Culinary talk |

An Encounter With Nordic Cuisine

Culinary Talk | 9 November 2018

My first visit to Europe was in 2004, when I flew Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to London for my studies. Thanks to multiple transits, I got to know see a little of Scandinavia before I arrived in London. I was 20, full of hope and energy, and just super excited to be in Europe for the first time. I found it so cool to hear different languages being spoken, to see different cultures, and to see people with hair that wasn’t black! As an Indonesian, I loved it!

an encounter with  nordic cuisine

I saw Europe as a continent rich in variety and culture; where the USA had its states, each state the size of a country, but all undeniably American, Europe had its countries, each the size of a small state, and each one undeniably different - with different languages, food, culture, history, traditions and world views, in the same distance as New York to New Jersey.

One of the trips I took was to Norway. I had made a friend on now-defunct social media network, Maria. She was superbly kind and trusting and let me to stay at her place and arranged for a friend to meet me at the airport and take me around. Her friend showed me to Fjords, Maria and I went booze-cruising to Sweden, to stock up on much cheaper booze.

Norway is famous, not just for the shortest nights in the world (terrible if you’re a clubber, or a passionate sleeper), but also for its Northern lights. I’ve been following a friend’s posts from Tromso, Sommaroy and Ostersund online. And the food photographs are delightful- all I can say is that the reindeer leg roast looks fabulous!

At Chef Magnus Nillson’s restaurant in Faviken Magasinet, my friends’ posts of delicious Alaskan crab with burnt butter, and a gigantic single scallop poached in its own juice are tempting. Thanks to them, Norway is definitely on my list!

As a cookbook writer, I must admit, I think we’re all amazed at how Scandinavia has become one of the places to eat well. In Stockholm, they have the famous Mr Cake Bakery, which is not just popular for its signature cakes (which adopt American- style pastry) but also for its French influence - from croissants to waffles, cream buns to salted caramel ones, cronuts, and simple donuts - elevated by pastry cream inside.

Indonesia has been blessed by a number of visits from great pastry talents from Scandinavia. One such was Bedros Kabranian, Nordic Bakery Champion in 2015 and 2016, who visited EZ Cooking and Baking in Surabaya for a number of demonstrations. Another great star was from Sweden, Bedros, the head baker at Magnus Johanssons Bakery who, rightly so, is famous for his viennoiseries - his motto, “less is boring” leading him to play with hundreds of layers in his croissant and brioche. You can imagine how flaky and buttery each layer is, what is most important is that the taste is as great as the look.

From Stockholm, back to Copenhagen. The Danes are fortunate to be hosting a two Michelin star-restaurant run by chef Rene Redzepi. The name of the restaurant is Noma, and is an abbreviation of two Danish words nordisk (Nordic) and mad (food). It opened in 2003 and is known for its innovative and modern version of traditional Nordic Cuisine. Noma moved to a new location and reopened on 15 February this year, just outside the centre of Copenhagen. It has its own greenhouses and is designed to look like an old Danish village.

The menu changes throughout the year, and operates in three seasons, each one of four months, focusing on seafood, vegetables and game meat. So, in the summer, around July, the theme might be vegetables (though not necessarily pure vegetarian). The cost per head is around USD 400, not including drinks, and despite the price, it is still not easy to get a booking. This reminds me of the Fat Duck in Bray, UK, by Heston Blumenthal. Customers are only able to book at three times in the year, and they are not told when exactly the restaurant opens its booking, so it’s probably just down to pure “luck” if you get a table. And of course they need to pay for the food upfront.

Personally, I’m not sure whether this is how I want to book a restaurant, even if, at the end of the day, the experience is a once-in-a lifetime incredible one, but really is it worth the time to keep looking at the website and hoping that you will get the chance to book for a meal where not only do you have to pay for the food (in advance!) but also, the trip and accommodations. But each restaurant serves its own market; I am sure for the food adventurous geeks out there, the challenge of getting in makes it all the more attractive to visit, knowing that the food is more than just the honest homemade type served in a pot at the ravenous family dining table, but is also a new journey that engaged the next level of indulgence. For me, I’ll stick to the family pot— food should be a joy, and not an ordeal, shared with family and friends.