression of that cow.

I like it more well done. Wrong!

Well, ok, as my latin ancestors said “de gustibus non disputandum est” which means “we can’t argue and discuss on the taste of the people”. Yes, everybody has his taste and everybody likes what they like. I agree. But in this case i can’t really believe that someone would prefer a tough, hard, dry, flavourless, chewy and black piece of coal rather than a juicy, tasty, tender and flavourful steak. When you cook a steak well done the fibers of the proteins become tough, it looses all the juice and the taste, it becomes hard to chew and the flavour vanishes. It happens that people buy an amazing cut of japanese wagyu then ask me to massacre it on the grill until it’s well done. Well, dude, don’t make a fool of yourself, don’t spend a million rupia for a piece of beef that, after the treatment you request, will taste and look like a cheap anonymous cut of who knows what from who knows where. It’s not only stupid, it’s an offense. I could grill two different cuts of beef: a grassfed japanese wagyu (1 million/kg) and a cambodian no brand beef (100 thousand/kg), both well done and you will not taste the difference. Then i challenge you in a blind taste with the same beef, the first time well done and the second medium. I’m sure you will not choose the well done.

Indonesians have a different stomach, we get sick if we eat rare beef, it happened to my friend demi Allah. Wrong!

Would you rather eat this or a medium steak?

Would you rather eat this or a medium steak?

Come on man, should i really talk about this point? This is kinda urban legend stuff. First of all the stomach of an indonesian is just like the stomach of a bule. If it happens to your friend maybe it was not because of the rare beef but because of the place where he got it or because he had too much sambal. Or because of masuk angin. I told you, i should have been dead by now. Come to my restaurant, get a rare steak, then if you feel sick i will reimburse you the meal  (please attach the medical certificate if you want to be reimbursed. I don’t accept certificates from massage therapists, i’m not that stupid).

I didn’t convince you yet. Next time you go to a restaurant and you feel like having a steak the imperative will be “Well done!”

Ok, take a look at this: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/medium-rare-or-well-done-which-kind-of-meat-is-healthier/article13040626/

You don’t trust in a medical research. So trust in Wikipedia and take a look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterocyclic_amine_formation_in_meat

You were too lazy to read all that stuff or you didn’t understand what they said? Let me explain you in few simple words.

When the proteins of the red meat are under a high temperature for a long time they change structure. They link to other molecules giving birth to a category of substances which are called HCAs. These HCAs are mutagens. No, you will not become an X-Men, they will not give you superpowers such as being able to see naked girls through their dresses or become invisible so that you can get into the women’s changing rooms (i don’t know why but i have always contemplated the advantage of having superpowers in terms of seeing naked girls) or take a trip with Transjakarta and find a seat available.

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My friend Bambang and friends after eating a well done steak.

It has been scientifically proven that the consumption of well done beef increases the possibility to have a colon rectal cancer because the mutagens that are created when you cook the meat for long time at high temperature are much much more than in a rare or medium beef.

I’m not saying that it will happen. It will not happen, ok? But well done beef is for sure less healthy than medium or rare. Then the proteins contained in a well done beef are less in number and harder to digest.

This is why i get so frustrated over well done steaks: it’s less healthy, less tasty, tough and dry. It makes me waste a nice cut of beef, why should i select a good product if later it will taste like shit anyway? It’s stupid and it’s a waste of money. And all of this because of a wrong mind set and wrong beliefs.

Now keep having your beef well done but don’t tell me that i didn’t try to warn you. Come on man, give medium steak a chance, it’s worth it, believe me. I care of you.

Matteo

Getting A Tattoo: How Painful Can It Be?

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First of all, I would like to warn you that I am not a tattoo artists, tattoo experts, nor am I a woman with 200 tattoos on my body. To be honest I had just got my first tattoo 3 months ago. But weeks before I went for my appointment, I went online everyday to do a research about all things tattoo, especially on how painful it would be. So here I am writing, so that you can somewhat find this blog through Google when you’re nervous and freaking out, minutes before you leave the house to go to the tattoo studio.

So “how painful is getting a tattoo?” was the very subject I was most obsessed with. As a tattoo virgin, you have absolutely no clue on how painful it would be. Yes, some people say getting a tattoo is going to hurt. But how hurt can it be? And most importantly, what kind of hurt? Is it like a slice? Is it like a stab? What should I expect?

My very first tattoo, one minuter after it was done.

My very first tattoo, one minuter after it was done.

Let me ask you girls one thing: have you ever had a brazilian wax? Yes? Well, THAT hurts! Compared to that torture, getting a tattoo is nothing! I remember I was really nervous when I parked my butt on the chair seconds away from getting my first tattoo, my hands were cold, and I felt scared mostly because I didn’t know what to expect (especially when a friend had said the night before, ‘it won’t hurt! it’s just gonna be like someone poke you with the tip of a knife’ and I was like ‘what the fuck? you think being poked by the tip of a knife doesn’t hurt?!?!). So I just closed my eyes, prepared myself for the worst, took a deep breath, then suddenly I felt tickled. Wait, what? Yes, tickled. I don’t know if it was maybe because I had expected a somewhat severe pain that when the needle started working on my skin it didn’t feel that painful to me, or was it because it was not THAT painful, but my first impression upon having an electrical needle gun poking under my skin was more of a tickle than a torture. It’s a little like getting your eyebrows threaded, but in loooong strokes and for long hours.

Of course after 1 minute I started to make faces and clenched my fists because after a while it did become painful, and in some areas it hurt more, but if I have to rate the pain of getting a tattoo, from 1-10 I would give it a four (4). Of course it all depends on which body part you will be tattooed, how long you will have to be under the needle (mine was done for 45 minutes, but a friend of mine spent 4,5 hours for her first tattoo) and how the design is. I got my first one on my back, a little below my shoulder. It was one of those places that hurts less. Matt got one on his side neck and he said it was so painful that he had to tell the artist to stop for a little while. So I suggest for a first timer just pick a place with thicker skin, or on the area where you have thicker fat, not directly on top of a bone. Miami Ink has a “map” of which body parts hurts more and which ones hurt less. You can check it here.

If you’re still freaked out, try this trick I did. Well it’s not actually a trick, it’s more of a “mental exercise”. Just think about Justin Bieber, or Miley Cyrus, or those other little kids that has several tattoos on their body. If kids and pussies can do it, well hey! It can’t hurt that much, right?!

Lika