Rijsttafel or Rice Table is a Dutch term used to describe an elaborate arrangement of dishes which was traditionally served during an Indonesian feast. In Indonesia, the feast is referred to as nasi padang.
The Indonesian islands were occupied by a large population of European explorers and colonists. Traders from India, China, Africa, and the Arab world frequently traveled to the island nation to trade in the rich spices which were native to the region. Due to the large influx of settlers, Indonesian cuisine evolved to include a whole range of dishes and cooking styles. However, the Rijsttafel actually developed during the Dutch settlement of Indonesia. The Dutch East Indian Company colonized Indonesia from 1602-1942. During that period of time, visitors and family who came to Indonesia for the first time were honored with banquets. These banquets were arranged to showcase the nature and variety of food that was available and which could be prepared in Indonesia. Usually, more than a hundred dishes were prepared and more than 300 guests were fed at a single rijsttafel. Lines of sarong-clad servers ceremoniously served the meal in a preset routine on to banana leaf platters. However, according to tradition, the first dish to be served was usually a conical pile of rice leading to the name rijsttafel or rice table. This was followed by 40 to 50 small bowls which were filled with meat, seafood, poultry or vegetable dishes.
Types of Dishes Served
A traditional rijsttafel meal would have served more than a 100 dishes but most modern day versions have about 10 to 25 depending on the occasion. A few of the most popular dishes in the rijsttafel meal include the following -
- Gado-gado is a vegetable stew made with peanut sauce
- Nasi-goreng consisting fried rice served with meat or seafood and Nasi Kuning consisting of yellow Indonesian rice.
- Several different types of sambal
- Satay or grilled meat skewers served with a peanut sauce
- Soto or different varieties of soups served with kurup or shrimp crackers.
- Babi kecap or soy sauce braised pork belly
- Snacks or starters in the form of lumpia or spring rolls, pisang goreng or banana fritters, perkedel or meat patties, tahu telur or tofu omlette, telur balado or soy sauce-braised eggs, lempur or rice rolls etc.
As the term was originally placed by the Dutch and denoted the Dutch settlement of Indonesia, the rijsttafel is not popular amongst the native Indonesians. A few eating establishments like Jakarta's Oasis Restaurant still serve the meal for special occasions. However, the cost is too prohibitive. In Denmark, the rijsttafel is very popular and many restaurants serve the meal. The most popular restaurant still serving the meal is called Sama Sebo and is located near the Rijskmuseum.