Traditional markets as drivers of Indonesia-Qatar cooperation

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The collaboration has the potential to make Qatari and Indonesian food more attractive and popular among the international community,

Medan, N Sumatra (ANTARA) – Two popular Qatari chefs, Hassan Al Ibrahim and Noof Al Marri, enthusiastically smelled, touched, and tasted various spices, vegetables, and fruits sold at Petisah Market, Medan city, North Sumatra province, on Sunday (June 25, 2023).

Ibrahim tried bean sprouts, tomatoes, tamarillos, and mangoes. He offered his compatriot a tamarillo and mango to taste, saying, “They taste good,” and Marri did not refuse.

The two chefs, who are visiting Indonesia as part of the Culinary Journey program of Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture, also bought several ingredients, including andaliman (Zanthoxylum acanthopodium), palm sugar, as well as ready-to-use seasoning.

Ibrahim, who is nicknamed “The Captain Chef” since he also works as a pilot, said that he was very delighted because as a cook, the market is such a place he really wanted to visit.

He said that some spices and seasonings, which cannot be found in Qatar, were sold in the market.

The chef also said that he enjoyed coming to Petisah Market since there is a similar traditional market in Qatar.

“In Qatar, it is called the central market. The markets (in Indonesia and Qatar) have the same concepts since they are both built indoors as well as sell various seasonings, vegetables, fruits, and spices,” he added.

Greater role for traditional market

Coordinator for Culinary Journey Program of Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture, Santhi Serad, informed that her party chose to visit the traditional market since various ingredients sold there reflected the diversity of dishes in the region.

The more variety of spices, seasonings, and other ingredients sold in a market, the more variety of dishes inspired by acculturation can be found in the area, she said.

“For instance, in Petisah Market, we can find various ingredients usually used for dishes commonly cooked by people in Medan,” Serad, who is also the founder of the Aku Cinta Makanan Indonesia (ACMI) –literally meaning I Love Indonesian Food– continued.

She noted that some of the ingredients were andaliman pepper for Batak cuisine, tauco –a paste made from fermented yellow soybeans– for Chinese dishes, asam sunti –dried and salted Averrhoa bilimbi— for Acehnese cuisine, as well as seasonings for Padang cuisine.

ACMI is a community aiming to preserve, record, develop, and disseminate the wealth of Indonesia’s traditional dishes and has been selected as the partner for implementing the Culinary Journey Program of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.

Traditional markets in Indonesia are not only a place for trading, but also mark the progress of community development, especially their culture.

The director general of culture at the Education and Culture Ministry in 2012–2015, Kacung Marijan, said in a book entitled “Menguak Pasar Tradisional Indonesia” — meaning “Uncover Indonesian Traditional Markets” – that traditional market is social reality that describes the identity of ethnic groups.

He continued, in the book which was published in 2013, that traditional markets are important for developing the nation’s culture because of the various activities carried out in the markets related to cultural aspects, such as language, economics, social, politics, technology, and arts.

Traditional markets in Indonesia are not much different from the ones in West Asian countries, including in Qatar.

Markets in the West Asian country are also a center of social interaction between ethnic communities, and thereby, witnesses to the development of local cultures.

Heba Osama Tannous pointed out the importance of markets for city development, including in Doha, the capital city of Qatar, in a thesis submitted to the College of Engineering of Qatar University in 2020.

In the thesis entitled “Traditional Arabian Marketplaces in Context: A Comparative Study of Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar and Souq Mutrah in Muscat, Oman,” he noted that Doha was established along the oldest market in Qatar, the Souq Waqif.

Souq Waqif, which is more than 200 years old, is located near a dry river bed called Wadi Musheireb. Currently, the market has become a tourism destination in Qatar.

As in Indonesia, traditional markets in Qatar also sell various products from spices, rice, dishes, traditional snacks, souvenirs, utensils, to dried fruits.

The oldest market in Qatar has continued to grow and was expanded into three trading zones in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Djamel Boussaa from the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Qatar University wrote in his paper that the three zones comprise indoor food wholesale and retail area, small handicraft shops, as well as outdoor free market.

The paper entitled “Rehabilitation as a Catalyst of Sustaining a Living Heritage: The Case of Souk Waqif in Doha, Qatar” was published in 2014 in the Art and Design Review journal.

The liveliness of culture in both Indonesian and Qatari traditional markets can become a driver to further strengthen people-to-people relations as well as the partnership of the governments of the two countries, which have had diplomatic relations since 1976.

Hence, it is just right to include traditional markets as part of the Culinary Journey Program of Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture, an international cultural exchange event initiated by Qatar Museums.

Through the program, it is expected that the chefs from Qatar and Indonesia can create special dishes with unique flavor combinations using the various ingredients bought from traditional markets in both countries.

Indonesian chef Muhammad Arsyan Dwianto, who also accompanied the two Qatari chefs at Petisah Market, said he believes that it is possible to create the special dishes.

It is hoped that Qatar and Indonesia will have stronger cooperation in the culinary sector through exchange in cooking knowledge and ingredients in the future, he added.

“The collaboration has the potential to make Qatari and Indonesian food more attractive and popular among the international community,” Dwianto, who placed third in the cooking competition MasterChef Indonesia’s Season 9 in 2022, said.

Meanwhile, Serad said that food can also be a diplomatic means for Qatar and Indonesia to maintain good relations.

“The two countries can introduce their respective cultures through culinary diplomacy,” she added.

She said she believes that the collaboration between the two countries in the culinary sector will help create delicious dishes with rich flavors, especially since the Culinary Journey program is being implemented at three locations with distinctive culinary characteristics.

The program was carried out in Jayapura city, Papua, province (June 19–24, 2023) and Medan city, North Sumatra province (June 24–26). Next, the program will be implemented in Bali from June 27 to July 2.

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Translator: Michael Siahaan, Uyu Liman
Editor: Tia Mutiasari
Copyright © ANTARA 2023

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