Chefs from the two ends of the ancient spice trade route gather to introduce fusion Qatari and Indonesia food at the 2023 Ubud Food Festival 27154

Two Qatari chefs were the guests of honour at this year’s Ubud Food Festival in Indonesia, bringing to a close the delicious Culinary Journey portion of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture. Throughout June, the chefs visited three cities from the east to the west of the Indonesian archipelago to gain a deep understanding of Indonesia’s culture through its people, the traditional food of each region and unique ingredients.
Chef Noof al-Marri, the owner of the Desert Rose Cafe at the National Museum of Qatar who is famous for her expertise in preparing traditional Qatari food, and chef Hassan al-Ibrahim, known as Captain Chef due to his work as a pilot and experience sampling restaurant and street food in 175 cities around the world, took part in the Culinary Journey from Jayapura (June 19-24), to Medan (June 24-27), and Bali (June 27 – July 2).
The Qatari chefs have been exploring all corners of Indonesia through unique gastronomic experiences, enjoying street food, learning traditional cooking techniques by preparing home-cooked meals in locals’ homes and looking into sustainable food practices.
Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who launched the Years of Culture initiative in 2012, expressed her happiness that the chefs experienced the beauty and richness of Indonesian culture through the Culinary Journey.
“Food is a universal expression of culture that encapsulates the characteristics of society as well as its traditions. I sincerely hope the chefs will bring their experiences home to inspire their next recipe and share their passion for learning and experiencing new cultures with new people,” HE Sheikha Al Mayassa said.
At the start of the Culinary Journey programme, the chefs from Qatar met with famous Indonesian chefs who served as guides and collaborators: chef Charles Toto, a jungle chef native to Papua who is active in preserving traditional Papuan dishes; and chef Devina Hermawan, a former haute couture model turned chef known through her role on Master Chef Indonesia.

Chef Devina, who makes Indonesian food using the basic ingredients of curry, made Medan’s signature Duck Curry Vermicelli at the Culinary Theater performance space during the 2023 Ubud Food Festival.
“As we come to the end of this Culinary Journey, I am happy to be able to make food whose basic ingredients are inspired by one of chef Hassan’s most memorable dishes, which is also my favourite food since childhood,” said chef Devina. “Medan curry has special characteristics, which makes it thinner but richer in taste than other curries that are widely used in India, the Middle East and other regions,” she explained.
Chef Hassan was excited to learn about the different cultural traditions of the locations visited during the Culinary Journey through dishes popular in each location.
“Each city we visited on has a unique, warm tradition. The city of Medan epitomised a fusion of various cultures such as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Acehnese, Minang, Javanese and traditional Batak, which has similarities with Qatar, where most of the people are expats. This city also has a special curry dish, which is very easy for many people to like, can be mixed and matched and packaged according to tastes and times, which in my opinion is the right dish to be an authentic dish that can represent Indonesia on the world culinary scene,” he said.
During the Food for Thought discussion panel held at Rumah Kayu @ Taman Kuliner, chef Noof, chef Devina and chef Charles explored the heritage, tradition and contemporary innovations that Qatar and Indonesia share. Attendees were invited to discuss the power of culinary traditions as a bridge between countries, in line with the essence of Qatar – Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.
“I enjoyed this great experience and learned a lot about the culture and history of various cities in Indonesia. There are no less than 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, each with its own customs and habits, traditions, and culture,” said chef Noof on the sidelines of the Food for Thought event. “Indonesia is very rich with herbs and spices that form traditional recipes inspired by this sensory wealth. Recipes vary from region to region, according to the natural wealth of each area. The Javanese, for example, tend to eat sweet foods because of the abundance of sugar cane and palm sugar. But many other places like Padang, Manado, and Bali, are very keen on the use of chilies and spices,” she explained.
On the last day of the Ubud Food Festival, chef Noof and Jungle chef Charles demonstrated their mastery of cooking traditional Qatari and Papuan snacks: Kebab Nakhe and Fish Sinole.
“Nake kebabs, which are very similar to bakwan or fried bala-bala, can be an afternoon snack that can be eaten with fish sinole,” explained chef Charles.
The choice of locations, Papua, Medan, and Bali, for the Culinary Journey series was made not only to explore a variety of culinary delights, but also to showcase Indonesia’s rich cultural traditions. “The Culinary Journey is a process of getting to know each other’s culture. When we talk about food, it’s not only about the dishes and ingredients, but also the traditions that surround its making and consumption,” said Hilmar Farid, director general of Culture, Ministry of Education and Culture.
He added that he hoped each country could strengthen bonds of understanding and explore the uniqueness and diversity of each other’s cultures through the Qatar – Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture and its programming.

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