The First of its Kind in the English Language

by Inez Hollander

OK. I am biased. 

When Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and food writer, Jeff Keasberry, asked me to proofread his Indo Dutch Kitchen Secrets manuscript, the first cookbook for Indo Dutch cuisine in English, I said yes and found myself quickly immersed in his interesting family history and the mouth-watering recipes. But this is not just a cookbook but it offers history and context to a fusion cuisine all foodies should know about if they take themselves seriously.

After learning about this history, I remember going over the recipes at night, in bed, and my stomach would not stop growling. I finally got up, clanging pots and pans in the kitchen and my husband thought I’d gone raving mad. Walking into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he asked me what I was doing, and I said: “It’s that darn book of Jeff’s! And where the hell is my Trassi?!”

This was not menopausal madness. It’s the best compliment for a book that I will use so often that it will be covered in grease and sambal. Good thing I have two copies…

Eating Indo Dutch food, the food that binds and brings us together and that will possibly be the only piece of heritage that gets preserved as fourth and fifth Indo Dutch generations become more and more Americanized, has always been like coming home for me personally. I could eat the stuff every day, and yes you can wake me in the middle of the night for a good Rendang, a succulent satay or a superbly layered spekkoek.

Jeff already has two cookbooks to his name in the Netherlands, but since Indonesian, let alone Indo Dutch cuisine is hardly known in the English-speaking world, this comprehensive and fascinating cookbook has been long overdue.

Although Jeff was not born in the kitchen of his famous grandmother, Oma Keasberry at Restaurant Djokja, he spent most of his childhood there, and learned by osmosis, from his ‘oma’ and his mother who was also a very fine cook.

The Keasberrys really are an illustrious family: they came over with Raffles to Singapore, and ended up in Java, where Jeff’s entrepreneurial oma had a fashion boutique in Yogyakarta. She also had a boutique in Batavia (Jakarta) and was well known for her cooking —  so much so, Jeff writes, that “the former Sultan of Pontianak demanded she prepare his meals whenever he stayed at Hotel des Indes, as though there were no chefs there”.
She left for The Netherlands in 1949, to never look back and started one of the most famous Indo Dutch restaurants in the Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam.

Obviously, Indo Dutch cuisine is a fusion cuisine which is why the subtitle of the book reads “From stroopwafel to rijsttafel”. While Dutch colonials at first still ate cold weather dishes like ‘boerenkool’ and ‘hutspot’ in the tropics, soon the two cuisines intermarried, just as the Dutch and Indonesians did. In fact, ‘spekkoek’, with its brown and white layers, is the perfect symbol for this non-native and native intermingling, a culinary fusion that also created what is now an official heritage dish, the ‘rijsttafel’.

I will not disclose too much about this wonderful book because I want everyone to buy it and read it for themselves, but I will close off with the following:

Indo Dutch (as well as Indonesian) cuisine is/are hardly known outside of Indonesia or the Netherlands, which is a great injustice as we all know that this fragrant, delicious, spice-enriched and refined cuisine deserves to get the credit and stature of all the major cuisines of the world. Jeff’s book may well put this extraordinary cuisine on the culinary world map once and for all.

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  1. I bought this book some years ago. I just noticed that my last name is mentioned. My name is Nelly Delhaye. I was married to Uno Delhaye who is the son of Gustave and Sophia Delhaye. I was friends with Jessy Chevalier in Amsterdam. My maiden name is Cats. I’m trying to get a hold of Jessy, but
    Didn’t succeed

  2. Tried to order Indo Dutch Kitchen Secrets from Canada, but you don’t ship to Canada. How can I purchase this cookbook?
    Thank you

  3. I tried ordering the cookbook ‘Indo Dutch kitchen secrets’ from Australia, but you don’t ship to Australia. Is there an other way to purchase the cookbook?

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